Written by: Joe Harris, James Vanderbilt, John Fasano
Starring: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, John Stanton
Being afraid of the dark is natural for kids, and heck even adults still maintain this at times. The fear of darkness becomes so inherent because as creatures always looking for safety and the dark does not provide it. The exact opposite occurs where we can never know exactly what may be in the dark, which opens up our imagination to the most horrifying things. Darkness Falls adequately plays on this idea while also showing the trauma of our childhoods.
The cursed town of Darkness Falls has a story of a woman burned at the stake for allegedly kidnapping children after offering to purchase their dislodged teeth. Now in the present, Kyle Walsh (Chaney Klay) deals with the anxiety and depression from a childhood altercation with the spirit of this woman, which killed his mother. Seen as a liability in the town, he must now help a child who has begun to see the same spirit.
As a young kid, watching this film scared the life out of me because of my fear of the dark and how this film plays with the idea. The cover of night typically signifies spooky things are going to happen in horror films with daylight providing a respite, but the difference between light and dark in this film will determine each character’s fate. It demonstrates why watching this film so many years later shows this still holds up very well because of how it handles trauma of the protagonist we follow.
Kyle has never recovered from the altercation of seeing this evil spirit as a child. The legend states say that if you make eye contact with it, your doom will shortly follow. With it taking the life of his mother, and police seeing no one else as a potential subject, Kyle has struggled with life being sent to mental institutions and on medication as no one believes his story of interacting with something everyone believes to be a scary fairytale told to kids of the town. Unfortunately, he has experienced the truth of the matter and it has impacted him severely. He keeps an exorbitant amount of flashlights on him at all times just in case he finds himself in the dark. While light provides a respite in more horror films, it serves as a tool for protection in Darkness Falls.
The plot truly kicks off when his hometown friend Caitlin (Emma Caufield) calls about her younger brother Michael (Lee Cormie) being scared of the dark in similar ways Kyle has experienced in the past. It becomes a story about Kyle not only having to protect a young boy from experiencing the same experience, but also confronting a spirit, which has impacted his life in such an adverse way. On that front, the film moves at a methodical pace as we learn more about the backstory of this spirit and Kyle continues to attempt to convince people about its existence. A tiring exercise for him and us as the audience, because we know, just like Kyle, that this thing can strike at any moment.
The peak reached by the film occurs in the climax when the monster fully shows itself and goes on the hunt for Michael and Kyle. These scenes exhibit the true divide between the light and the dark. Terrifying as can be, as it took me back to my childhood. Stepping into any shadow or area where light gets blocked off opens up the opportunity for a character to get snatched up by the evil spirit. It becomes a dangerous game, especially during a flight of stairs where darkness covers the steps but the safety of light appears at the base of each floor. An exhilarating sequence with horrifying stakes once we see all of the throwaway characters being swooped away by this fairly ugly-looking monster. For those moments alone, this film shows the excitable elements it has.
Nothing about the film seeks to take a deep dive into the issues it brings up, but as a horror film, it does enough because it becomes about the thrills of escaping the clutches of this evil monster. The backstory demonstrates the unfortunate circumstances and how the sins of a town’s past come back to haunt the following generations. Everything sets up a thrilling horror experience, with plenty to enjoy. Darkness Falls will remind you why you were afraid of the dark as a kid with some real justification.