Darkness Falls (2003)
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
A PMS-ing specter nicknamed the “Toothfairy” has an old score to settle with the inhabitants of “Darkness Falls” (nice name for a town…sheesh) and she be killing. When Kyle (Kley) was a young boy, he survived an encounter with the vengeful spirit and twelve years later, the peeved Fairy is still on his pallet. Things get heavier when she begins to hunt his childhood sweetheart’s (Caulfield) little brother and everybody else in the area who happens to take a peek at her sweet self. Sensitive bitch, isn’t she? She stalks, they run. Here we go!
I’ll start this review with an excerpt from my interview with director Jonathan Liebesman:
Arrow: I think that the studios underestimate their audiences sometimes.
Jonathan: I totally believe that too, so what I tried to do with this film is to hold back as much as possible to keep it ambiguous for the first half where you're not sure and you don’t see...it's all shadow play: was that a shadow, was it in his head, what the fuck are we looking at?
When I interviewed Jonathan, he seemed a little stressed out. Why? What I gathered was that during the shoot, he wanted the film to be one thing (a classy horror movie) and that the studio wanted it to be another thing (a mindless "monster on the loose" piece of candy). Well, I got bad news for you all; the studio won this tug-of-war and a lot of what Jonathan told me that he was aiming for, did not make the final cut.
"Darkness Falls" did open its tale on the right fear page though, with a mucho snazzy montage explaining our tooth loving beeyatch’s back-story. It followed that razor opening with a chilling prologue that had me by the collar and that surprisingly wound up being the best scene in the whole movie on every cinematic level. The sweet love thang between the kids was way cute and by far the more fulfilling bit of human interaction in the house. As for the stalk scene, it kicked my ass with its dark ambiance, potent suspense and visual panache. I freaking adored the final shot of the sequence in the bathroom. NICE! Up to that point, I felt so much hope for what was to come and I was expecting a rocking good horror time at the out house. I was RIP wrong.
Sadly, "Darkness Falls" went on to crawl in the footsteps of "Soul Survivors", "Eye See You" and "They" as yet another recent horror opus that looked like it got trimmed of its healthy fat in the editing room by apes in suits who thought they knew something about what makes a good horror film tick (they didn’t know shit). Running at 75 minutes (is that even legal?) this sucka was more akin to a sharp collage of kool images than a full movie. Yes, the narrative was dragged down by some ridiculous dialogue (count the variations on the line “stay in the light”), grating side players and minor plot holes along the way, but its worse cavity was the person (s) out there who didn’t think we (the audience) could handle a layered and evenly paced “story”. To him/her/them, I say: "Kiss my fries with mayo on the face".
Who’s responsible for the character development here? Raise your hand mofo! Show yourself! The substance in this mix was beyond rushed and that hurt the whole so bad! Who was that moping kid again? What was Caitlin’s deal? What did Kyle live through after his misfortune? I never got a chance to find out at a satisfying length. The relationships between the leads were also flimsily addressed while the plot turns constantly happened in a pre-mature ejaculating fashion, failing to garner the whoopass they should’ve had! I so wanted to get to know these people and to have the opportunity to be absorbed and knocked out by the storyline! But noooooo! All of the meat was tossed out the window in order to sprint to the action-heavy second half. What a damn shame.
Which brings me to the slight upside: the second half of the movie was basically an obvious, but still exciting, extensed chase sequence with a CGI supernatural tramp flying around and relentlessly hunting everybody in sight. No matter how I cut that, I must admit that it provided me with some easy and fast paced entertainment. Echoing "Jeepers Creepers", Darkness Falls delivered one badass action blowout in a police station and anteed that up with some groovy monster on the loose set pieces that varied in quality, but that kept my eyes and my smile on the screen.
I had a blast when they used the whole “stay in the light” angle properly as a tension device during the stalk scenes. The polished visual wrapping in which they were coated also gave those bits the hammer in the nads they needed. There’s nothing like a spooky horror mood to charm me into the sack. I actually got creeped out, I jumped at the right places (yes, that stupid cat got me…I’m ashamed) and I wiggled in my seat like a toddler because I was having such silly fun. Taking into account that I had jack-all invested in the rushed storyline or the two-legged props posing as characters, getting those reactions out of me was an accomplishment of mammoth proportion and I prop Liebesman for pulling that off.
In the end, "Darkness Falls" flew high above all of its more mature possibilities and skipped on its potential depth to become a hurried, hollow, yet somewhat engaging, monster mash. Bummer that the clever Toothfairy concept put out early on was also never truly capitalized on throughout. I actually forgot that this movie was about an evil Toothfairy twenty minutes in. It could’ve been Michael Jackson behind that “porcelain” mask (was it?) and the narrative wouldn’t have been hindered. Let’s knock some teeth out!
All of the kills here consisted of folks being pulled off-screen by the CGI dancing queen. Result: Apart from some random blood, there was NATHING here to wet things up. NOTE: The Stan Winston creature looked money for the 3 seconds we saw its face, but they should’ve stuck with the initial and more unique design instead of giving me more of the same thing.
