Every week in Revisiting the Rotten, Calhoun Kersten digs into the seedier sides of Rotten Tomatoes’ “Rotten” certification to consider whether these movies deserve a second chance. This week, the early-aughts horror flick Darkness Falls.
Kids have been afraid of the dark since, well, since there has been light and dark to be afraid of. It’s one of those basic childhood fears that has been a staple of the horror genre for as long as I can remember. So when Jonathan Liebesman tackled the things that go bump in the night in 2003 with Darkness Falls, it seemed just like another scary story about the horrors that awaited unsuspecting teens when the lights go out. With a mere 9% from critics and an alarming 45% from audiences, Darkness Falls is just one addition to the long string of forgettable horror films in the 2000s.
As a kid, Kyle (Chaney Kley) was left with a crippling fear of the dark after he saw his mother murdered by “The Tooth Fairy,” a local legend who visits children when they lose their last baby tooth. But this isn’t the Tooth Fairy we all know and love (sorry guys, no Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Larry the Cable Guy), but a vengeful spirit. Her one weakness? Conveniently enough, her aversion to light. Honestly, this is normally the part where I would tell you to watch the trailer and leave it at that, but the trailer running time (1:57) is actually a decent chunk of the movie. Then again, that’s no feat when the movie clocks in at 80-some minutes.
Rumor has it that Liebesman actually tacked on 11 minutes of credits so that the film was viable for theatrical distribution. Now, a movie that has to provide more closing credits because it has less story? Just proof that a movie about a murderous tooth fairy has absolutely no bite.
Why, you may ask, would I choose to watch this movie in the first place, let alone re-watch it years later? Well, dear readers, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Buffy fan. Those of you that watched the trailer or read the IMDb may recognize Emma Caulfield in the top billing, a.k.a. Anya. Look, I never said my logic was good logic, but it’s there all the same. Sadly, I probably would have just been better off watching reruns on Logo than watching this cinematic abortion.
Honestly, the most offensive thing about Darkness Falls is its overwhelming mediocrity. It’s not good. It’s bad. I kind of wish I felt stronger about it, but it isn’t the kind of movie that lends itself to… well, any emotional response really. It’s just one of those movies that happened, I saw it, and I don’t really think anybody is better for it. Certainly not the actors, and definitely not me.
It’s not just that the movie is bad or lacks any real story. It’s the kind of movie where you just have to imagine somebody at the studio screwed this one up. I mean, the premise is there. It’s got mythology, it has a pretty interesting origin story, and while the villain may not be the most creative, they could have done some really interesting things with her.
Now, here’s where I start to sound like a horror snob. I love my scary movies, even the shitty ones, but the worst thing to happen to the horror movie is the PG-13 rating. In the interest of getting a wider audience (one that would be limited with an R rating, cutting out a large chunk of the teen movie-goers), Darkness Falls is so watered down it’s laughable. I’m not one of those people that’s driven by gore or the prospect of bloodshed, but if you’re going to torture me with mediocre acting and little to no character development, I better have something to show for it. Here, there’s not even that.
That’s the biggest issue with Darkness Falls. The problem isn’t what the movie has, it’s what the movie doesn’t have. There’s no real character growth, a frequent problem in horror films, but there isn’t even enough violence or entertainment to offset its mediocrity. I almost would have preferred it to be actually bad, so that I at least had something to laugh at, but there’s not even that. Sadly, Darkness Falls had potential, but instead, it makes its character and its audience meander aimlessly, trying to find some point to the story, but only finding more darkness.