Darkness Falls (2003)

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Released 9-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Audio Commentary-Writers
Deleted Scenes-7
Featurette-The Legend Of Matilda Dixon
Featurette-Making Of
Storyboard Comparisons-4
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Anger Management, xXx
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 82:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Jonathan Liebesman
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Chaney Kley
Emma Caulfield
Lee Cormie
Grant Piro
Sullivan Stapleton
Steve Mouzakis
Peter Curtin
Kestie Morassi
Jenny Lovell
John Stanton
Angus Sampson
Charlotte Rees
Joshua Anderson
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Brian Tyler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Croatian
Czech
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Polish
Russian
Serbian
Slovenian
Turkish
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Movies, like all other great achievements of Man, rely on one thing more than any other to be successful - planning. If you build a bridge, a car, or a building, you need detailed blue-prints of what is going to be built, otherwise you run the risk of the bridge washing away, the building falling down, or the car not being able to stop. Likewise, if you wish to build software, wage a war, or even win a game of football, the key to success is almost always forward planning. This is also true of making movies. Just as it is difficult, if not impossible, to alter a train bridge to become a traffic bridge halfway through construction, it is difficult to alter the intentions of a horror movie halfway through filming. Unfortunately for Darkness Falls, that is exactly what has happened, and just like that poorly planned bridge, it has come crashing down.

Darkness Falls, set in the fictitious town of the same name (ask yourself, who in their right mind would name a town "Darkness Falls" anyway?), is based on the "true" (ahem...yes...truue) legend of the Tooth Fairy. Over 150 years ago, an old woman in the town became well known to all the children, as she would give them a gold coin whenever any of their teeth fell out in return for the tooth itself. Somewhat suspicious of the old woman, the townsfolk use a turn of events as an excuse to hang her, and with her dying breath she places a curse on the town and all the children in it. Cut to a few years ago, and we find the Tooth Fairy carrying out her promise in the house of a young Kyle Walsh. He peeks, and as revenge, the Tooth Fairy claims his mother's life, and he is sent to a foster family, away from his sweetheart Caitlin Greene. Cut to the present day and Caitlin (now played by Buffy The Vampire Slayer actress Emma Caulfield) is worried for her younger brother Michael (an excellent performance from young Australian actor Lee Cormie, affecting a flawless American accent) who has become terrified of the dark, and is showing similar signs to Kyle from all those years ago. After a frantic telephone call, Kyle (now played by Chaney Kley) shows up to help Michael and Caitlin escape the wrath of the Tooth Fairy.

The sad part about this movie is that it actually works for about the first 35 minutes. The set-up plays very well as an atmospheric creepy horror film, but from about the 40 minute mark on it all starts to fall to pieces. The major problem is that the movie cannot decide what style it wants to be, switching alternately between atmospheric, creature feature, and action. The result is that the atmosphere is ruined by the other elements, while the film does not have the budget to pull off either of those with any real amount of polish. It might have worked had it been going for cheesy creature-feature from the get-go, but after forty odd minutes of relatively successful suspense, to have an obviously fake creature simply hanging in the air and wailing just doesn't gel. The climax of the movie is no better, and the final confrontation between the heroes and the Tooth Fairy features some of the worst digital effects ever put on film.

The truly annoying fact is that Darkness Falls could have been so much more. As revealed in both commentary tracks, this film looks piecemeal because it is. The script went through so many variations that even the writers have a hard time remembering exactly which story elements come from which idea. Each one of the ideas they were working with would have been interesting, but the combination of them all has lead to a horrible mess that is difficult to comprehend. Essentially, this film needed to pick one idea and stay with it - atmospheric horror, action horror, even cheesy creature feature can all make a good film if done properly, but the combination of all three just doesn't work. In the end, it is impossible to recommend this film to anyone, not even as a rental (although as it was shot in Australia and features a number of faces known from other productions, at least we can play "where have I seen them before").

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The video transfer presented for Darkness Falls is slightly better than average, and by that I mean the somewhat disparaging description "average" rather than the mathematical mean, mode, or median.

Presented at 2.40:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. I was not able to ascertain if this was the original aspect ratio, but from the framing, I suspect that it was probably a 2.35:1 transfer (which would mean that yet again a transfer has been slightly cropped to make it 2.40:1).

Sharpness is good without being spectacular - there is enough fine detail present, but not any more. Grain is a constant background presence, and occasionally becomes a major problem, most noticeable from 17:00 to 17:05 on the helicopter shot. Shadow detail is probably the best aspect of this transfer, and is extremely good, showing plenty of depth in the (many) dark scenes. There is no low level noise present.

Colours are generally good, although they do appear slightly washed out from time to time. In that regard, the darker scenes fare better than the bright, showing richer colours with more vibrancy.

There is some pixelization present during the heavy grain periods, particularly from 17:00 to 17:05, but apart from that compression artefacts are absent. Aliasing is infrequent in its appearance, but when present can be quite distracting, such as on the buildings at 14:31 and the blinds at 18:43. There are no film artefacts present.