Chaney Kley (Kyle) did what he could with his so-so dialogue and lack of character exploration. The man had intensity and his talent almost compensated for the “out of his hands” shortcomings. Given more to play with, he could’ve rocked hardcore. Poor Emma Caulfield (Caitlin). She’s just there with no fleshed-out part to support her. She also did what she could. Lee Cormie (Michael) was decent as the sad looking kid that we never really got to know. Grant Piro (Larry) annoyed the shite out of me, but at the same time, made me laugh. NOTE: Most of the actors playing the side characters were pretty lousy, to say the least.
T & A
We get a…naked tooth. BOING!
I loved Jonathan Liebesman’s visual flair; he injected the film with the proper spooky atmosphere. The flashy cuts, the slow motion, the red filters near the end and the stylish shot compositions also came through. To me, the prologue was quite a statement on Jonathan’s talent. It blew my jock strap off. Jonathan has what it takes; now all he needs to do is associate himself with the right people.
We get an eerie and effective score by Brian Tyler. We also get a couple of disposable pop/rocks songs.
Distributor: Columbia Tri-Star
Release Date: April 22, 2003
IMAGE: The full-screen and widescreen anamorphic images were both sharp and clear especially in regards to the more somber scenes. I saw more of the film and the creature here then I did on the big screen. Gotta love DVD!
SOUND: The English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 were potent and hard hitting, particularly when it came to the various sound effects and the slick score. The sound quality made the experience a better one.
Filmmaker’s Commentary (feature length): Director Jonathan Liebesman, writer James Vanderbilt and producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman come in with their sense of humor in high gear. We get lots of joking, an abundance of trivia about the shoot, the re-shoots, specific scenes and cut out scenes. Jonathan points out the many homages in the film (SIGNS- Kubrick) and I really loved the constant comments on the mistakes in the film and about what went down behind the scenes. This was a very funny, engaging and insightful commentary.
Writers' Commentary (feature length): Writers Joe Fasano and Joe Harris also deliver their commentary in good humor. They talk about where the initial Tooth Fairy horror concept came from and how they met up and eventually pitched the idea to Revolution Studios. They also point out the differences between their script and the finished product, share their disappointments in regards to what didn’t make it into the final cut and bring up the Tooth Fairy rules that were initially set by them, but dropped in the film. This commentary was also a fun listen with jokes and info hitting us left and right. NOTE: Did you know that the young Caitlin is actually the cute little girl from "Ghost Ship"? Now you do.
Deleted Scenes: We get 7 deleted scenes, most of which don't bring anything more to the film. The only one that stuck with me was the one in which young Caitlin gave her necklace to young Kyle in the opening. The necklace also resurfaced later on in another deleted scene. They should’ve kept that in; it reinforced their bond in a simple yet effective way. An okay feature.
The Legend of Mathilda Dixon (~ 10 minutes): This mockumentary relays Matilda’s backstory to us as well as her eventual murder through reenactments of the events and fake testimonies from the town folks. This little ditty was tightly produced and watchable for what it was. Actually, if you’ve read the Darkness Falls novel adaptation, you’ll know the story on display here. A decent feature.
The making of Darkness Falls (~ 17 minutes): This feature has the cast (that little kid is adorable) and crew come in to talk about the film, each other (praise) and their respective roles in the picture. We get some engaging on-set footage, a look at the making of Stan Winston’s Fairy creature and lots of insight from Jonathan Liebesman who talks about his fears and his experience as a young, fresh filmmaker suddenly tossed on to a high budget motion picture production. This feature was very good from a fan and filmmaker wannabe point of view.
We also get Storyboard Comparisons of 3 scenes.
This DVD definitely made me appreciate "Darkness Falls" more and seeing everybody’s enthusiasm and hard work swayed me further on to their side. The audio and video qualities were top notch and the extras fulfilling. My only questions: where was the damn trailer and Joe Harris’ Tooth Fairy short? COME ON! Overall, this is a money DVD.
I believe that there used to be a strong movie in here, but somebody made sure to chop the substance out, "mainstream" and dumb it down to serve who they thought was to be the target audience. I better get a Director’s Cut on the DVD or I’ll pull all kinds of teeth out with a pair of pliers! As is, "Darkness Falls" felt like a good looking patch job. The attention to the story and the characters were criminally lacking and the only things that I retained from it were the back-story, the hard hitting prologue, a couple of kool chase sequences and the slick directing. I feel bad for Jonathan, he obviously has a good eye and to have his theatrical debut butchered like a bimbo in a slasher cannot feel good. This drink’s on you bro...don’t give up the fight!
I would love to get my hand on the original feature length screenplay by John Fasano. If anybody has it in hand, slap it my way. I want to judge this story for what it was, not for what the studio made of it.
The film went through five titles: "The Tooth Fairy", "Don't Peek", "Fear of the Dark", "The Tooth Fairy: The Ghost of Matilda Dixon" and "The Tooth Fairy: Every Legend Has Its Dark Side".
In the first cut of the film, the Toothfairy’s existence was only confirmed in the end. The studio, loathing “ambition” hired Stan Winston and he created a new Toothfairy monster that was inserted throughout the film via CGI.
The original Toothfairy design was created by Steve Wang and you can see it via McFarlane Toys’ “Toothfairy” figurine.