Darkness Falls

UK 1998

Reviewed by Danny Leigh


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The Isle of Man. A private jet deposits Mark Driscoll on an isolated runway, observed by a man answering his mobile phone with the name 'Blue Eyes'. In a children's playground, the enigmatic Simpson tells Driscoll he has until the next morning to repay a £10 million debt. Driscoll's wife Sally is interrupted while soaking in her jacuzzi by a stranger, John Barrett, who claims they have met before, though she recalls no such meeting. He reminds her of its circumstances: in flashback, the Driscolls sit besides Barrett and his wife Jane at a corporate reception. Barrett and Sally make small talk, while he surreptitiously disengages the property's alarm system.

Driscoll returns home and immediately recognises Barrett. Anxious about that evening's dinner engagement with financier Mr Hayter, Driscoll demands that Barrett leave, even after he mentions that Jane is now comatose. The Driscolls argue; Barrett produces a gun. He instructs Sally to bind and gag Driscoll, then interrogates him about his relationship with Jane. Outside Hayter and his spouse find themselves locked out. Barrett confronts Driscoll with evidence that proves he had an affair with Jane, and that Driscoll is responsible for her current condition. After revealing Jane is pregnant with Driscoll's child, Barrett leaves and Sally follows. Driscoll breaks free, only to be shot dead by Blue Eyes. In hospital, prior to having her life-support system switched off, Jane gives birth. Sally and Barrett hold the baby.


Having spent much of his career as a director of photography on innumerable US movies (such as Hellraiser III and Necronomicon) debut director Gerry Lively crams Darkness Falls with visual flourishes. However, imagery fails to compensate for the film's lack of effective characterisation. Indeed, the flashbacks and the like attain a stupefying level of literal-mindedness. It is apparently not enough to hear that John Barrett's coma-bound wife Jane was dragged from her car after a road accident: as if catering for an audience of amnesiacs, Darkness Falls shows the action exactly as it has just been described.

Despite the plot's obsessive attention to what happened and how, it remains depressingly obscure about motivation. Certain crass personal motifs are revisited time and again, yet none of the characters ever comes believably to life. Sally's borderline alcoholism, for example, is a trait lingered over at every opportunity, but no one ever explains why this American girl is in such a quintessentially English environment. Similarly, it's typical of the damagingly reductive disdain for characterisation and worrying misogyny of Darkness Falls that while the story hinges on the assumption that John Barrett loves his wife, she is represented only as a pliant, needy adulteress.

Without some understanding of the principals, it becomes impossible to care about their fate, and each supposedly revelatory plot twist falls ever flatter in consequence. Each and every story development is signposted far in advance. The only genuine moment of surprise is a life-affirming resolution presumably designed as the emotional climax of the entire piece, but which arrives almost as an afterthought.

While none of the cast - not even the usually reliable Ray Winstone as Barrett - manages to elevate themselves above the material, it is hard not to feel sympathy for them as they struggle to make their characters more than ciphers. They are obliged to tackle dialogue which veers from the inadvertantly comic ("all that counts is lust, greed and fear - the rest is merely conversation" ) to the bizarrely strangulated ("I won't be but a minute" and "our guests are soon to be arriving" are just two examples which reek of cod-theatrical pretension).

Given his use of tatty production values, blatant sexism and actors known predominantly for their involvement in television series, it's as if Lively is paying homage to the Michael Winner strain of British cinema. The trappings of wealth are fetishised throughout, while Barrett's modest social status is explicitly denigrated. In the dispiriting vernacular of class snobbery which it feigns to condemn, Darkness Falls is a nasty, common little film.


Alan Latham
Clifford Haydn-Tovey
John Howlett
Acknowledgement to the stage play Dangerous Obsession by N.J. Crisp
Director of Photography
Adam Santelli
David Spiers
Production Designer
Edward Thomas
Guy Farley
©Hoseplace Ltd
Production Companies
Alberto Ardissone and Film Development Corporation present in association with The Isle of Man Film Commission and Vine International Pictures Ltd
Developed in association with Jo Gilbert
Executive Producers
Alberto Ardissone
Kari Ardissone
Bloomsbury Films:
Christopher Parkinson
Bruce Sharman
Line Producer
James Gibb
Associate Producers
Susanna Wyatt
Bloomsbury Films:
Helen Tulley
Production Co-ordinator
Kate Dain
Location Manager
Clive Miles
Post-production Supervisor
James Gibb
Assistant Directors
John Bernard
Val Elingworth
Kit Ryan
Script Supervisor
Danuta Skarszewska
Hubbard Casting
Lisa-Anne Porter
Post Voice:
Louis Elman
Camera Operator
Peter Ditch
Special Effects
Mark Turner
Art Director
Peter Seddon
Costume Designer
Ffion Elinor
Chief Make-up
Kate Shorter
Chief Hair Stylist
Tara Smith
Steve Jubb
Soho 601
Ray Slater
Soho Images
Music Supervisor
Iain Jones
Music Co-ordinator
Aureen Ritchie
Music Engineer/Programmer
Marcus Brown
Tim Hunt
"String Quintet in C Major" by Franz Schubert, performed by Melos Quartett; "Roses from the South" by Johann Strauss, arranged as "The Rialto Waltz" by Martin Joustra, Andy Blythe, performed by The Four Forté Quartet; "Baby Angel" by Guy Farley, Mark Nevin, Gareth Lucking, performed by Mica Paris
Sound Mixer
Malcolm Davies
Dubbing Mixers
Aad Wirtz
John Falcini
Dialogue Editor
Bill Parnell
Effects Editor
Bob Gavin
Voice Over Artists
Peter Woodward
Maggie McCarthy
Peter Burgis
Andie Derrick
David Sloss
Bob Gavin
Stunt Co-ordinator
Roy Alon
James De-Yoxall
Sherilyn Fenn
Sally Driscoll
Ray Winstone
John Barrett
Tim Dutton
Mark Driscoll
Anita Dobson
Mrs Hayter
Bryan Pringle
Clive Hayter
Robin McCaffrey
Jane Barrett
Michael Praed
hit man
Oliver Tobias
Andrew Dixon
Rebecca De-Yoxall
ground stewardess
Harry Crossley
Joe Curwen
Denny Cain
Sally's cook
Helen Torlesse
Georgia Torlesse
mother and child in pushchair
Tara Moross
Simpson's daughter
Christopher Smith
Simpson's son
Ray Slater
maître d'
Tommy Owens
Manuel, Hayter's chauffeur
Alan Barker
plain clothes policeman
Jonathan Bussey
Lenard Brindley
Downtown Pictures
tbc feet
tbc minutes
Dolby stereo SR
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011