150 years ago in the small town of Darkness Falls, a kindly woman by the name of Matilda Dixon was wrongly accused of murdering two small children and put to death by the angry townsfolk. Soon after Matilda reappeared as a demonic spirit, claiming the lives of the town’s children on the night they lose their last baby tooth. Only one child ever survived, and 12 years later, Kyle Walsh returns to the town he grew up in to confront his darkest fears.
This is a great concept for a horror flick – watching someone get their teeth removed is infinitely more horrific than all the limb-ripping in the world, and with the well of decent horror villains running ever dry, an evil Tooth Fairy is a cool idea. Unfortunately the concept is the easily the best thing about Darkness Falls – the rest is an unscary, somewhat annoying mess.
It’s another of those medium-budget studio shockers that replaces genuine frights with pounding music, over-stylised photography, rapid editing and flashy CGI – at least Thirteen Ghosts had some brilliant set design and The Haunting had... ok, that had absolutely nothing going for it either. Sure, you jump occasionally whenever director Jonathan Liebesman plays the old quiet-then-LOUD-NOISE trick, but even the most inexperienced director can pull that one off. What’s lacking is any atmosphere or concern for the fate of the characters (part of the problem being the fact that you can’t really blame Matilda for being a little pissed off). There’s not even any gore to make up for the lack of chills... a few claw marks and a ‘scary’ Stan Winston-designed demon face are all you get.
The biggest problem here is the sheer idiocy of the plotting. A long-winded introductory monologue would have us believe that old Matilda just wants to kill kids – and yet she spends most of the film whizzing through the air offing anyone who crosses her path. And surely if her plan was to murder every child on the day they lose their last tooth, it wouldn’t it take long for the town’s population to have dwindled to a big fat zero. And even though Matilda has plenty of chances to kill Kyle she decides framing him for murder would be more fun... cunning maybe, not exactly very evil.
There’s no attempt to make the characters behave in believable ways either. Childhood sweethearts Kyle and Caitlin haven’t seen each other for 12 years but are gazing soppily into each others eyes within a couple of hours, and although Caitlin is supposedly going out with irritating hot-shot lawyer Larry, she doesn’t seem remotely bothered when he’s splattered by the Tooth Fairy (maybe she’s secretly glad). Buffy-star Emma Caulfield is about the best thing in it – despite a great horror first name, Chaney Kley is a boringly rugged leading man, while Lee Cormie, playing Caitlin’s kid brother, is certainly no Haley Joel Osment.
You just know when the credits roll on the 71st minute this was a film no one had the slightest bit of faith in... although it does contain my favourite chat-up line of the year: "I need to get this gravel out of your scalp." But in general, a lot less fun than root canal surgery.