While watching Darkness Falls, I was reminded of another less than successful horror film that was unable to live up to its potential: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Like the ill-fated sequel, Darkness Falls is based on creative fiction masquerading as age-old, local legend--in this case, a sinister take on the story of the Tooth Fairy.
Over 150 years ago, in the sleepy town of Darkness Falls, a woman named Matilda Dixon led a tragic life. The death of her husband in a whaling accident left her alone and childless, and a few years later, a raging fire left her burnt and disfigured. Still desiring the affection of kids, she covered her charred face with a white porcelain mask and made it a tradition to give children money in exchange for their baby teeth, thus earning her the nickname of the Tooth Fairy. Everyone loved her, until a pair of children went missing one day. An enraged mob quickly blamed Matilda and lynched her. But soon thereafter, the youths returned home, unharmed, and the hasty murder became the town's dirty little secret--Matilda's body was burned, and no one spoke openly of the incident.
Since then, the history of Darkness Falls has been mysteriously riddled with missing children and a persistent urban legend. It is said that Matilda Dixon still plays the part of the Tooth Fairy, creeping into the bedrooms of boys and girls and exchanging their baby teeth for a gold coin. But legend also has it that if anyone catches a glimpse of her mutilated face, she will kill them.
Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) was one such curious youngster who peeked when he shouldn't have. As a child, he incurred the Tooth Fairy's wrath, but managed to avoid death by exploiting her weakness of being unable to tolerate the light. But while young Kyle escaped his fate, his mother was killed by the restless entity. The incident left Kyle racked with guilt and fear, and he has constantly avoided the darkness ever since. Over a decade later, Kyle receives a call from childhood sweetheart Caitlin Greene (Emma Caulfield), who says that her little brother Michael (Lee Cormie) is suffering from the same crippling fear of the dark that he has endured for years. Unwilling to have another life destroyed by Matilda's malevolent spirit, Kyle tries to help Michael, only to be forced to confront his greatest childhood terror.
With its evil version of a widely recognized legend, Darkness Falls boasts an interesting, detailed mythology behind its story. But like the aforementioned Blair Witch 2, Darkness Falls takes that mythology and proceeds to build a wholly generic horror on top of it. The story of Matilda Dixon--arguably the story's strongest asset--is buried under typical monster movie moments. Complete knowledge of the Tooth Fairy legend is provided by peripheral sources like the film's trailers, website, and production notes, but the film itself barely explores the subject of Matilda. Viewers who don't sufficiently arm themselves with previews will be unaware of the highly realized history of Darkness Falls, rendering details like the significance of the lighthouse and the Tooth Fairy's aversion to light less effective.
Without the firepower of its background story to distinguish it from the competition, Darkness Falls ends up being a totally average attempt at horror in which hapless idiots are being picked off in the dark by a monster--a monster that is, in this instance, noisy and ugly, but never scary.
The performances range from adequate to bad. Emma Caulfield is fine despite being stuck in a somewhat supporting role, but don't expect her character of Caitlin to have as much personality as her Anya on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As Kyle, Chaney Kley's muted and sullen demeanor seems appropriate at first, when his homecoming reveals that he is still a broken young man. But even when the sh*t hits the fan and emotions kick into high gear, he still trudges along lifelessly. Lee Cormie gets a lot of lines as the token "strange little kid who sees things"--unfortunately, they're all crap. The script provides him with a seemingly endless supply of hackneyed dialogue that tries to be creepy but isn't, and the vacant Cormie delivers them with all the cheesiness of someone telling a campfire ghost story by flashlight. "If you put me in the dark, sheee'll geeet meee...We're aaall gonna diiieee..." Redrum! Redrum!
If it had cast better actors in the roles of Kyle and Michael and taken a more cerebral route with its mythology, Darkness Falls could have been a pretty decent horror film. But it didn't, so we have yet another standard monster flick to add to the ever-expanding roster of mediocre movies.
Rating: 5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)