At just over 80 minutes, Darkness Falls (which is also known as Anderson Falls in other regions) understands the importance of not overstaying its welcome. It’s a lean, tight running time for a serial killer thriller, one that opens with a particularly harsh sequence where the predators murder their prey by forcing them to digest sleeping pills before staging a suicide scene. It’s an agonising, ugly scene, and as much as it sets up the fact that the villains are cold, heartless murderers, there’s very little context, which doesn’t assist the narrative in establishing any tension.
The victim of the film’s opening sequence is a prolific artist whose husband (Shawn Ashmore‘s Jeff) is a detective who found her lifeless body – seemingly the aftermath of a suicide – and is now understandably broken. He’s convinced his wife didn’t kill herself, and has spent the last 3 months low-key investigating similar suicide scenes in an attempt to piece a crime together. This dedication has resulted in him distancing himself from his son (Judah Mackey) and his mother (Lin Shaye), both who don’t understand the mental turmoil he’s experiencing.
Jeff’s investigation eventually leads him to Mark (Gary Cole) and Adam (Richard Harmon), a father-son duo who are targeting high-profile female figures and forcing them into their own termination. Given the opening scene, we understand just how much they – Mark especially – hate women, and Giles Daoust‘s script clumsily injects the typical exposition ramble where Mark explains his hostility towards women. It’s all very “mummy/wife issues”, and perhaps in another film would increase the mystery rather than deflating it, and as its running time sped on (it’s remarkable how little happens) we would feel more of an impact; Seven, this is not.
Given the grisly core of the story and the reliable talent on hand, it’s a real shame how hollow Darkness Falls ultimately proves to be. Cole underplays the villain (for the most part) in an emotionally distant manner, which could’ve been unnerving given his actions but it just comes off as disinterested, whilst Ashmore doesn’t feel polished or weathered enough to be an officer in his position. Despite seeming investigation on this particular type of genre, Daoust and director Julien Seri aren’t able to lift this cloddish thriller to the B-grade sensibility it wants to settle for.
ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Darkness Falls is available on VOD and digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, FandangoNow, and Google Play) across the United States now. An Australian release is still to be announced.