DARKNESS FALLS - DVD review

Okay, so this is a predictable and pointless B-Movie. Still, I was entertained by it and felt it was original enough in its story to be very watchable. The DVD is chocked full of extras and allows for viewing of either full-frame or widescreen.

DeanWink

Darkness Falls is your typical B-Movie horror film that uses an unknown cast, cheap frights and formulaic plotline to entertain its audience. In today's Hollywood economy, the low-budget horror film is making a combat and this film is one of the latest successes at finding an audience. Filmed for around $11 million, Darkness Falls went on to capture over thirty-two million hard-earned American dollars despite a heavy drubbing by critics and movie-goers. However, the film did have an interesting premise and this premise is what brought much curiosity to the film.

The premise behind Darkness Falls that attracted the movie-going public is that the evil entity who partakes in mass murder in a small town is none other than the Tooth Fairy. The same Tooth Fairy that leaves a quarter under your pillow when you loose a baby tooth is depicted as a horrendous wraith that doesn't mind leaving a quarter to young children. That is, unless the aforementioned young child decides to take a peak at the Tooth Fairy and her hideously burned face that is hidden behind a porcelain mask (think Jason meets Freddy, but in a dress). Once you take a look at the Tooth Fairy, you give up your right as a recipient of pocket change and quickly become a target of her bloodthirsty nature.

Newcomer Chaney Kley stars in Darkness Falls as Kyle Walsh. When Kyle was a young lad of 12, he accidentally caught a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy. In her wrath, his mother was killed and he caught the blame. He was sent off to a life of foster care and mental hospitals and left behind his little girlfriend and the town of Darkness Falls. His life became an exercise in staying awake and only sleeping in the light. Kyle knew that the only way to survive the Tooth Fairy was to never fall into darkness. He did his best to avoid the town of Darkness Falls until one day a telephone call came his way from his childhood girlfriend Caitlin (Emma Caulfield).

Caitlin's little brother Mike (Lee Cormie) is having mental problems that are identical to what you Kyle suffered through. She figured the best way to save her brother was to search out Kyle and enlist his help. Of course, Kyle instantly knows that Mike has seen the Tooth Fairy and he knows that Mike can never leave the light or he will be killed. Kyle's return to Darkness Falls is not a very welcome one. The town perceives him as his mother's killer and finds him to be a psychotic who has a sick belief that a fairy had slain his mother. Kyle is thrown into prison shortly after his arrival to town when the Tooth Fairy signals her intent to do whatever she can to repay those that have looked at her in the past.

Kley and Caulfield are pretty good young actors that are nicely cast. Kley comes across as a watered-down Bruce Campbell. He shows bravery and cowardice in his character as he is genuinely afraid of dying to the Tooth Fairy, but he shows confidence in knowing how to combat her. Of course, nobody else will ever be Bruce Campbell. Caulfield is easy on the eyes and does not take the approach of being a scream-queen. It was refreshing to watch a horror film where the female lead shows bravery and doesn't just pierce the ears with wails of terror. Young Lee Cormie does well in the film. I imagine an effects-laden horror film is not an easy task for a child actor, but he is effective as Mike.

The premise of using the Tooth Fairy as a very powerful and hideous killing force is a good idea on paper. It could have been done greater justice when transformed to celluloid. A very quick introduction is given to the character's history, but I felt more time could have been spent here and a few minutes of period-piece work would have added more value to Darkness Falls. It would have been nice to see some Victorian-Age attacks by the burnt old lady. The Tooth Fairy also had way too much screen time. She was present for what felt like half of the film's running time and this took away much opportunity to frighten the ole' audience with her. Bruce didn't spend much time onscreen in Jaws and that film frightened the bejeebers out of me when I was an impressionable young youth.

In the end, Darkness Falls does manage to throw a couple quick jolts down its viewer's spinal chords. It does so cheaply, but effectively. Throw a large oomph of bass here, a quick cut here and you get a thrill or two. Stan Winston's design for the Tooth Fairy is also quite good, but does draw some parallel's to Freddy Krueger. This is not a film that will scare its viewers with sheer terror. The storyline is extremely predictable and you always know when the Tooth Fairy is going to strike and where she will be coming from. It would take a fairly scare-easy audience to find this film frightening. The movie certainly has a B-Movie feel and its cheesiness makes it fun and hence, it is worth taking a look at.

