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Is there such thing as a scary film any more? The last film that seemed to really provoke a response was The Blair Witch Project and since then horror films have been about gore and blood with random shocks and noisy jumps. As with some of the horror titles of old, Darkness Falls tries to go back to horrors roots.

Darkness Falls

The Film
Many years ago (around one hundred and fifty to be exact) there lived a woman Matilda Dickson who loved children. When one of them lost a tooth they would take it to her in exchange for a gold coin, earning her the nickname “The Tooth Fairy”. However one night fire broke out in her house burning her face so badly that it was so susceptible to light that she could only go out at night, and only if she was wearing a porcelain mask so no-one could ever look upon her face. One day two children did not come home and the townspeople blamed her and hung her. With her dying breath Matilda laid a curse on the town and its people. The next morning the two children were found and the town tried to forget its wrong doing. There are some people that believe that one the night that a child loses it’s last tooth, Matilda returns to take this tooth, and if the child looks upon her, she takes more than just the tooth.

The town is called Darkness Falls (nice, eh?) and this story is about little Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley – Legally Blonde) who one night, loses his last ‘milk’ tooth and the Tooth fairy comes for it. However, Kyle breaks the rule and peeks. Upon seeing her, she starts her process to exact her revenge. The Achilles heel if you want of this creature, is derived from the pain in her life – light hurts her. Torches, lamp lights – any light will do. The creature cannot get him as he locks himself in the bathroom with the bright UV lights on, so the creature goes for his mother. The next day Kyle is taken away and then put into an asylum where he stays for a long time, accused of murdering his mother, and being treated for depression and for not being able to sleep in the dark. Years later he is discharged but not cured. Taking a plethora of drugs every night, and collecting torches and batteries, he lives alone, still with his ‘Night Terrors’ and his inability to go into the dark.

Twelve years later and Kyle’s childhood sweetheart, Cat’s (Emma Caufield – Anya in the Buffy series) brother has the same problem – he has seen the Tooth Fairy and she is coming for him. He sleeps for no more than ten minutes at a time and cannot go near the darkness. Cat remembers the problems Kyle had and then manages to get in touch with him in the end after a lot of searching, so that she can ask him to come and talk to her brother, and see if he can help “cure” him. Reluctantly Kyle returns to the town of his and the Tooth Fairy’s origin.

Darkness Falls

As I mentioned, this is a film trying desperately to go back to horror’s roots. However it doesn’t quite work. In places it oh so nearly does and it makes the dark an almost scary place to be but it doesn’t quite work. The main reason for this is that the monster is seen too early on, and so it turns from an unknown terror into a monster movie. Without the blood and gore. Throughout the film the monster is mostly seen only briefly however it is seen fairly early on which ruins the suspense. There are a lot of cheap jumps in the film and a fairly suspenseful atmosphere and a couple of great moments but overall, this (short) film just doesn’t quite work on either a pure horror film, nor as a thriller. As a mix, it’s almost there but something is lacking that I just can’t put my finger on. Add to that the films length. This has to be in the running for the shortest film ever. Apparently, according to the commentary anyway, to be classified as a “feature film” it has to run for a minimum of 85 minutes. And that is the reason this film has in the region of eleven minutes of credits. By the time it is over, it really feels like a lot has happened in a really short space of time however while it doesn’t feel rushed, it leads me to think some of the deleted scenes should have been left in.

Video
This film is presented in 2.40:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Since a lot of the film is set in dark places video quality here is paramount, and fortunately the transfer is of a very high quality. The blacks are deep and have good definition and there is little to no low level noise. The print is very clean as you would expect from a recent production and does not appear to have edge enhancement. The contrast levels are good with excellent scenes of light against dark, shadows in light and torch beams cutting through the night. The direction of certain scenes uses the light and darkness very well and this leads to at times, an eerie feeling which might have you thinking about turning a light on, before entering a room. Overall, a very good video presentation.

Audio
The high quality video is complemented by an above average Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The surround speakers are used often for when the Tooth Fairy flaps around the scene on screen, she does round the sound stage too. The score is also fluttered around the surround speakers lightly making this an at times, fairly enveloping track. There were one or two instances were the vocals were a little muffled however for the most they are clear and understandable. The music adds to the suspense and the sound effects are used to good effect, if a little unimaginatively.

