Shawn Ashmore in Darkness Falls (2020)
Shawn Ashmore in Darkness Falls (2020)

Darkness Falls (2020) Review

Considering how many elements make up a movie, audiences should always be amazed whenever a film turns out professionally made and enjoyable. It’s so easy to fall short on any of the necessary components, such as the writing, the acting, the directing, the filming, the editing, and so on. Getting just one of these elements wrong can throw off the entire project. Getting more than one wrong can spell disaster. Darkness Falls misses the mark in multiple areas.

Darkness Falls Plot Summary

Hotshot police detective, Jeff Anderson (Shawn Ashmore), is rising through the ranks and has his eye on a promotion to captain. On the night of a big bust, he comes home to discover that his wife (Vahina Giocante) has committed suicide and is floating in the bathtub with her wrists slit. Convinced that she was murdered, Jeff spends his time investigating suicides until he catches a break one day – another woman almost died in the exact same way as his wife but lived to tell the tale. This lead puts Jeff on a collision course with two serial killers stalking successful women and getting away with murder.

Considerations

The story is serviceable enough that talented filmmakers could build a gritty crime thriller on it. In fact, the story is predictable in a favorable way: A good cop with a positive attitude suffers a personal tragedy that sends him down a self-destructive and dark path only to be redeemed by righting the injustice he endured. Unfortunately, the script feels rushed, and audiences don’t get to explore the human condition through Jeff’s torment. Instead, viewers just have to accept what they see intellectually instead of emotionally which blunts much of the reason to watch the film.

Granted, perceived shortcomings in the script could be due to budget constraints or other limiting factors. For instance, Jeff goes from clean cut and professional police officer to disheveled vagabond living in a beat-up car in just three months. At the end of which, his mother (Lin Shaye), scolds him for not having gotten over his wife’s alleged suicide, which feels like a callous thing to say given the short amount of time that’s passed. The timeline seems artificially compressed, and that might be due to not having enough budget to represent settings, actors, and other aspects in two different periods of Jeff’s life. But that’s just speculation.

Shawn Ashmore and Daniella Alonso in Darkness Falls (2020).
Shawn Ashmore and Daniella Alonso in Darkness Falls (2020).

Where the budget limitation is apparent is in much of the production value. Despite having recognizable actors, like Ashmore and Gary Cole, the film still has the cast driving around in vehicles from decades ago. Moreover, the lack of variety for camera angles makes the film seem cheaper than it should. Many pivotal scenes are either filmed from a static angle or with a single Steadicam that gives the scene a floaty aesthetic. While it’s nice to see single long takes, it’s a shame that technique wasn’t used on more poignant moments in the film. Instead, viewers will question why closeups and reaction shots are missing.

The cast performs adequately, but they’re hampered by a substandard script and are possibly under-directed. Cole is interesting to watch as a villain, and he has the right temperament to pull it off, but there’s nothing horrifying about his character – at least not in a primal sense. A short monologue would have helped flesh out his character. Ashmore also turns in a good effort but could use more direction to shape his role. He never really loses his buoyancy even after he has lost so much. For a film that had at one time been titled Anderson Falls, it would have been nice to see more contrast between Ashmore’s portrayal of Jeff Anderson pre- and post-murder of his wife.

Final Thoughts

Darkness Falls is disappointing but in a different way than how a big budget Hollywood film can disappoint. Darkness Falls obviously had a tremendous opportunity to make an interesting film that could be greater than the sum of its parts. The production had access to varied locations, a competent cast, and enough budget to make a feature film. Regrettably, the film never realizes its potential. It has nothing interesting to say. It doesn’t present the story in a new way. And there are no memorable performances. In short, Darkness Falls squanders its opportunity, and that’s the biggest disappointment of all.

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