Video :
Surprise, surprise! Darkness Falls features a vast majority of scenes that take part during darkness. Fortunately, Columbia TriStar's transfers holds up nicely with the film's content. The two-layered disc features one aspect ratio per layer and the choices available are either 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1.33:1 pan & scan. As is the case with most 2.35:1 transfers, the full screen version is greatly chopped and butchered and much of the film's artistic feel is lost. The extremely clean source-materials used translate nicely to the digital world. Colors are nicely saturated and detail is quite good. There are a scene or two where the harsh lighting contrasted against a dark background creates a bit of softness, but it was certainly well within this reviewer's tolerance. Some film grain existed, but again, it was easily bareable. Where this film really shined was in its black levels and shadow detail. This disc was nearly reference in that regard and was among the best in handling dark scenes, which was truly necessary for Darkness Falls.

Audio :
The sound department allowed for listening in either English or French Dolby Digital 5.1. Of course, the French mix surrendered very quickly to the English mix in sound quality. The 5.1 multi-channel surround format is pushed nicely by Darkness Falls. Notably, the .1 LFE channel and rear surrounds were ideally utilized to follow the movements of the Tooth Fairy and to accent when danger was abound. When the subwoofer started to rumble, you knew there was going to be trouble! Dialogue was clear and intelligible, even if some of the lines being spoken were high in cheese content. The musical score was carried very nicely by the soundtrack and mixed perfectly with ambient effects. The closing credits featured a nice little rock tune that sounded great at loud volumes. English and French subtitles are also selectable.

Extras :
I agree that the film was certainly not an excellent picture. It certainly will not win any Oscars, but it was good enough that the Razzies will leave it alone. Columbia TriStar has added a lot of value to Darkness Falls with an excellent collection of supplemental materials. These materials cover all the usual bases. Commentaries, deleted scenes and informative ad fluffy promotional pieces, the value-added content of Darkness Falls both entertains and informs. I was really surprised that the creators of the DVD were able to fit all of this material onto a single-sided disc that contained two version of the film, but to their credit, they did.

The film contains two Audio Commentary Tracks. The first commentary track features director Jonathan Liebesman, producer Jason Shuman, producer William Sherak and writer James Verderbuilt. These four gentlemen are extremely entertaining and vary their commentary by giving entertaining stories and informative bits on the production to ramblings about odd items that has little or nothing to do with the film. The purpose of a commentary track is to entertain and to inform and they succeed easily. The second commentary features the other two writers for the film, John Fasano and Joseph Harris. These gentlemen are more subdued than those in the first commentary and they stick much closer to what is happening on screen. I only listened to portions of the second track, but it always had something informative to say.

Roughly ten minutes of Deleted Scenes are included on the DVD. A notorious scene involving a classroom that added to the history of the Tooth Fairy is not included and may disappoint some and the director claims that a plethora of material was deleted, but it doesn't appear here. Perhaps all of this is being saved up for a two-disc set down the road. The seven deleted scenes contained are "Dr. Murphy's Advice," "The Specialist," "Kyle Decides to Help," "Dr. Murphy Sticks with the Group," "Young Caitlin's Necklace," "Hallway of Lights" and "Final Confrontation." These scenes are shown in rough form, but in widescreen. They add a minor amount of character development, but are mostly just additions to scenes that survived the cutting room floor.

Two documentary featurettes are included as well. The Legend of Matilda Dixon is an amusing attempt at bringing credibility to the Tooth Fairy mythos depicted in the story. This documentary has a definite Blair Witch Project feel to it, but it never even comes close to being genuine. Sadly, it only lasts for about ten minutes and when it comes to closure, you are left with a definite taste of cheese in your mouth. The other featurette is the typical talking-heads, HBO-Style documentary. Unoriginally titled The Making of Darkness Falls,, this nearly twenty-minute foray into the talent behind the picture is very vanilla and run-of-the-mill and definitely was designed to add hype to the movie. Unfortunately, after watching the film, I tend to not agree with much of the comparisons to classic horror pictures made during the featurette. A handful of Storyboard Comparisons, Production Notes and Cast & Crew Information finishes off the included bonus material.

Summary :
Darkness Falls was an entertaining little film that is typical of a B-Movie horror pic. However, it is clearly a lower-budgeted film that is extremely predictable and falls flat in the face of horror, or at least in its attempts at creating horror. Still, regardless of the films shortcomings, I enjoyed watching it. When it first hit theaters, I had anticipation in seeing the movie, but never made it to the multiplex to enjoy it. In all honesty, the film is a better DVD purchase. For the price of a popcorn, soda and movie ticket you can own the disc and it comes with a nice complement of extra features. It is a better value as a DVD disc, and is truly a better value as a rental than what you would have paid to see it in the theaters. Columbia TriStar has done well with the supplements and the transfer. Buzz around the Internet is that there are some greatly anticipated, but sadly missing cut scenes. They would have been nice. The theatrical trailer (which is included on other DVDs) is not included here and hints at one of these scenes. Still, the picture and sound are very good and I don't feel too bad in recommending this one.

Ratings

Video
9
Audio
10
Extras
6
Film Value
6