September 17, 2020  (Web Review)

Darkness Falls

Vertical Entertainment, 83 min., not rated, DVD: $18.99, Aug. 18

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

This irredeemably dreary cop drama takes place an imaginary la-la-land where young, hip, and sophisticated cops police an antiseptic urban world that seems hermetically sealed off against any outside threat of originality, wit, or personality. Here, the far-fetched nihilistic crimes and the hardly credible crime-solving techniques seem to push the boundaries of believability in all the most painfully awkward ways. Los Angeles thirty-something maverick cop, Jeff Andersen (Shawn Ashmore), who resembles a grown-up Doogie Howser sporting a trendy beard, comes home one day to find his successful artist wife dead of an apparent suicide in their bathtub. Although he has no idea what’s happened yet, we’ve been shown how the grisly deed actually went down: a father-and-son serial-killing duo broke into the house and forced his wife at gunpoint to take sleeping pills and get into a running bath, where they slit her wrists to make it look like suicide. What makes this all even creepier is that one of the serial killers is manager-from-hell Bill from Office Space (Gary Cole). Jeff grieves by putting himself on every suicide case that comes down the pike at the local precinct, something his new boss Angela (Daniela Alonso)  begins to resent. But Jeff’s obsession finally leads him to think rationally: in fact, he thinks so hard that you’re convinced his cranium will explode Scanners-style all over LA. Luckily, his plan works: he’s figured out that father-son psycho squad are murdering newly famous women around LA, and he chooses just the right stakeout location to catch the serial killers in the act. Of course, the killers are smart and Jeff, well, not so much. The younger killer escapes and sets up a Seven-like blackmail scenario involving Jeff’s son, Frankie. Catching the killers and saving his son seems like more trouble than it needs to be, mainly because of his own boneheaded choices. Stylistically Darkness Falls is not much more than an ill-conceived postmodern mashup of past TV and movie cop dramas: the wooden, dour dialogue feels cribbed from a boring television police procedural like LA Law, and the film as a whole seems to run on ineptly borrowed cinematic ideas, clumsily referencing everything from the Dirty Harry series to David Fincher’s darker directorial turns. Not Recommended. (M. Sandlin)