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Worth a Look
2.5 stars
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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
0.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Darkness Falls

Street Date:
October 18th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
October 27th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2003
Studio:
Image Entertainment
Length:
86 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I'm amazed 'Darkness Falls' never got turned into a franchise. Like many a horror flick, the main villain meets its demise at the hands of the plucky few who survive its carnage, but that's never stopped Hollywood. Normally any horror film that's remotely financially successful gets the spin-off treatment, but this flick, which made back its entire cost and then some in its first weekend at the box office, was left to rot by Sony's Revolution Studios sub-brand. Sure, it bombed with critics, earning a meager 9 percent fresh rating (due to a whopping 115 to 11 negative to positive review ratio), but we're talking about a film that tripled its cost domestically, quadrupled when considering worldwide gross, in the same genre where even crap films get two to three sequels if they make any money.

Although, technically, any sequel would have to have a horrendously stupid name, like '30 Days of Night: Dark Days' (yes, I know, it's the same name as is used in the comics...), '2 Fast 2 Furious,' or 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.' Darkness Falls Again? More Darkness Falling? Die, Darkness, Die? Darkness Falls 2: Pitch Black Boogaloo? Nothing really works.

'Darkness Falls' is a PG-13 supernatural jump-scare horror whose mythos is steeped in myth, both familiar and created for the film. The concept of a tooth fairy, stupid as it is, is somewhat creepy, when you really think about it, and when you throw in a woman, wrongfully accused, who was once beloved but was condemned to death haunting the children she once adored? The premise, while hardly all that original, is interesting enough to give the film a go, and the fact that the creature appears the eve any child from the town loses his or her last baby tooth, killing them if they dare to peek at her has the genre defining criteria down. Throw in a main character (Chaney Kley) who has been haunted by the supernatural for twelve years after peeking left him an orphan, with many accusing him of the murder, and the new threat as another child is following down his tragic footsteps, and you have the basis of what could make a successful series, critics be damned.

'Darkness Falls' isn't a scary horror film, by any means, and its complete lack of gore (damn PG-13 rating...) will not appeal to audiences spoiled by modern torture porn horror. In fact, this film may very well be nothing more than primer, entry level horror for those on the fence, just barely adapting a taste for the genre, but damn if I don't think it's entertaining and a silly kind of popcorn munching fun.

The effects work for the tooth fairy-esque nasty are actually quite good, for its time, and the design of the character is also neat, with long draping cloths working much better than the similar yet awful CGI cape in 'Spawn.' The mask, reminiscent of 'The Phantom of the Opera' may seem a smidge generic, but ah well. The interesting thing is we never see the deaths, or any elaborate murder sequences, we get flashes, then corpses. Sometimes its better this way, and after years of horror films that just try too hard to do anything and fail at every turn (see: 'My Soul to Take'), this nice little feature film debut for director Johnathan Liebesman ('Battle: Los Angeles') runs through its brief runtime at a very brisk pace, making for a fairly enjoyable viewing experience.

The basic premise, that the monster(s) can't get you in the light, may have been used to better effect in 'Vanishing on 7th Street,' but that film also benefitted from years of improved computer effects (and Hayden Christensen). Here, the light versus dark, the battle to stay in some kind of light, it works pretty darned well, creating some nice tension, crafting a final act that really moves naturally, rather than herky-jerky like many a high concept horror flick.

Look, this isn't a revolutionary horror film. It does lack sophistication, and is pretty damn raw. But for what it is, what it accomplishes in its runtime, and how none of the acting, sometimes bad as it is, distracts, there are much worse ways to spend an hour and a half. This is a guilty pleasure film if ever there were one. It's not scary, but it has a pretty good vibe to it. It's silly, brainless fun.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The box for 'Darkness Falls' advertises a 1.85:1 framed transfer, but thankfully this was just a typo. The flick is in its natural 2.35:1 window, presented here in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 encoder, with a solid end result. Detail levels are pretty darned solid, with great facial features regularly through the film, along with superb depth. The random noise early, poor shadow detail, or few softer shots are concerning, but the warm skin tones, great hair distinction and natural picture, free from tampering, make this one at the very least watchable and enjoyable.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Not all of the Sony-to-Image Blu-ray catalog titles have been given 5.1 audio, so when this happens, it may be best to be thankful. 'Darkness Falls' shows that these titles, dumped from one lap to another, still can perform in this crucial element of the film experience, with a lossless 5.1 track that actually works quite well!

This track has almost everything! Jump scares provide solid volume spikes, while swooping nasties bring tons of localization and movement effects into every channel, really circling you convincingly. High ends are solid, dynamics are proper, and rears get plenty of ambience! The only real issue is the absolute lack of bass levels, what should be a major atmosphere setter in PG-13 horror fare. 'Darkness Falls' sounds really, really good here!

The great performance of this track won't make up for the failure on 'Cowboy Bebop: The Movie,' but it's a step in the right direction!

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The only extra here is a Trailer for the film, in high def. Any other extras from the DVD are gone, gone, gone, and there were quite a lot of them, once upon a time.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

None.

Final Thoughts

'Darkness Falls' isn't a revolutionary horror film. If anything, it's an already forgotten relic, despite the fact it's really not that old, at all. Still, I find it to be a pretty fun exercise, a bit of horror primer for beginners, with ambience rather than gore. It mixes a creepy belief with a sinister tone, and it's really not anywhere near as bad as critics lambasted it for upon its theatrical release. This Blu-ray release is solid enough for a catalog title, but is lacking in its supplemental package. For the price, this one is a silly little guilty pleasure pick up. If you're into guts and gore, just move along.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD25 disc
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Trailer

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