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{Movie Review} Darkness Falls (2020) Is An Easy Serial Killer Thriller

Darkness Falls out tomorrow everywhere on VOD is a pretty and predictable crime mystery with enough genre heavyweights to satisfy your cravings.

Darkness Falls (2020), not to be confused with Darkness Falls(1999, 2003, or 2009), is not a horror movie. That being said, it does sit comfortably within the thriller genre. By employing a father/son serial killer team and casting more than a few well-known genre actors it is a lot of things. In fact, that is one of its biggest strengths.

A gifted detective becomes fixated on proving his wife’s suicide was a murder. As he circles closer to the truth, he finds himself and his child in danger. At its heart, Darkness Falls is a murder mystery. From the beginning, you know who did it, but you don’t understand why. As Detective Jeff Anderson, played by the ever-charming Shawn Ashmore(The Ruins, X-Men), begins to put the pieces together, he learns the exact price of poor parenting.

Director Julien Seri does not break any new ground with Darkness Falls instead relies on reliable techniques and story-telling. A cop obsessed with a murderer no one believes happened, bad guys with abusive childhoods, and police work montages have all been seen before. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is Seri’s motto, and it mostly works. In large part, that is due to the incredible cast. Even the bit characters are genre royalty.

Ashmore has made a living playing boyish and likable characters. His Detective Anderson is still likable but descends rather quickly into questionable territory once the investigation heats up. The speed in which he flips from doting father to absentee and obsessed cop induces more than a little whiplash. His willingness to do anything, no matter how inappropriate, is uncomfortable to watch, especially with current events in America. Only Ashmore’s boyish guile keep Jeff’s behavior from becoming abhorrent. A nice bit of facial hair marks the change in attitude if you don’t see it coming otherwise. Ashmore has got cuteness for days. There is no denying how winsome he is. It is in roles like this that ask him to be less engaging and more morally gray that his real merit is seen.

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Jeff’s mother is Lin Shaye(Insidious Franchise), because you can’t have anything resembling a horror movie and not have her in it. An attempted murder victim Sonya Wolger(Lost and The Librarians) makes a memorable appearance. Even hospitalized and drugged, her brand of intelligent strength shines through. Lastly, Jeff’s former partner and now superior, Daniella Alonso(The Collector), makes the most of limited screen time and an irritating character conclusion.

Darkness Falls
Courtesy Of Vertical Entertainment

The extended opening sequence lingers uncomfortably on Detective Anderson’s wife’s murder. The duo of murderers played by Gary Cole from Love, Death, & Robots and the incredible but likely forgotten TV series American Gothic and his son Richard Harmon(The 100) is well suited to evil roles. Neither overplays their part, relying on subtle intimidation and control. Cole’s languorous performance makes the most of his smoky voice and large frame. He is a man so confident in himself he doesn’t need to become unhinged to be scary. Harmon, who hardly gets to say more than two words the entire first half of the film, manages to pull focus from Cole. His signature smirk and smoldering intensity are effective here. There is a reason The 100 has been so successful despite countless main character deaths. John Murphy(Harmon) is the heart of that show even if Clarke is the lead.

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Darkness Falls
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

The entire film has the sun-soaked faded quality of some of the best ’70s noirs like Dirty Harry and Electra Glide Blue. Cinematography by Shan Liljestrand plays up the gritty feel of a crime drama with the sensibilities of a more nuanced story. Darkness Falls isn’t perfect, but it is infinitely watchable and very attractive. I admit to more than a little giddy glee when I saw the murderer’s pale green car. My Grandparents had one just like it. They mix of modern sleekness in Anderson’s family apartment, and the old school elements like the massive car elevate each other. It places the film in many different times successfully.

Yes, the conclusion is hurried, and the dialogue, especially at the end, is trite, but if nothing else, watch for the great performances by the core three. Cole, Ashmore, and Harmon hold this film together. You will almost certainly know what is going to happen in the final act, but that’s okay. Like a favorite book, knowing what is going to happen doesn’t make it any less fun. There are a lot of worse ways to spend an hour and a half than staring into Ashmore’s baby blues. The killer’s MO is inventive, and the film is a quick watch that crime lovers would enjoy. Get it anywhere you stream movies tomorrow.