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DARKNESS FALLS

PILLOW STALK

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Why would we tell our children that a mysterious stranger called the Tooth Fairy will steal into their bedrooms in the dark of night and put its spindly hands within inches of their heads? We must really hate them for pooping their pants all those years, or for wiping their snot on the furniture or abusing the cat (or vice versa). Or maybe this gambit was invented by the corrupt corporate nightlight industry, or by bankers who wanted children to open savings accounts.

A few years back, a comic book writer named Joe Harris -- noooo, not that Joe Harris -- wrote a five-minute movie about a malevolent Tooth Fairy. Now it's become a feature film called Darkness Falls, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and scripted by the fellow who wrote TV's The Profiler (yes, that John Fasano). Together they've made a mondo-efficient little chiller, especially when you watch it in a movie theater with no heat, and with stereo surround-sound that makes the monster's quivering moans sort of creep up on you, like that gravelly voiced 50-something barmaid who smokes too much.

Darkness Falls takes place in Darkness Falls, population 12,000 and dropping like flies. Seems that 150 years ago, Matilda Dixon lived happily in Darkness and gave the town's children a gold coin when they lost a tooth. But then two kids disappeared, and they hanged old Matilda, and with her dying breath, she vowed to return to haunt them. Oh, and the next day, the two "missing" children turned up safe and sound.

Cut to now, and the bedroom of 9-year-old Kyle. He lost a tooth, he puts it under his pillow, he hears creepy sounds, he hides his face under the covers, and then -- NO KYLE! Don't look!!!

Too late. Mommy's dead, Kyle's a mess and, 12 years later, the girl he'd asked to the grade-school dance is all grown up with a kid brother who also peeked, and who's now the evil Tooth Fairy's latest target. So Kyle (Chaney Kley, handsomely dull) returns to town to help Caitlin (Emma Caulfield, prettily better) stop the madness! They're all safe as long as they stay in the light. Evil tooth fairies do not care for the light.

In its mere 75 minutes of action, Darkness Falls has a series of good short jolts followed by a long one and a longer one. If you like peeing your pants during a movie, then by all means, slip on your Depends and see Darkness Falls. I just wonder why the filmmakers thought it would be less scary if it had absolutely no emotional resonance whatsoever, like when a boy loses his mom, or when a woman fears for the emotional stability of her frightened little brother. On the other hand, imagine a story like this seeming absolutely real. Now that's scary -- and not why we go to movies like Darkness Falls. * * 1/2

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