Darkness Falls

Extras
Possibly to make up for the shortness of the film, we are presented with a choice of two Audio Commentaries. The first is entitled Filmmaker’s Commentary and features the likes of Jonathon Liebesman (director), William Sherak (one of the producers), Jason Shuman (one of the producers) and James Vanderbilt (one of the writers). At first this starts out as a very overly friendly Matrix style commentary with everyone patting each other on the back instantly making me not feel like listening to it however it really does pick up and I urge you all to listen to this funny audio track. It is very cluttered at the beginning with everyone talking over everyone else but once it calms down it turns into an informative look at the film and its errors.

Where to start? Well for one thing, I would hazard a guess that this is one of the few if not the only commentaries to use the word “lactating” in it. This is in reference to the lady that plays Kyle’s mother (Rebecca McCauley) who shot some of the scenes whilst pregnant. According to the director this film is basically every other film in movie history cobbled together under the guise of a horror film. The amount of scenes he refers to as homage’s of other movies is just incredible! If you don’t spot what they mean when they get to the part that is a blatant rip off from E.T during one dark torch lit scene then I will be very surprised! I did not realise that the film had large parts shot in Australia even though it is actually set in the States. Continuity errors are certainly not shied away from with people picking faults in the film including an amusing look at why the child Kyle has scratches on his face as he gets into the car, but none as he sits down. The director quips that they were digitally removed in post production, to the laughter of the rest of the team. The team also focus on the relationships between the characters and help to expand in certain scenes what was cut which in my opinin, should have been left in as it really does help some parts of the film. While not needed, after hearing some of the character build up it might have been nice to see these moments on film – it’s not as though the film needed to be cut for time! It also turns out that one scene was cut for violence to achieve a certain rating and so maybe perhaps an unrated version will appear on one region (unlikely). As I mentioned earlier, this is a short film and this is where they talk about how they had to pad the credits out to make the film long enough to be classified as a “feature film” – quite sneaky of them indeed. It is worth pointing out that if you have not seen Signs and intend to, perhaps do that before listening to this track as there is a mild spoiler reference.

The next commentary is billed as a Writer’s Commentary and features John Fasano (screenplay) and Joseph Harris (story). They talk over the opening prologue and mention that it was acclaimed by many if not all the reviewers. Again these two obviously get on very well as you would expect and they talk about the origins of the story of the film which was a short story by Joe Harris. There are a few more titbits of information that are revealed here including that the young girl in the film was actually the very same that was in the nautical slasher, Ghost Ship. Also, apparently Maglite wrote to Fasano and informed him that their torches do not break like that when dropped on the floor. Probably not very good advertising for them. Both tracks have subtitles accompanying them.

There are seven deleted scenes which possibly should have been included as it really expands on the relationship between Cat and Kyle in the beginning, and how she comes to call him. The director mentions these in the audio commentary track and I am still unsure why some if not all of them were cut. The video quality is terrible, for want of a better word.

There are two features on this DVD, the first of which is entitled The Legend of Matilda Dixon which is a 4:3 presentation showing the town of Port Fairy where the legend inspiring this film originated. The voice over is done by an old woman and she talks about Matilda’s life including how her husband was killed in 1836 when his fishing vessel was destroyed at sea. She baked cakes for children when they lost their last tooth, and one day as in the film, her house burnt down. After this, she would not leave the house during daylight and she would not entertain the children anymore. She did however, roam the town at night swapping a few coins for their teeth that they would leave outside their front doors, wrapped in handkerchiefs. Again as in the film, she was eventually hung. This eleven minute feature basically shows the whole film including the disappearance of children at its climax. It ends on the ropiest version of “Waltzing Matilda” I have ever heard, with what sounds like bagpipes in the background. Oh, and all the people “interviewed” in the feature are actors (in case you can’t tell).

Darkness Falls

The second feature is a Making Of of the film which features interviews with principle cast and crew. They talk about the lack of gore in the film, the suspense, the style of filming used, the characters they play, the score (and its composer) and how and the rating the studio were aiming for when the go ahead was given for the film. This is presented in approximately 1.85:1 and the interviews are cut together with clips from the film itself which bring the total running time to just over seventeen minutes.

Storyboard Comparisons show four scenes in miniature with the original storyboards presented in a larger format for easier viewing. Finally there are three trailers present on the disc – Anger Management, xXx and Darkness Falls.

Overall
I was a little surprised at this film for its lack of gore and blood instantly making me more interested in it however I just didn’t find it hooking up as well as I believe it potentially could have done. The extra features are average except the excellent Filmmakers’ Commentary which was highly entertaining. Good visual and audio presentation makes it a decent enough DVD however I would believe this is more likely a rental title than a purchase. Especially since for all intents and purposes, the film itself is barely over an hour long.  


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