DARKNESS FALLS is a ghostly horror flick that’s trying to pull in some young teens with its PG-13 rating. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution, however, despite some positive elements.
The movie opens with the 100-year-old story of an old woman in a small town in Maine called Darkness Falls. The woman gives gold coins to the children in the town in exchange for their baby teeth. She becomes affectionately known as “the tooth fairy.” Then, the woman’s house burns down, and she is horribly disfigured. She becomes a recluse and only goes out with a porcelain mask. The people of the town shun her, and when two children disappear, she is accused of killing them. The town hangs the woman, but two days later the children show up unharmed. Moments before her hanging, she places a curse on the whole town. She tells the townspeople, “What I took in kindness, I will now take in revenge forever.” For years thereafter, the woman’s evil ghost has terrorized the town’s children, taking their baby teeth, and, if you happen to see her face, taking your life.
Flash forward to the present day when Kyle, whose mother was killed by the ghost 12 years earlier, is asked to help the little brother of his first young love. Kyle is reluctant, because no one believes his story about the ghost, despite all the rumors in the town among the children. Kyle has been in and out of mental institutions and carries around tons of flashlights, because the evil ghost cannot abide the light. When the ghost starts attacking the townspeople, the police suspect Kyle and put him in jail. Can Kyle convince the police to believe him so that they can help his girlfriend save her little brother, and themselves, from this rampaging spirit?
DARKNESS FALLS had a great opportunity on its hands that regrettably falls flat. When many of us were children, a shadow in the corner of the room or a noise in the house held monsters who never took shape other than in our imagination. This is the place in everyone’s life where we were able to be deeply scared. The movie started in the right direction, and then the director apparently lost confidence in the way the movie was turning out, so he threw in a lot of cheap scare tactics. A black cat jumps on the hood of a car and shrieks right when the audience feels at ease. A little girl appears in a window with full orchestrated “BOO music,” only to find she’s just a harmless friend of the hero, who’s being hunted by the evil ghost. There are several scenes like this.
Despite the flimsy story, lame plot devices and ghostly, scary, occult elements, DARKNESS FALLS does a good job with the monster and the heroism of the lead character, Kyle. The monster itself was pretty unsettling at times and quite believable. It made a low growling sound and shrieking noise that sent ice water into my veins. Linda Blair in The Exorcist was more pleasant to watch. The movie portrays Kyle as a sympathetic guy with lots of empathy for what his girlfriend and her brother are going through. His courage helps save the day in true heroic fashion.
Although DARKNESS FALLS skillfully minimizes the violence toward the children, the real victims of the evil spirit’s wrath are the adults who come in contact with the demonic thing while trying to protect the children. The evil ghost pulls people off camera and kills them after they see her face. Also, the movie contains some foul language, including strong profanities. Finally, although the goal in the movie, and the worldview, is a moral and Christian one – to destroy the evil ghost – its theology about ghosts is occult. The movie also fails to capitalize fully on the proto-Christian symbolism of evil not liking the light and of evil being destroyed by the light. Despite this symbolism, God or Jesus Christ aren’t overtly invited to be the solution. Thus, the evil spirit is fought off primarily by natural means.
There’s one more thing that bothered me about this movie that tends to be a personal pet peeve. Have you ever watched a TV show that’s supposed to take place in the American deep south and the scenery looks remarkably like the southern California foothills? Where every southerner wears overalls and chews on straw and isn’t aware that man landed on the moon? Or, how about watching a British movie where the “American” in the story says things like, “Have a nice day honey” or a forced naselly, “Hey, Pal,” and there’s something not quite right about it or exaggerated.
Such is the case with DARKNESS FALLS. It could be renamed, “Terror of the Aussieyanks,” because it was filmed in or near Melbourne, Australia, as noted in the longest end credits you’ve ever seen. The plethora of American flags hanging in shop windows may have been an attempt to say, “Get it? It’s America.” The normally rainy pine forested state of Maine suddenly had a bright green, somewhat tropical feel with a few palm trees if you look far enough in the background.
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Amy Pascal, Chairman
John Calley, Chairman/CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
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Culver City, CA 90232-3195
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SUMMARY: In DARKNESS FALLS, a 100-year-old evil ghost terrorizes the people and children in a small Maine town because their ancestors falsely hanged her for murder. Despite a lightly Christian worldview with moral elements, DARKNESS FALLS contains scary violence, some strong foul language and an occult theology about ghosts.
(C, B, OO, LL, VV, AA, D, M) Light Christian worldview with moral elements; occult plot device and occult theology about a revenge-minded ghost that must be destroyed by the good guys; 16 obscenities (including one "f" word) and eight mostly strong profanities; scary, but not gory, action violence, such as evil ghost pulls people off camera to kill them, people and animals pop suddenly into view, police fire guns at flying spirit, spirit causes car crash, man thrust through car windshield, drunken man beats up hero, and fires break out; no sex but adolescent girl sneaks into boy's bedroom and they kiss twice, but that's all; no nudity; alcohol use and man is drunk; no smoking, but man takes anti-psychotic drugs; and, light jealousy and other small amounts of miscellaneous immorality.