Bad Movie Tuesday: Darkness Falls
By Ozzy Nelson
Welcome back, bad movie fans! Have I got a treat for you, just in time for the Halloween season. Today we’re going to look at Darkness Falls, a 2003 ghost story romp that fails to scare. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who’s best known for butchering numerous franchises from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company, the film attempts to give us a new movie monster to haunt the pantheons with idols like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees. However, like most attempts to build a franchise around a monster, they fail in pretty much every respect.
Darkness Falls is set in Darkness Falls, Massachusetts and centers around a local legend of a widow named Matilda Dixon. Dixon loves children and earned a reputation as the the ‘Tooth Fairy’ for her habit of giving gold coins to the children of the town when they lose a tooth. However, a fire leaves her heavily scarred and extremely sensitive to light. She becomes a recluse, only going out at night and wearing a porcelain mask whenever she does. One night two children fail to return home and the town goes into a panic. They lynch Dixon thinking she’s done something to the kids and with her dying breath she curses the town. The next morning the children return unharmed and the townspeople bury Matilda Dixon and the reason for her death in shame. However, for the last 150 years, whenever a child loses their last baby tooth the ghost of Matilda Dixon visits them and, if they see her face, she kills them.
The biggest problem with this film is an overall lack of a story. There is an intriguing back story but instead of developing it they jump right into the meat of the story. There is no character development and even less actual good acting. The thing is they treat the story like a monster movie, but it would have worked better as a ghost story. A successful ghost story works on at least two levels. First, it needs to be a mystery that slowly reveals the nature of the haunting. Second, it needs to build its scares slowly. Too much of the Tooth Fairy is revealed too soon for her to ever be truly scary. What scares we do get are derivative and largely unimaginative, pointless jump scares that you can see coming a mile away.
This film was scene as a launching point for Emma Caulfield who, at the time was something of a breakout star on TVs Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing the wonderfully droll ex-demon Anya. As a character, Anya played to Caulfield’s strengths. She could be vulnerable and tender when needed, but what made her work was her ability to say whatever comes into her head without any kind of verbal filter and fail to understand why it’s inappropriate, which comes from living hundreds of years as a vengeance demon without actually living among the humans she slaughtered. In other words, Anya was witty and silly all at once and could muster a steely resolve when needed. In Darkness Falls, Caulfield is reduced to a helpless woman who is utterly reliant on everyone around her to save her from the terror that surrounds him. She has no spunk, no wit, and very little charm. She’s just a pretty face to look at as the film races to a conclusion that makes little to no sense.
There are some very good creature effects in the movie, though they fail to capitalize on anything interesting in a movie that should have had fun playing with how light is used considering its their primary antagonist’s only weakness. Still, the Tooth Fairy is solidly constructed and the few scares in the movie are because of this. All in all, there’s little to recommend in this film, but it’s a good flick to start your Halloween with. It follows a similar premise to James Wan’s Dead Silence, which is a far superior film, but it does a good job of getting you in the mood for much better scares to come.
Stank Ranking –Share: – 9/10