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Lights Out

Horror film as dim as attendant parents



Jonathan Liebesman

Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield

Isn't it high time that moviegoing misdemeanors were treated like federal crimes? Talking incessantly during a feature would result in a $200 fine. Folks who fail to turn off their cell phones before the picture begins would be imprisoned for up to three years in a maximum security facility. And parents who bring their small children to movies which the young "uns have no business seeing? It's off to the electric chair with them.These harsh (but universally shared) thoughts popped into my mind yet again at the advance screening for Darkness Falls, the sort of dud that can be expected to turn up in the graveyard movie month of January. Unlike most horror yarns, this one is rated PG-13 instead of R, but that still places it well out of bounds for pre-schoolers. Of course, that didn't stop several brain-dead adults from bringing their small fry to the screening, enough that the auditorium could reasonably have been mistaken for harboring a screening of Monsters, Inc. instead of a real monster movie. Thus, when the picture offered its first real jolt (well, a jolt to those suckered by this sort of nonsense), a girl of about three who was sitting three rows ahead of me let out a piercing, prolonged shriek that was more frightening than anything witnessed upon the screen. The thoughtful parents took the terrified child out of the auditorium for, oh, about two minutes, before returning to enjoy the rest of the feature with their traumatized kid. And this wasn't an isolated incident: Periodically throughout the film, small whimpers of fright could be heard emanating from all corners of the theater.

What's wrong with these parents? And yet the blame doesn't end there -- almost as culpable is the management at practically every theater in Charlotte (and, I suspect, the country at large), which is more interested in making a buck or two at the concession stand than in enforcing the MPAA ratings and turning away customers who try to bring wailing kids into auditoriums showing adult-oriented fare.

But obviously I've been digressing -- this is, after all, a movie review. And yet there really isn't much to say about Darkness Falls beyond the fact that it's a piss-poor film, the sort of lazy endeavor that gives shockers a bad name. The plot concerns itself with the legend of the Tooth Fairy, an elderly woman who was wrongly lynched 150 years earlier and whose spirit has since terrorized the coastal town of Darkness Falls, killing anybody who dares to look at her directly. The only person to have survived her reign of terror is Kyle (Chaney Kley), who saw her as a child and has now returned to town as an adult to help a former friend (Emma Caulfield) protect her little brother (terrible Lee Cormie) from the wicked witch.

Darkness Falls makes less sense as it ambles forward, constantly changing the rules of its own myths and tripping over itself in an effort to provide the sort of fake scares that are emblematic of bad horror films. My favorite: A black cat !!SUDDENLY!! leaps onto the hood of the heroine's car, letting out a Dolby-enhanced screech as it does so. Cats leap all the time, so why would this one wail as if its eyeballs were being gouged out by a white-hot poker? Answer: Because without such manufactured moments of terror, the filmmakers would be left with a horror film that wouldn't frighten even the most susceptible of audience members. The tagline reads, "Evil Rises. Darkness Falls," but they clearly forgot the third caveat: "Slumber Ensues."

But back to the child-care issue. Maybe it's high time the rest of us film fans took a stand, pestering management to enforce proper moviegoing etiquette and confronting clueless parents about their rampant idiocy. And perhaps the revolution has already begun: Last week, a colleague informed me that she had gone to see a showing of A Guy Thing, only to realize shortly into the movie that some couple in the back had brought their crying baby to the theater. She then told me that one woman in the audience, located directly in front of the pair, decided enough was enough, stood up, confronted the parents, and yelled, "Twenty dollars! Twenty fucking dollars for a babysitter! Ya don't bring a baby to the movies!" Given the film being screened, my coworker assured me that this outburst was the high point of the evening.

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