Making the Grades
She used to be the Tooth Fairy, but now she's the Tooth Scary.
So goes the popular ghost story of Darkness Falls, a coastal New England community where Matilda Dixon handed gold coins to toothless children 150 years ago. But her generosity ended after a fire left her face scarred and sensitive to light. Living in the dark, she would only venture out after sundown with her horrifying features hidden behind a porcelain mask. When two children in the community went missing, the townsfolk figured ugly equaled criminal, and hung Matilda. The next day the children turned up unharmed.
The town "buried their secret" of the mistaken judgment, but a gruesome legend clawed its way into the lives of the community's children. Lose a tooth and you risk a visit from Matilda who, if you sneak a peek, will forever try to attack you. Light is your only protection.
However, for little Michael (Lee Cormie), she is far more than a nightmare tale. The boy is considered psychotic because of his obsessive fear of the dark, a fear that has developed from numerous visitations from Matilda. Convinced she will kill him if he isn't protected by a beam of light, he lives in the hospital with his adult sister Caitlin (Emma Caulfield) tending his needs. Like the rest of the community, she doubts the source of her brother's terror. Desperate to find someone who can better understand Michael's paranoia, Caitlin calls Kyle (Chaney Kley), her childhood friend and longtime secret romantic interest.
After losing a molar in early adolescence, the graphically depicted visit of the Tooth Fairy left young Kyle cowering in the light of the bathroom while the strange visitor killed his mother. Now living in Vegas, Kyle carries both the accusation of the murder and a bag of flashlights everywhere he goes. Reluctantly, he accepts Caitlin's request for help and returns to Darkness Falls. Needless to say, his homecoming will be met with terrifying consequences.
An inexperienced cast, helmed by a director with few film credits, is behind this "made you jump" thriller. Black cats, squeaky doors, scary music and groaning screams that sound more like a flu epidemic give us solid cues of when to hold tight to the popcorn. Yet after we've jumped the first few times and "the monster" is slowly revealed to us, there isn't much more to do in Darkness Falls where people continually run into dark corners -- and Matilda.
Obviously met with aggressive razor blades in the editing room, this movie has many pieces that don't quite fit, along with questions that make the experience difficult to buy into. Why does the tiny community hospital have a sophisticated sensory deprivation chamber, yet lacks a backup generator to provide power when a thunderstorm rolls into town? How does the elevator still function? And why can Matilda cope with constant bolts of lightening, yet is crippled by a beam from a couple of D-cells?
What's left is a scant 88 minutes padded by a long and slow credit roll reminiscent of film school and violent scenes inter-cut with hundreds of fast edits. While we never really see how Matilda kills her prey, we are privy to bloody bodies and scenes of people flying through the air, falling to the ground, and being ejected from moving vehicles.
For older teens and adults, Darkness Falls at least backs off on sexual content. Profanities are mild with the exception of the sexual expletive -- seemingly tossed in to give the film a more serious PG-13 rating. However, in spite of the movie's artistic shortcomings, don't think for a minute this fairy wouldn't scare your young children especially the next time they lose a tooth.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Darkness Falls.
Some people enjoy being scared in a movie, while others detest it. Which type are you? How have years of watching scary movies and other media changed our perception of what is fearful in our own lives?