SciFridays: “Darkness Falls” (2003)

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Revolution Studios

Baddie – Curiosity killed the…children. Seriously though.

Lesson – Wait 24 hours before hanging someone for a crime you just suspect was theirs.

In case anyone is wondering – Sleepy Hollow returns this coming week, and as an added bonus – I’ll be tackling the new season of Sherlock when it airs over here in the USA – so keep your eyeballs peeled!

Sometimes the inspiration for this column comes from unusual places. Usually I troll around Netflix looking for something random, or I’ll pester James about what movie to watch, or I’ll get a suggestion from a friend. This week, this movie was the answer to a trivia question in a bar, and I just HAD to watch it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 9.45.39 PM

Revolution Studios

Not a lot of movies start with a heartwarming voiceover, but, this one does. I’ll also venture a guess that naming a town “Darkness Falls” is not indicative of a happy place. In either case, we learn that a woman named Mathilde used to trade coins for baby teeth until she was in a fire, then she got disfigured. The town naturally blamed her for some kids disappearing and hung her on the same day. The next day the kids showed up and everyone felt dumb, except Mathilde, who decided to haunt Darkness Falls forever. I’m already kind of rooting for the ghost here. All she wants is to give kids money, but she’s worried about scaring them, so she simply asks that they not look at her while she’s doing it.

This takes us to modern day, where a young boy is about to lose his last baby tooth, which is apparently special. We also learn of his slightly weird burgeoning love with a neighborhood girl Kat, who’s job is exposition but who executes it with some freaky style. However, because horror movies are not movies about everyone following the rules, the kid peeks at Mathilde as she tries to replace his tooth and she freaks out. Cue some orphaning and a flash to 12 years later in an insane asylum, and Kat’s brother. Kyle, on the other hand, is pretty heavily medicated and pretty heavily afraid of the dark.

From there the film escalates pretty much as one might expect. The Tooth Fairy/Mathilde can’t be in the light due to the fragility of her mutilated skin, and she only takes vengeance on those who look at her. Everyone looks at her. Everyone dies. Well, okay, not everyone. But a lot of people.  My personal favorite bit of dialogue?

“I’m calling the police.”

“The police are dead.”

“All of them?”

“Pretty much.”

Hard to tell, but there's a big ball of wraith up in here.

Revolution Studios
Hard to tell, but there’s a big ball of wraith up in here.

This might sound like a weird compliment, but I really like the scuttling noises they used for this film. They’re very unusual, and not very human, but they really add to the suspense. Already in the first few minutes they’ve used a pleasant blend of obvious scares and surprise scares. There’s a bar scene later where a subtle re-imagining of some of the sounds of the Tooth Fairy alarm Kyle. That’s the kind of foley work I can get behind.

Now, there are some things I didn’t like about this movie, and mostly it’s that the second half of the movie is really boring. There’s a slow rumble up to the admittedly cool boss battle, but the plot stumbles along until that point after the first nuggets of suspense are over. Darkness Falls also suffers from monster-inundation, where we see way too much of the wraith-with-a-porcelain-mask and it becomes much less scary in the high-action sequences. I had to double check, but, Darkness Falls did come out post-Lord of the Rings, and the Nazgul-type reference is strong, intentional or not. (Sidenote; apparently I was 11 when the Fellowship of the Ring came out? What??) However, the SFX work on the actual scarred face is really cool though. Burn makeups are a heck of a thing to pull off.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 10.07.10 PM

Revolution Studios

I also liked the soundtrack.

So, really, not a bad little film. A little boring once the villain becomes somewhat taken for granted, but the suspense scares are decent throughout. The acting is okay, but the characters aren’t terribly interesting in and of themselves, and I wasn’t particularly taken with any of the relationships.

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