Darkness Falls

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Darkness Falls
dir Julien Seri
scr Giles Daoust
prd Giles Daoust, Luke Barnett, Vincent Masciale, Mike Macari
with Shawn Ashmore, Gary Cole, Lin Shaye, Daniella Alonso, Richard Harmon, Judah Mackey, Sonya Walger, Vahina Giocante, Stefania Spampinato, James Logan, David Gianopoulos, Tanner Thomason
release US 12.Jun.20,
UK 31.Jul.20
20/US 1h24

ashmore cole shaye

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cole, ashmore and alonso
Director Julien Seri cranks everything up in this cheesy thriller, trying to generate big scares and emotion. But Giles Daoust's script is far too simplistic to sustain this. So while the film's strong visual style offers an unusual angle on Los Angeles, almost nothing about the blunt-force plot holds water, taking one cliched turn after another. At least the formula is resilient enough to hold the interest.
After his artist wife Elizabeth (Giocante) is murdered and set up as a suicide, detective Jeff (Ashmore) struggles with being a single dad to young Frankie (Mackey), so Jeff's mother (Shaye) steps in. Since no one believes Elizabeth was murdered, Jeff's obsession with finding her killer has alienated the entire police force, including his partner (Alonso), who's now the chief. Then he gets a lead that puts him on the trail of prolific father-son serial killers (Cole and Harmon). And when Jeff catches up with them, they put an evil plan into action.
The over-serious tone and lack of subtlety give the film an unintentionally comical slant. Wrenching emotional moments become camp, and the constantly churning score feels like a pastiche. Because the story reveals whodunit with the opening shot, the big "aha" moments are flatly ridiculous. There is some intrigue in watching Jeff take on this villainous duo, but the much more interesting story about his personal journey is virtually ignored. As a result, the bad guys are far more compelling.

The actors do what they can with the corny dialog, which continually states the blindingly obvious. It doesn't help that Seri coaxes them to scream rather than talk to each other. Ashmore has a likeable presence as a man whose life has fallen apart. His driving sense of purpose is believable, even if there isn't anything else to him. Other characters just engage him in shouting matches. Of the supporting cast, only Harmon gets to offer any nuance, while Cole expertly chews the scenery.

"This is a defining moment in your life," Shaye pronounces, virtually winking at the audience as if the filmmaker is apologising for the hyperbole to come. Of course Jeff delivers retribution, but justice is never on the cards. Almost as annoying, each story element has a detailed simplistic explanation, including the killers' motivation, leaving no space for anything that might engage the audience on a layer that's not superficial. Which basically means that we spend most of the running time rolling our eyes in disbelief.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 4.Jun.20

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