Horror review: Darkness Falls

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 30, 2003

On the Darkness Falls Web site, there’s a poll question that asks: “If you were forced to die in one of the following ways, which would it be?” Between the five options available—being buried alive, eaten alive by insects, burned alive, dismembered, or beheaded—85 percent of respondents made the obvious choice: decapitation. For the two percent who chose “eaten alive by insects”, I’ve got a movie recommendation: Darkness Falls.

It’s only slightly more enjoyable than having army ants gnaw at your privates.

The flick doesn’t start out all that bad, though. In the small coastal town of Darkness Falls, 10-year-old Kyle Walsh (Joshua Anderson) has a harrowing run-in with a ghostly force that winds up killing his mother, leaving him blamed for the murder and terminally terrified of the dark. As explained in the film’s sepia-toned intro, this masked demon is the vengeful spirit of a woman who was hanged by the townsfolk 150 years earlier after being falsely accused of killing two missing children.

So now, every time a child in Darkness Falls loses his last baby tooth, the tooth fairy pays a little visit, and if the kid dares sneak a peek at her, it’s time to die. The only way a youngster can escape the monster’s wrath is by aiming a flashlight at her or taking refuge in a brightly lit room. See, the tooth fairy can’t stand the light; that’s her only weakness.

Twelve years later, Walsh is a troubled young man (Chaney Kley) living in Las Vegas—evidently because the lights stay on there. But he gets called back to Darkness Falls by his childhood sweetheart (Emma Caulfield), who’s desperately seeking help for her young brother, another traumatized near-victim of the unhappy hag. Walsh reluctantly heads back to the sticks, armed with more flashlights than you’d see in a season of The X-Files, and comes up against the predictable batch of hate-filled bar hounds (“You’re the freak who killed your mother!”) and strait-laced cops, all of whom suffer big time when they disregard his repeated warning: “Stay in the light!”

After countless disbelieving locals get plucked off the ground and ripped up by the screeching hellion—who takes full advantage of the town’s convenient power failures—it’s time for the typical Hollywood good-versus-evil showdown in a lighthouse. Needless to say, the film’s gone way past silly by this point. Mind you, the four percent of Web-poll users who chose “burned alive” as their favourite way to die probably thought it was brilliant!

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