Darkness Falls (Movie Review)

Last Updated on December 21, 2021

PLOT: A pair of father and son serial killers are going around offing women under the guise of suicide. After murdering the wife of a detective (who seems to have never been involved in policing), he becomes hellbent on not only proving they exist but shouting and stumbling his way into the ultimate confrontation.

LOWDOWN: I have said it before, and it’s worth mentioning again that getting a film made is a minor miracle. The number of things that have to go right, along with the ones guaranteed to fail, all need to come together, find funding, and somehow see the light of day. With DARKNESS FALLS (WATCH IT HERE), I want to let you know that in no way do I feel any more confident that I could make something better. What I do believe is in the credibility and honesty of calling out things when they don’t feel authentic or earned.

The great Dennis Hopper once said something about returning for another SPEED film that has always stuck with me, “It’s a river of shit, from which I have tried to extract some gold.” This is the advice that should go into all reviews. There is always something good, and even if everything else is as useless as clear liquor (which is for rich women on diets as Ron Swanson once said). You should always try and find the “gold” right along with the trash that accompanies it. Before we dig into the mess that is DARKNESS FALLS, my advice is simple: Light one up and drink ’em If you got ’em. This review may get rough.

DARKNESS FALLS, a thriller about catching a serial killer pair that the entire LA police department doesn’t believe exists. A thriller in the vein of SEVEN but told through the beat-by-beat police procedural that has the makings of a forty-five-minute LAW AND ORDER episode. I understand that this isn’t considered a glowing and positive description, but what the hell. With some well-placed action and a couple of decent performances, I was hoping DARKNESS FALLS might end up being a fun but ultimately forgettable action thriller. HOLY SHIT, I was wrong. This could have gotten by on its low-budget charm at best, but I was not expecting the Digital Playground level of production values and a similar style of acting. At least there are a plethora of naked women when Digital Playground is involved. All we get here is the soothing voice of Gary Cole.

I won’t blame the actors as everyone in this has done fine work in the past. Shawn Ashmore was great in Adam Green’s FROZEN. Gary Cole stole OFFICE SPACE with his perfect deadpan comedic timing, and Lin Shaye makes any horror film she’s in a little bit better. Why does everyone here act like this is their first gig?  I’m convinced that the entire cast is doing DARKNESS FALLS for the paycheck. I know Michael Cain did JAWS: THE REVENGE and Sean Connery did DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER for the money, but this may be the first time that everyone on set has the same idea.

Early on in the film, I got an inkling of what this was about when Detective Jeff Anderson found his wife’s body in what should have been a dramatic scene. I’m not one to cry a lot, but I’ve seen it enough to know when I’m being played. Have you ever noticed a fake cry that almost bleeds into laughter? That’s what we get here. Oh, the sound is there, but I couldn’t tell if this was the warm-up that somehow made it into the final cut. Ashmore seems to just squint his face and call it a day. I’ve faked better emotions over text than what we got here. This is the driving scene that pushes our protagonist into the call of action. It’s his revenge moment, and all I can think of is that he seems like he’s laughing. Why doesn’t he act heartbroken? Is there a twist? Did he kill her?  No, he didn’t, but if you can’t sell the most crucial scene, then I can’t take your movie seriously. Try harder, guys.

Lin Shaye is reading off cue cards. I can’t prove it, but in my heart, I believe it to be true. She delivers lines like, “They need a father who they can trust and who they can depend on…” with the level of passion you’d give reading the brewing address off a bottle of beer. She isn’t trying, and I can’t blame her. Lin is the mom, and maybe that’s why the character seems to been expanded in the script. Why else would we deviate from the drama over to Lin only to gain nothing storywise? Other films would have had a phone call or a small cameo, but we spend way too much time with a character that seems contractually obligated. I respect Lin Shaye and everything she’s done for the genre, but she doesn’t give a shit, so why should we?

