BY JENNIFER CHIEN
Darkness Falls is pretty much your typical low-budget horror movie. It’s entertaining enough, though nothing special. There’s some suspense and atmosphere in the beginning of the movie, but by the second half, things have deteriorated.
The movie’s monster is based on the legend of the Tooth Fairy. Here, the Tooth Fairy is a vindictive, centuries-old dead woman haunting children in the quiet town of Darkness Falls to avenge her wrongful death years ago.
As a boy, Kyle (Chaney Kley) is terrorized by the Tooth Fairy after he loses his last baby tooth. The Tooth Fairy swoops into his room at night, ostensibly to get at the tooth under his pillow. Unfortunately, Kyle catches a glimpse of the monster, which apparently is a big no-no — now the Tooth Fairy is out to kill him. Young Kyle flees to the bathroom while his mother rushes into his room and ends up getting killed.
The movie then moves to the present day, where Kyle’s grown-up childhood girlfriend, Caitlan (Emma Caulfield), is having troubles of her own. Her younger brother Michael (Lee Cormie) is being haunted by something, though no one really understands or believes him. He’s in a hospital for sleep disorders, since he won’t sleep or go into the dark for fear of the Tooth Fairy (the Tooth Fairy can’t go into the light). Caitlin remembers Kyle’s incident and tracks him down, thinking he might be able to help her brother.
Kyle reluctantly returns to Darkness Falls, and is subsequently subjected to the hostility and doubts of the townspeople, who still view him with suspicion since the mysterious death of his mother. He ultimately overcomes these obstacles, mostly because skeptical townspeople are all killed by the Tooth Fairy they don’t believe in.
The main suspense in the movie comes from the atmosphere built up during the first half hour. There’s a spooky prologue describing the events that led up to the Tooth Fairy’s beginnings. The monster is never in view, but heard in the background with ghostly screeches and glimpsed in brief flashes (accompanied by really loud horror-movie music cues). The town itself is dark and shadowy. And not being quite sure of what the Tooth Fairy looks like or is capable of adds a nice layer of suspense.
Once the monster is finally in view, most of the suspense evaporates. The movie then becomes a cat-and-mouse game with the lead characters trying to avoid meeting their doom. In between the lead characters’ last-minute escapes from the police station to the hospital to an abandoned lighthouse, others get picked off one by one until we’re left with the only people that really matter: Kyle, Caitlan and Michael. In the all-too-predictable final battle, the protagonists prevail by pluck and sheer endurance – after getting banged around a bit, of course.
One kick for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans is that Emma Caulfield, who plays ex-demon Anya on the TV show, is one of the lead characters in the movie. Here, though, Caulfield plays the typical damsel-in-distress. Word is that she was supposed to have fight scenes with the Tooth Fairy that were ultimately nixed for budgetary reasons. Too bad. It would have been nice to see her fight back a little.
Much like the plot, most of Darkness Falls‘ acting is subpar, though the dialogue earns points for unintentional humor. This movie might have some attraction for the most pliable teenyboppers or unabashed horror buffs, but even in the realm of popcorn fare, Darkness Falls is a few notches below average.