Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Shawn Ashmore, Gary Cole, Daniella Alonso, Richard Harmon, Judah Mackey, Sonya Walger, Vahina Giocante, Lin Shaye
Written by: Giles Daoust
Directed by: Julien Seri
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 84
Date: 06/12/2020
IMDB

Darkness Falls (2020)

1 Star (out of 4)

'Falls' Short

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

French director Julien Seri has delivered a good-looking Los Angeles noir that quickly becomes nearly unwatchable thanks to wonky dialogue, shrill performances, a flat story, and overbearing music.

In Darkness Falls, two men (Richard Harmon and Gary Cole) force a woman to take sleeping pills, place her in a bathtub, and slit her wrists. Her husband, police detective Jeff Anderson (Shawn Ashmore), comes home and finds her. When Frankie talks about a "bad man" who came into his room that night, he becomes convinced that her death is not a suicide.

He moves himself and his son Frankie (Judah Mackey) in with his mother (Lin Shaye) and feverishly begins the impossible task of finding the killers, whose execution is perfect and leaves no clues. Meanwhile, Jeff's former partner (Daniella Alonso), who has received a promotion, worries about his erratic behavior, and his job could be in jeopardy. Can Jeff find that elusive clue and catch the murderers?

Darkness Falls wishes to present a story of an obsessed character, whom nobody will believe, but in doing so all the characters simply yell at each other, or throw tantrums from time to time. It's frustrating to see the main character increasingly ignoring his adoring son, with no apparent emotional consequences. Meanwhile, the thundering, grinding score sounds like monkeys hammering on an old 1980s synthesizer, and the result is more aggravation than suspense.

Things become absurd when Jeff locks himself in his old apartment and hangs photos scribbled with red marker, and maps covered in pushpins and red yarn. (It turns out the bad guys have a similar setup... if they're so perfect, why would they leave such an obvious record of their work on the wall?)

Jeff claims he can find the killers because he has begun to "think like they do" — an idea stolen from the more intelligent, subtle 1986 movie Manhunter — yet this one has no idea how to show a character actually thinking. Then, despite Gary Cole providing the movie's only calm in his role as a creepy killer, the scene that explains his reasons for killing is just nonsense. In the end, shots of moody city lights is all Darkness Falls has to offer.

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