With a generic story filled with actors who don’t seem interested in the material, all you’re left with is a movie dead on arrival. The story can’t save this, and the directing is a notch above high-class porn. What is the point? Where do we go from here? After pondering DARKNESS FALLS for a while, I concluded that this isn’t what it seems. I was watching it incorrectly and that skewed my expectations. I expected a coherent movie filled with actors who wanted to act. How could I have been so foolish? How could my ego blind me from the truth? DARKNESS FALLS… is brilliant.

It just doesn’t get there naturally or even purposely. All this becomes clear when we finally see Anderson’s “brilliant” detective skills in action. There’s a scene where he’s trying to think like the killers to find their next victim. He needs to “become” them in order to stop them. Yes. It is ok to let out a chuckle because it’s as bad and laughable as it sounds. He violently scribbles on all of the photos and work he’s constructed in the case so far. There are random pictures connected with a red string plastered all over his place. Does any detective actually do this? He is supposed to be brilliant and DOES have a lot of red string, so I guess I’ll allow it? Once he’s “their” (note the quotation marks) mental zone, Anderson starts yelling, “I hate you” over and over until he snaps and destroys his apartment. Remember that he is alone and actually lives here. This isn’t an office but his OWN APARTMENT. That doesn’t stop the destruction of his personal space to “become” the killers. I assume later on he vacuums and wipes everything down like its a typical day in the office: Clock in and clock out.

Anderson then melts into a trippy shot where multiple versions of himself become the manifestation of anger in something I would make in After Effects ten minutes before its due. That is the quality of the effects that we are working with here. He then suddenly appears (mentally?) at the next victim’s house. What the actual f*ck? There isn’t any explanation of what happened, and I can’t tell if this is how he solves all of his cases or has gained a new power. This movie isn’t supernatural; trust me. Yet he cracks the case and finds the killers because he trashes his apartment and yells a lot in After Effects. It is so ludicrous and seemingly pulled out of someone’s ass that it may unintentionally be the best part of the movie.

This is just the beginning of where DARKNESS FALLS unravels. There is a scene in the police station (seemingly populated by only ten people) where they finally catch one of the killers only to lose the upper hand to him immediately. I had to rewind it because I thought I might have drifted off and missed something crucial. Nope, They just needed the killer out of an inescapable space ASAP. In the middle of the LA police station, Gary Cole grabs Anderson’s gun and walks out. I’m no screenwriter, but I’ll make a bold claim and say this isn’t how things work in a functioning police station. It’s meant to be tense and surprising that the antagonist is cunning enough to escape custody, but it’s played out so casually that the LA police station must be on the same level of security as a public library. Everything is so casual. It’s a fascinating watch.

Lin Shaye spends the entire movie trying to convince her son (Anderson) to be a father to his motherless son only to do a 180 once he claims to have found the killers. She’s not even asking him to be cautious, but overly encourages him to go all out. Are we watching Murtaugh and Riggs? Nothing makes any sense, and the actions of the characters seem to change on a whim. The lack of any semblance of structure makes this a parody of every dime-store detective story. That is why I was initially wrong. I wanted a competent action thriller but got something closer to TROLLS 2 instead. Darkness Falls isn’t good, no. It borders on painfully terrible, yet I kind of love it. I’m not sure what I’m on, but this movie gets to a level of dumb that may have brought me to the edge of bliss and enlightenment.

GORE: A few blood squibs help towards the end, but for a film with two serial killers, we get a severe lack of blood and gore.

BOTTOM LINE: DARKNESS FALLS isn’t at the level where you’d want to hurl plastic spoons at the screen or yell about how you’re being torn apart, but it isn’t far off. I would usually warn you away from a movie I’m scoring so low, but with DARKNESS FALLS, I encourage everyone to see and bask in its awfulness. It is a sight to behold. Go and do as I have, and find the gold in the river of shit that Dennis Hopper was talking about so long ago.

The Iceman



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