DARKNESS FALLS ($27) is another one of those horror movies about which I’ve read less than favorable reviews, but decided to see anyway, only to be pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it. While I am certain that DARKNESS FALLS isn’t going to be winning any Academy Awards, unless Stan Winston’s special effects work get a nod, this is without a doubt an fun little creepshow. Instead of going with graphic gore, DARKNESS FALLS harkens back to an older style of genre offering- those that build suspense for a while, and then relieve the tension through some mild shocks. Like the Lewton-esque horror flicks of yore, DARKNESS FALLS actually makes good use of "the dark" as a storytelling device.
What I liked about DARKNESS FALLS is how the movie built its own mythology to reflect the deadly consequences of a town’s murderous conduct and the deadly curse that befell its populace in retribution for the crime. It seems, that during the nineteenth century, in the costal town of Darkness Falls, lived a woman named Matilda Dixon. Now Matilda was very fond of the local children and gave them a gold coin whenever they lost a tooth- earning her the moniker of the Tooth Fairy. Despite Matilda's kindness, fate was unkind to her; while baking some treats for the children, Matilda was horribly burned in a fire that broke out in her house.
Unfortunately, the fire left Matilda unable to venture out into the daylight, and she needed to wear a porcelain mask to hide her facial disfigurement. Still, being the Tooth Fairy, Matilda made her rounds after dark, exchanging gold coins for any child that left a tooth for her at their front door. The townspeople tolerated Matilda’s eccentricities, until two of the local children disappeared. Blaming an innocent Matilda the children's disappearance, a mob descended upon her home dragging her out into the burning daylight and hanging her from a tree, but not before she could curse the town for their misdeeds against her.
More than a century later, the children of Darkness Falls are warned to never look at the Tooth Fairy when she comes to claim the last of their baby teeth. Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley) was one of the unfortunates to have survived an encounter with the Tooth Fairy, only to suffer from night terrors and a debilitating fear of the dark for the next dozen years, even though he has moved far away from Darkness Falls. However, when his former childhood sweetheart, Caitlin Greene (Emma Caulfield) calls him because her younger brother Michael (Lee Cormie) is also suffering from night terrors a petrifying fear of the dark, Kyle makes an unexpected return to his hometown. No sooner does Kyle step into the shadows of Darkness Falls, does the wraith of Matilda Dixon descend upon him, trying to finish what she started twelve years earlier… The cast of DARKNESS FALLS also features Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton, Steve Mouzakis, Peter Curtin, Kestie Morassi, Jenny Lovell and Peter Stanton.
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made DARKNESS FALLS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. A full screen presentation is also included on a separate layer of the DVD, but this review will not be concerned with it. The wide screen presentation looks great, maybe not demo quality, but there is nothing to complain about either. Like any decently budgeted movie just coming off of theatrical distribution, DARKNESS FALLS features a virtually pristine appearance, with no signs of blemishes or scratches.
Much of the film was shot under limited lighting, and despite the darkness, the apparent grain structure never becomes excessive. The image is generally crisp and well defined, although there are a few shots that appear a tad softer than the main body of the film. Colors tend to offer fairly natural level of saturation, with moods being created by slightly muted tones, or those that are a bit more vibrant. Blacks appear pure, whites are clean and contrast is fairly smooth. Shadow detail is a bit variable, depending upon how much the filmmakers want the audience to see, although the image does produce a nice sense of depth. Despite two versions being relegated to a single side of the DVD, digital compression artifacts were never a cause for concern.
DARKNESS FALLS comes with a terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound designers have pulled out all the stops to produce a highly mix aggressive and thoroughly entertaining soundtrack. Surround junkies will get a kick out of how well the rear channels have been implemented. The entire soundstage is very active with sound effects zipping effortlessly around the forward and rear hemispheres. Dialogue is always very crisp and fully understandable. Fidelity is excellent, which enhances both the sound effects and effectively off kilter score. The bass channel is very solid and deep. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Starting things off are two separate audio running commentaries. The first track features director Jonathan Liebesman, producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman and screenwriter James Vanderbilt, while the second includes additional screenwriters John Fasano and Joe Harris. Both commentaries are highly informative and pretty entertaining, so if you are like me and enjoyed DARKNESS FALLS, you will want to give them a spin.
Two featurettes are also included on the DVD. The Making of Darkness Falls is a rather typical seventeen-minute promotional piece that includes interviews with the primaries, as well as offering a look at the Stan Winston Studios creature design. The Legend of Matilda Dixon is a ten-minute "documentary" on the "real life events" that inspired DARKNESS FALLS. Approximately nine minutes of deleted scenes and scene extensions are also included on the DVD, although much of the material is superfluous, there were a couple of moments that could have been added back into the movie for good effect. Storyboard Comparisons for three scenes close out the supplements.
Despite what the big time movie critics had to say, I found DARKNESS FALLS to be a rather fun little horror movie. The DVD looks and sounds terrific, so if you are interested in checking out DARKNESS FALLS this disc is definitely the way to go.
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