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Emma Caulfield

Emma Caulfield - ’Darkness Falls’ Movie - Smh.com.au Review

By Alexa Moses

Saturday 13 September 2003, by isa

Written by John Fasano, James Vanderbilt and Joe Harris from a story by Joe Harris Directed by Jonathan Liebesman Rated M Hoyts and GU city and suburbs, and Reading Auburn

Backstory is the term used by film-makers to describe any action that takes place before a film’s screenplay begins. For example, screenwriter Terry Rossio (The Mask of Zorro) points out that audiences didn’t know - and didn’t need to know - what the Clone Wars were, when Obi-Wan Kenobi mentioned them offhandedly to Skywalker in Star Wars. We found out 25 years later in Attack of the Clones, but one presumes George Lucas had at least a hazy idea of what they were in 1977.

Traditional screenwriting theory dictates that backstory should enter a film only when it’s essential to the story, otherwise it slows a film down. There are brilliant exceptions to this rule, but often extended backstory told by voice-over or flashback within a film signals a sloppy script.

The horror film Darkness Falls starts with a rambling narration of the backstory of Matilda Dixon who lived 150 years ago in the town of Darkness Falls. She was a gentle soul who, for reasons not explained, liked to trade coins for the children’s baby teeth.

Matilda was caught in a fire that deformed her face, and she donned a white mask that looked like it’d been purloined from the props room of Phantom of the Opera. One night, two children disappeared on their way to visit her. Thinking she had murdered them, the townsfolk lynched her. Next day, the kids were found safe, and the townsfolk buried the secret with Matilda’s corpse.

And guess which evil banshee in a white mask is now haunting the little town of Darkness Falls?

That’s Backstory Part I.

Backstory: The Sequel, involves the main character, Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley), as a child watching the Tooth Fairy murder his mother. He gets hauled in for the crime and grows up an adult so phobic of the darkness that he carries an arsenal of torches.

The story proper begins when Kyle is called back to Darkness Falls by his childhood love played by Emma Caulfield, (Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), because her little brother is suffering similar nightmares. Turns out the kid’s seen the Tooth Fairy and she’s swooping the darkness preying on folk.

The Elm Street movies trod this flattened ground. Blair Witch was more imaginative. Darkness Falls is every horror film cliche done shabbily, and it’s not even as scary as the Scary Movie series. A thing in a black shroud and white mask falling from the heights, jumping out from around corners repeatedly to loud shrieking noises, does not horror make. The Tooth Fairy doesn’t appear to have any game plan, because she starts out hacking into anyone who’s seen her face - Kyle and the little brother - and then changes her mind, slashing anyone in the vicinity. A woman’s prerogative, perhaps.

The characters are empty, the performances wooden, and of course, the grave little kid is omniscient.

The backstory is the most vibrant part of this tedious film. One wonders why the filmmakers didn’t make a whole film out of the Matilda Dixon backstory, until one realises it’s been done. The director and comic creator Joe Harris, who receives the "story" credit here, made a short film called Tooth Fairy. The filmmakers might have left it at that.