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Film Clips: Darkness Falls, Ararat

A Roundup of New Releases

Friday, January 24, 2003

'Darkness Falls'

RATING: PG-13 for terror and horror images and brief language.

STARRING: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman

In "Poltergeist," the mother played by JoBeth Williams implores her daughter, who has been sucked into another dimension: "Carole Anne -- listen to me! Do not go into the light!"

In the dreadful "Darkness Falls," a man whose mother was killed by the "Tooth Fairy" repeatedly advises people to "Stay in the light." Yeah, that would be the light of the lobby or another auditorium not showing this horror picture starring Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield and Lee Cormie. Not exactly your A-listers, although "The Blair Witch Project" survived without them; I've seen "Blair Witch" and this is no "Blair Witch." Or any of the other movies it rips off.

The light-fearing Tooth Fairy wasn't always an evil presence. One hundred and fifty years ago, she was a kindly lady who gave gold coins for lost baby teeth. But her face was scarred in a fire, leaving her sensitive to light and hiding behind a porcelain mask. When two children disappeared, she was blamed and hanged. By the time the missing turned up, she was dead, having cursed the town on her way out.

In "Darkness Falls," 10-year-old Kyle Walsh loses a tooth and, shortly thereafter, his mother made the fatal mistake of declaring, "There is no one in this house but us." Kyle was blamed for the Tooth Fairy's handiwork and shipped off to a mental hospital and foster care. A dozen years later, a childhood friend tracks him down because her younger brother is experiencing night terrors, dread of the dark and an inability to sleep.

It's up to Kyle, now an adult who never leaves home without a satchel of flashlights, to save his onetime sweetheart, her brother and anyone else in the path of the Tooth Fairy, a swooping, shrouded presence that makes noises like a growling, groaning animal. "Darkness Falls" is not especially scary -- resorting to tricks like a face at the window, caterwauling cat, power outage -- or well acted.

It reeks of low budget, from its locations to its dialogue and effects. As a scary movie, it has no bite. Or teeth.

Barbara Vancheri


'Ararat'

RATING: R for violence, sexuality/nudity and language.

STARRING: David Alpay, Christopher Plummer, Elias Koteas, Bruce Greenwood.

DIRECTOR: Atom Egoyan.

It seemed inevitable Atom Egoyan would make a film about the Armenian genocide of 1915, in which more than a million people were slaughtered. The killings are attributed to -- and invariably denied by -- the Turks.

A resident of Canada who is of Armenian descent, Egoyan employs an elliptical style and displays a fascination with the private obsessions of individuals. Clearly, he would follow a different path than, say, a historical epic dwelling on man's inhumanity to man.

That looks like the movie being shot by the characters in Egoyan's film, "Ararat," which takes place in present-day Toronto. The film within a film depicts the Turks as monsters, the Armenians as doomed but heroic, the director (Charles Aznavour) and screenwriter (Eric Bogosian) as being willing to take liberties with certain facts as they claim to show what really happened.

Egoyan's characters are all connected to the film in some way. Ani (Arsinee Khanjian) is an art historian specializing in the work of Armenian painter Arshile Gorky. Her teenage son, Raffi (David Alpay), is having an affair with his stepsister, Celia (Marie Josee Croze), who is convinced Ani is responsible for her father's death.

The idea of telling a story becomes central to the film. It is a means of remembering events and of facing up to denial. The Turks deny their culpability. Ani denies Celia's persistent charges. Raffi denies the insinuations of customs agent David (Christopher Plummer) about the contents of the film canisters he is bringing back from Turkey. David is in denial over his son (Brent Carver) having a gay relationship with Ali (Elias Koteas), an actor in the film.

After a while, it begins to seem redundant. "Ararat" actually seems to question the whole process by which historical truth is determined, the difficulty of getting an unbiased view, the way different people can tell the same story differently.

And that is as good a reason as any why Egoyan's convoluted film may leave you scratching your head.

Ron Weiskind

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