by Brandon Thomas
Going into Darkness Falls, I felt upbeat and positive. Gary Cole is the heavy of the film? Sign me up! His track record as a villain (namely A Simple Plan and Pineapple Express) is pretty spotless in my book.
Then I watched Darkness Falls.
Cue sound of deflating balloon.
Detective Jeff Anderson (Shawn Ashmore) has become obsessed with his wife’s suicide, convinced that it was actually a murder. As Anderson delves deeper into other similar suicide cases, he finds that a father and son serial killer duo (Gary Cole and Richard Harmon) are stalking his city.
From the opening scene, Darkness Falls leans heavily into cliche, and, if I’m being painfully honest, laziness. The filmmaking lacks any real type of energy or urgency. Director Julien Seri’s artistic choices come across as inept and amateurish, never really settling on a specific style. Seri tends to stage many shots to look cool instead of helping to tell an engaging story.
Giles Daoist’s script isn’t up to the challenge either. Rather than try something new with the genre, Darkness Falls relies on the same tired detective movie tropes. Anderson is the loose canon detective that the brass just can’t handle. And I’d be ashamed to forget mentioning just how often he slams his palms on counters and/or tables and shouts things like, “Tell me where he is?!” Truly riveting screenwriting.
The “twists” in the film are ones we’ve seen countless times before in much better films. The climax itself was probably done at least three dozen times before 1990. A few genuine “oohs” and “aahs” could’ve helped Darkness Falls be something more than a feature-length Criminal Minds episode.
Performance wise, things don’t improve. Ashmore, who’s notable for playing more squeaky-clean roles, awkwardly tries to embody the tough-as- nails detective. When he’s not chewing up scenes with over-acting, Ashmore’s performance barely registers above bored. Cole, who I usually adore, doesn’t fare much better. His papa bear serial killer lacks any kind of menace. The character is more of a homicidal used car salesman than threatening maniac.
With its pedestrian writing, cruise control direction, and phoned-in performances, Darkness Falls spectacularly falls on its face.