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Darkness Falls (2003) – DVD Review



Written by: John Fasano, Joe Harris & James Vanderbilt
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton, Steve Mouzakis


  • Running audio commentary by director Liebesman, producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman, and writer Vanderbilt
  • Running audio commentary by writers Fasano & Harris
  • Storyboard comparison
  • Deleted scenes
  • The Legend of Matilda Dixon featurette
  • Making-of featurette

Released by: Columbia Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Rent it.

[ad#longpost]Kyle (Kley) lives in the town of Darkness Falls, a town with a bloody secret: it seems that about one hundred years ago, the town hung an innocent, if eccentric, woman named Matilda for killing two missing children. The woman in question was called the Tooth Fairy because she made a point of baking treats for children who had lost their teeth, but when her face was burned in a fire, she became more reclusive. Now, there is a town legend that if a child sees Matilda while she is collecting their tooth, she will kill them. Kyle knows this legend and fears the coming of the Tooth Fairy, but he is not prepared for her hasty slaughter of his mother (Rebecca McCauley) and the authorities blaming her death on him. Now, it’s over twelve years later, and Kyle is summoned back to Darkness Falls to help the younger brother of his old flame Cat (Caulfield). It seems that another little boy peeked when he should not have.

The acting is really quite good. Emma Caulfield is by turns concerned and hopeful as Michael’s older sister and Kyle’s adult love interest. Kley as Kyle gets several great lines that seem like toss-offs, and he effectively conveys what someone would be like who had spent over a decade shuffling between mental hospitals and foster homes. But the real star of the show is little Lee Cormie as the new boy in danger from the Tooth Fairy. He’s just incredible, relating real fear and a cynicism too old for his age; he brings a presence to this role that got too little credit in the popular media when the movie came out. He will be one to watch as he ages and gets meatier roles.


The features list is really quite impressive. There are two different commentaries, one with the writers and another with the director and producer. These commentaries do the expected, bringing more behind-the-scenes information, but they’re also just bloody hysterical. These guys know what they have created and show you why they are proud of it. There is also a short film, a faux documentary about the “legend of Matilda Dixon,” another short making-of featurette, some deleted scenes that aren’t all that long, and a nifty storyboard comparison. Film students, indeed all visual artists concerned with scale, effects, and translating inner vision to outer media, will love seeing that last feature.

There are surprisingly only a few quibbles I truly have with this film. I’ll let the lynching of Matilda slide because at that day and time, being weird was cause for suspicion, no matter how nice you had always been before. But why would the police assume that Kyle had killed his mother? Because he’d been “in trouble”? He’s clean of blood, no tissue under his nails and so on…besides, the character of Kyle is a bit old in the beginning to have lost his last baby tooth; he’s old enough to have a girlfriend and be going to a dance anyway. It also seems that the Tooth Fairy violates her “kill only those who see me” law when she slays the cops in the police station; I’m not convinced that all of those men saw her face, but perhaps they did, so I’m willing to let that slaughter slide. Also, why exactly is this woman suddenly bipolar, just because she’s dead? She creeps around the kids, still giving them coins in exchange for their teeth, presumably to do something nice, but then she flies into a homicidal rage should they peek at her. So does she hate kids or not? Situational ethics on the part of an undead villain–who’da thunk it? A final quibble is a question about how Cat suddenly has a younger brother who is apparently nearly young enough to be her own child. She’s in her early twenties, and Michael is about six or eight–and yet a childhood friend is already a lawyer, looking much older than twenty-two or so. This film might have played better with teenagers in the main roles; the timing would have worked out better. These quibbles are together rather minor, but could easily have been fixed.


Basically, this seems like another film in the line of Gen Xers finally being old enough to work out the damage our parents did to us as children. Didn’t anyone ever wonder what lying to us about Tooth Fairies and other assorted magical creatures creeping around our bedrooms at night would do to us? This is one movie that wasn’t quite as frightening as it could have been, as the cracked mask on the unnatural villain has been done to death, but the idea is a good one. Give it a rental and an honest chance to be what it wants to be–a fun horror flick–and don’t expect it to be what it isn’t trying to be: high art. If you don’t go in expecting Kurosawa, you might just find yourself impressed by the solid cinematography and interested in the well-played characters. Just once though, I would like to see a horror movie that isn’t just a version of Aliens, only with Tooth Fairy/serial killer/giant robots instead.

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