If there’s one thing the horror genre is known for, it’s taking every single holiday, fairy tale, or beloved children’s icon and making it demented and terrifying. We’ve had killer Santas, so in 2003 filmmakers tried to do the same with the tooth fairy and the result was Darkness Falls.
Critics and audiences didn’t warm up to it at the time, and in the years since, it’s rarely referenced when discussing horror from that decade. So on its 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at Darkness Falls and see whether it’s a forgotten underrated gem or if its lack of discussion is warranted.
Killer Tooth Fairy
The film opens with the legend of Matilda Dixon, a woman who was affectionately referred to as the Tooth Fairy because she would give children a gold coin whenever they lost a tooth. But after her face was horribly disfigured from a fire, she wore a porcelain mask and was unable to go out in the light.
As a result, the townspeople thought she was a witch and blamed her when two children went missing, even lynching her for it. But when the children turned up, they realized she was innocent, and her vengeful spirit kills anyone who looks upon her and chases them until she kills them.
As far as basic premises go, Darkness Falls doesn’t have a bad one. It’s a cool and creepy legend. The rest of the movie deals with a man who had a traumatic experience as a kid when he saw Matilda Dixon and she killed his mother. So he’s been blamed for his mother’s murder ever since, and spending his time avoiding the dark since that is the Tooth Fairy’s domain.
His old childhood crush calls him because her younger brother is having the same night terrors and fear of the dark that he had. And cue the supernatural villain picking people off one by one as the police doubt the monster’s existence until they start getting killed by her too. As previously mentioned, it’s not a bad premise or plot. The issue is its execution.
Not So Killer Everything Else
First and foremost, Darkness Falls is an incredibly short movie. The end credit sequence drags out for 11 minutes just so the movie would be long enough to qualify for a theatrical release. The movie itself is barely an hour and 15 minutes and as a result, there really isn’t a second act. It’s too long to be a short film, but it’s not long enough to adequately deliver a coherent story with character and story beats.
The creature design is okay, but it uses way too much early 2000s CGI that definitely didn’t hold up then, or today. It’s not even so bad it’s fun, or so bad it’s entertaining. It just ends up being dull and forgettable. This was a film I’d definitely seen more than a few times back when it came out (I even had it on DVD), but I could barely remember anything about it years later because of the severe lack of an impression it made.
Product of Its Time
Despite getting a theatrical release, Darkness Falls has a very direct-to-DVD quality and feels like an interesting time capsule of the year it came out. Looking back at that decade, at least early part, there aren’t many cell phones in sight, and it’s filled with early 00’s alternative rock that makes you feel like you’re in a time machine traveling back to a Hot Topic in 2003.
In an era that was dominated by torture porn and American remakes of Asian horror, Darkness Falls didn’t stand the test of time. And while they may be for the best, it still deserves some recognition for the way it tried to make the Tooth Fairy terrifying.
What did you think of Darkness Falls? Do you agree with its less than stellar reputation or do you think it’s underrated? Let us know in the comments!