Review by Sean Boelman
Having changed its title from the generic “Anderson Falls” to the even more nondescript Darkness Falls, Julien Seri’s new film is exactly what one would expect: a moody crime thriller. However, thanks to committed and big performances from its stars, it suffices as passive entertainment even if it’s not particularly original.
The film follows a police detective who becomes convinced that his wife’s suicide is in fact a staged murder carried out by a ruthless father-and-son duo of serial killers. It’s a pretty standard procedural drama with a revenge element that isn’t fully fleshed out and motivations that are pretty problematic if thought about in detail.
As is the case in any film of the genre, there has to be a factor that connects the murders in the film, and the one that writer Giles Daoust chose to go with here isn’t very good. In fact, there’s a lot of implicit misogyny that is largely left unaddressed. The nature versus nurture stuff that the script does explore is good, but hardly enough to counteract its problems.
And at under an hour and thirty minutes, absolutely everything feels rushed. The middle portion of the film is certainly most interesting, but viewers are rushed through that to get to a climax that is predictable and anticlimactic. Because the film doesn’t take the time to slow down, it doesn’t earn much of an emotional reaction.
Furthermore, the characters don’t have much in the way of personalities. The protagonist is motivated by the death of his wife and the need to protect his son, which are two of the most traditional motivations for a character in this situation, but they fail to elicit any but the most basic of sympathies from the audience.
That said, Shawn Ashmore does his best to scrounge something out of the material, and at times he does, delivering a performance that is legitimately believable. Gary Cole, on the other hand, fully embraces the schlocky nature of the script and goes very big, but it’s fitting for the character and is enormously fun to watch as a result.
There are a few interesting shots throughout the film, many of which occur in the showdown finale, but as a whole, the film has a very muted style to it. If the film had leaned more heavily into some of the Western elements that obviously influenced it, it could have been a lot more entertaining.
Darkness Falls is a competent film, but it doesn’t do enough to make it stand out in a genre that is already terribly bloated. Gary Cole does deserve another chance at playing the villain, though, as he is a great fit for the role.
Darkness Falls hits VOD on June 12.