The subtitles are generally accurate, and do enough to get the story across. They are well paced and easy to read.

This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 53:00 during Chapter 20. It is extremely well placed in a very dark scene with almost no camera movement or sound. I only spotted it as it breaks a word during the second commentary track.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

One of only a very few things truly excellent about Darkness Falls, this soundtrack is extremely good.

There are six audio tracks present on this disc. The first four are the original English dialogue and dubs in Spanish, Hungarian, and Russian, all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448Kbps). The final two are the two English audio commentary tracks, both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192Kbps).

Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. Likewise, audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and is never a problem.

The score is credited to rapidly rising young composer Brian Tyler, and while it is very much a genre track, it still manages to be good enough to sound original. It certainly does a better job than the film itself at conveying the sense of fear and dread of the characters.

Surround presence is extremely good. Featuring sound design by Skywalker Studios, this surround soundtrack pushes the limits of the 5.1 format, with plenty of split directional use, and many full 360 panning effects - all that on top of the usual score carrying duties. The only downside is the notable lack of ambient noises during more dialogue driven scenes.

The subwoofer is used quite extensively for various explosions and the like, and generally makes its presence felt. It is not the most dynamic use of subwoofer to grace DVD, but it is certainly not shamed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

For once the extensive extras package lavished on such a terrible film is actually worthwhile - watch this and you will realise exactly why this film is so bad.

Menu

The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - Jonathan Liebesman (Director), William Sherak and Jason Shuman (Producers), and James Vanderbilt (Writer)

This is an excellent audio commentary, and between this and the writers commentary, I recommend that those who saw this theatrically and hated it at least rent the DVD and check them out. The commentators don't exactly acknowledge how poor their film is, but the do speak about - and explain - many of the shortcomings. In the end, the reason seems to have been a good example of the saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" as everyone involved seems to have genuinely been interested in crafting as good a horror movie as possible, but with each attempt, slipping further and further from that success. A highly recommended listen.

Audio Commentary - Joe Harris and John Fasano (Writers)

This commentary is just as good as the other track. These two writers were the ones who originally conceived the story (in fact, Darkness Falls is based on Harris' 2001 short film Tooth Fairy), only to have it taken somewhat out of their hands by the studio (they seem to bear no resentment for that strangely - maybe because it is such a common situation in modern Hollywood). They clearly get on very well together and keep up a constant banter for the entire film, explaining the huge number of different incarnations the story has gone through. Another "must-hear" commentary.

Deleted Scenes (9:37)

This section presents seven deleted scenes. The scenes are mostly for added atmosphere, with a couple dedicated to further character development. The final scene, however, simply re-plays over a minute of the movie's finale, then adds a few seconds of extra (and still extremely poor) effects work. All scenes are presented at 2.35:1 not 16x9 enhanced, with counters outside the 2.35:1 windows, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - The Legend Of Matilda Dixon (10:46)

This short "documentary" (or should I say "mockumentary") looks at the "real life" mystery of Matilda Dixon on which the film was supposedly based. Apparently Matilda lived in Port Fairy, Victoria about 150 years ago. I'm no historian, so I cannot say for sure that this documentary is a complete untruth, but I have heavy suspicions that it is (especially as all the "townspeople" interviewed are given credits...as other people). It is probably taken as 100% true everywhere else in the world, however. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Making Of (17:18)

Not actually that bad for a making of, this featurette contains interviews with both leads, and all the major crew. It does get a little self-congratulatory at times (obviously they are not a very good judge of their own work), but for the most part is interesting to watch. Presented at 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Storyboard Comparisons (6:05)

This section presents four scenes for comparison between the storyboard and the live action. The technique used here is one of the more useful (personally I cannot stand multi-angle comparisons), with the storyboard shown large in the top left of the screen and the live action equivalent smaller in the bottom right. The comparisons are presented in a frame that is approximately 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Trailers

This section presents the following trailers: All trailers are 16x9 enhanced, and feature Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Before starting this comparison, it is worth noting that the Region 2 (UK) and Region 4 versions of Darkness Falls are identical, but there are differences with the Region 1.

The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on; Unless you can only speak and/or read Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, or French, then there is no real reason to prefer one version over the other (three trailers and a single storyboard comparison are hardly reason enough).

Summary

Darkness Falls is the little movie that could, but that ultimately didn't. It is fatally flawed, extremely frustrating, and not worth anyone's time. The film that is. This DVD is very much worth at least a rent for those who want an insight into how a movie can go from bad to abominable.

The video quality is passable - there is too much grain (especially for such a recent movie), the image is too soft, and yet it still suffers from aliasing from time to time.

The audio quality is superb. The people at Skywalker Sound have done it again and created an excellent soundtrack.

The extras are the real highlight here, and it is for them that I encourage anyone who saw this at the theatres - especially if they disliked it (pretty good chance of that...) - to rent this disc and listen to the commentaries. It is an experience that will lead you to forgive what happened here, and even look forward to the next output from this creative team.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, December 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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