ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  jonathan liebesman

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  horror

LENGTH  -  85 minutes

RELEASED  -  24 january 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  darkness falls

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $11,000,000
darkness falls - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from darkness falls at

buy the dvd from darkness falls at

a vengeful spirit has taken the form of the tooth fairy to exact vengeance on the town that lynched her 150 years earlier.

most of this film was shot in australia.


picture from darkness falls

picture from darkness falls

picture from darkness falls


zero out of four possible stars

As a horror film, Darkness Falls doesn't do the genre any favors, because its ability to scare an audience promptly ends when the body count reaches ridiculous numbers. And that is very early on in the film. And taking into consideration that the film is only seventy-five minutes long, one cannot help but wonder if it was a rash of bad comments from test screenings that landed a significant portion of this film on the cutting room floor.

Far too dependent on test screenings, filmmakers often start hacking and chopping away at their little masterpieces until there is hardly a recognizable story or plot to play with. And though the story of Darkness Falls never drops out of view, it is far too concerned with upping the number of bodies to hit the floor to care about what people really think about its story. There are so many people killed in this film that it begs the question: could the filmmakers have succeeded more with a less is more strategy?

The premise itself at first strikes one as strange (an evil tooth fairy?), but upon further inspection, strikes one as having potential in the horror arena. After all, darkness and the human blindness that accompanies it (just think Jodie Foster at the end of The Silence of the Lambs), is a tried and true method for giving an audience the "willies." But this film doesn't hold anything back. It allows its creature to wander around in front of large audiences that invariably end up adding to the body count.

The legend in the film involves the evil spirit of a woman wrongly accused of murder, who was lynched in the 1800's and has been haunting the town of Darkness Falls ever since. Creepy premise to begin with (and the first reel of film sets it up well), though it all gets quite predictable after that. The evil spirit has taken on the identity of The Tooth Fairy, and when she comes to take your last baby tooth, you'd better not look at her, or she'll slice you to ribbons.

In suitably MTV-esque casting, having hired no actor currently famous in the public's perception, the film employs a large disposable cast and a bundle of lame dialogue that doesn't look out of place in a horror film. After all, a film of this type relies more on its visuals than its audio track. Perhaps it would be an insult to actors who carry dramatic weight to utter better written dialogue. Chaney Kley and Emma Caulfield play the lead characters, but their roles are quite simple and really just involve running away from the Tooth Fairy.

Perhaps the one high point to the film involves the special effects and make-up for the Tooth Fairy character. Since she was on screen for a large amount of time, it was easy to see the effort put into making her as scary as possible. Though it's probably not a compliment to say that one of the scariest things about this film is the movie poster. Seeing that toothless grin of the Tooth Fairy (how ironic, the Tooth Fairy is missing a front tooth!) will make anyone back away frightened from the poster. It's just too bad people will probably be doing the same from the theater, not because of how scary the film is, but because of how much of a waste of time it is.

Jumping around on several different release dates (and even once considered a direct-to-video release), it should be obvious to any viewer why this film was released in the cold, dark winter of January, where films usually go to die. Though Oscar caliber movies usually see wide runs during this time (having been released to only a few theaters in December to make the cut-off date for Oscar consideration), new films often end up in January, because the studio doesn't want to clutter their more prosperous dates.

Darkness falls into the same trap as so many recent horror films that have come before it. An obvious story, gigantic body count, and a sense that, cut down to four or so minutes, the film would play well as an MTV video, Darkness Falls has nothing new to offer viewers in terms of its genre. And with its refusal to let the simple idea of darkness work its magic, this film certainly throws away any chance it might have had for subtlety. And in horror, subtlety, more often than not, is the way to really scare an audience. Darkness Falls just tells its story from the wrong angle.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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