Review 19: Darkness Falls (.5/5)

Darkness Falls

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Starring Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro

Released on January 24, 2003

Running time: 1h 26m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror

First off, a couple of little tidbits that I found rather annoying:

  • One of Darkness Falls’s covers says that it’s rated R, but its official rating is PG-13. I’m not kidding. Look it up. Actually, just look at the cover I put on here.
  • The end credits are 11 minutes long. This was done so that the movie would be long enough to release it in theaters. This explains why the movie not only feels very rushed, but it completely forsakes all character development. We are introduced to the monster way too soon. And we begin our build to the climax well before the one-hour mark.
  • This movie was directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Yes. The same man who directed the really bad The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and the “meh” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which have a 12% and a 21% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively. And Darkness Falls has a meager 9%. Looks like we have a winner here.
  • I think I remember only one scare. But it was a cheap jumpscare. And I wasn’t scared. I was startled, but not scared. Actually, I think the scariest part of the movie was the sudden appearance of the Columbia Pictures sequence.

What Darkness Falls does wrong that so many other horror films have done right is this: It tells us its backstory at the very beginning.

Imagine starting Psycho by telling us about Norman Bates’s backstory. His secluded upbringing, his unhealthy attraction to his mother, his killing of his mother and her boyfriend, his psychosis, and his killing of the other two girls (you know, the ones before Marion Crane). Imagine starting off The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by telling us all about Jed “Leatherface” Sawyer and his crazy cannibal family. Imagine starting off The Conjuring by telling us all about the witch Bathsheba Sherman.

Sinister executed the “gradual spoon feeding” plot device right. The Ring did this right. The Hills have Eyes did this right. The Haunting in Connecticut did this right. Hell, even The Unborn did this right! Even the 15-minute-long Power Rangers fan fiction did this right! (The Amityville Horror kind of did this right. We knew that Ronald DeFeo, Jr. killed his family, but we didn’t know the horrific circumstances under which he did so.)

Anyway, here’s the poorly placed backstory. 150 years ago, in the town of Darkness Falls (based on Fall River, Massachusetts), a widow named Matilda Dixon (referred to as Matilda, Margaret, Maggie, or Madge throughout the movie) was adored by all of the town’s children. She – get this – gives each child a gold coin when he lost a tooth, earning her the nickname “The Tooth Fairy”. Boy, I bet this ends well. A fire broke out in her home, horribly burning her face and giving it extreme sensitivity to light. Because of this, she wore a porcelain mask and only ever went out at night. When two children went missing, the townspeople blamed Matilda, tore off her porcelain mask, exposed her face to the light, and hanged her. With her dying breath, Matilda cursed Darkness Falls (or did she curse Darkness Falls?). The very next day, the two missing children returned home unharmed. The populace of Darkness Falls quickly buried Matilda, and their secret.

The urban legend is told for many generations after: whenever a child loses his last baby tooth, the spirit of Matilda Dixon will visit them while they sleep. If the child sees her, she will attack the child. If the child survives the attack, they will be marked for Matilda’s vengeance.

So says the urban legend. Here’s my take: when Jonathan Liebesman realized what a travesty he had created, he quickly shut down production and attempted to hide Darkness Falls from the world. So, Darkness Falls was not released. It escaped and submitted itself to the MPAA. Despite Jonathan Liebesman’s pleas to not release it, Darkness Falls made copies of itself, and sent them to the nearest theaters.

The acting is amateur at best. The characters are fully and completely underdeveloped. The story feels ungodly rushed and laughably paced. The movie in and of itself is phenomenally short. Not including the end credits, it only comes down to about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Here’s another PG-13 horror film that thinks it can maximize its audience by keeping a PG-13.

Because some people think that that gimmick actually works.

Final verdict: 0.5 stars out of 5.

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