Darkness Falls

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Darkness Falls Movie Poster Image
Cop vs. killers in awful, violent action-thriller.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 84 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Main focus of story is revenge; it eclipses everything else, including family duties.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though main character is a police detective who catches a pair of almost uncatchable villains, his methods are self-destructive, damaging. There are few, if any, consequences for his actions.


A character is forced at gunpoint to take sleeping pills (she gasps, chokes); she's then placed in a bathtub, and her wrists are slit. Blood shown. A child is kidnapped. Guns and shooting; characters shot and killed. Fighting, beating. Bloody face. Character in hospital with bruised face. Shouting, yelling. Verbal descriptions of violent events.


Several uses of "f--k" or "f--king," plus "s--t," "damn," "sons-a-bitches." "Jesus" and "Christ" used as exclamations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Darkness Falls is a thriller about a police detective (Shawn Ashmore, Iceman in the X-Men movies) who's trying to prove that his wife's apparent suicide was actually murder. Violence is the biggest issue, with guns and shooting, deaths, and blood. Two killers force a woman at gunpoint to eat sleeping pills (she chokes and gasps) before placing her in a bathtub and slicing her wrists. A child is kidnapped, and a woman is in a hospital bed with a bruised face. There's also fighting, punching, beating, shouting, yelling, and descriptions of violent events. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "f--king," plus "s--t," "Jesus," "Christ," and others. Sex, consumerism, and substance use aren't issues. While the movie looks good, it's poorly written and aggravatingly overwrought.

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What's the story?

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 their son, Frankie (Judah Mackey), talks about a "bad man" who came into his room that night, Jeff becomes convinced that his wife's death wasn't a suicide. He moves himself and Frankie in with his mother (Lin Shaye) and feverishly starts the impossible task of finding the killers, whose execution was perfect and left no clues. Meanwhile, Jeff's former police 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?

Is it any good?

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. Darkness Falls wants to tell the story of an obsessed character whom nobody will believe, but all of the characters simply yell at each other, occasionally throwing tantrums. 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 animals hammering on an old 1980s synthesizer, and the result is more aggravation than suspense.

Things truly get absurd when Jeff locks himself in his old apartment and hangs up photos scribbled with red marker and maps covered in pushpins and red yarn. (It turns out the villains have a similar setup ... but 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, subtler 1986 movie Manhunter -- but Seri doesn't seem to have any idea how to show a character actually thinking. And despite 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Darkness Falls. Is it meant to be thrilling or shocking? Both? What's shown, and what's not shown?

  • Why do you think so many movies revolve around revenge? Is it ever worth it?

  • What are the relationships between fathers and sons like in the movie? What are the similarities and differences between the two sets of fathers and sons in the story?

  • What's the appeal of stories about serial killers?

  • How is suicide discussed in the movie? What are some things you can do if you find out that someone is considering suicide?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers

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