We got our first look at scared-of-the-dark horror flick Vanishing on 7th Street today. Need a dose of shadowy chills right now? Here are two movies you can watch today for that Vanishing feeling.
Wes Craven's They has the monsters that bear the most resemblance to the Vanishing shadows. Never actually pictured, they're announced by hissing and whisper-screams, as they creep along the edges of any given frame. They're menacing a group of young men and women who were treated for night terrors as children, and as adults are no longer sure that their childhood fears were all in their heads. They each get an eery mark, they are pursued, and they disappear.
The movie is good at building up fear, with Julia, the main protagonist, going from a normal woman to completely unhinged with terror. Mark Blucas - Buffy's Riley Finn - is her well-meaning boyfriend who joins the ever-growing crowd of people who think she's deranged. This forces her to fight both the monsters and the people who want to 'help' her by locking her up in conveniently dim institutions.
They has some classic horror movie tropes, such as the sudden shocks that turn out to be nothing, but it has a relatively modern feel for something by Wes Craven. There's no explanation for the monsters. They're monsters - what explanation could there be. Instead of a definitive thing, the heroes are fighting an unseen force, and the movie is scarier for not trying to match an explanation to an impossible concept. The girl is in the light - she's safe. Soon the light will be gone and she'll be in danger. That's pretty much tapping directly into the audience's subconscious.
The second movie to watch, Darkness Falls, came out a year after They. It's also a horror movie about a group of people who have to stay in the light, and it also stars a former Buffy star, Emma Caulfield, and if you had to choose which of these two movie was associated with Wes Craven, you would pick Darkness Falls every day of the week.
Try this on for size. A town outcast was believed to be the cause of the deaths of children. The town parents decided to go vigilante on this woman and burn her alive. Transformed into a supernatural being of pure evil, she exacts revenge on the children of the people who killed her. She's even got burn scars.
This is, in pretty much every way, a classic eighties-style horror movie. There's the campy legend of the monster; this one is called The Tooth Fairy, because when she was alive she gave children pennies for their teeth and now she's dead she comes after kids when they lose their baby teeth. There is the outsider kids who no one believes; the hero of the film was hated and driven out of town. There are the jerkwad authority figures who make life hell for the protagonists and then get what's coming to them.
Unlike They, Darkness Falls explains what's happening every step of the way, and so loses some of its eerie mystery. It does help, though, to have some ground rules set. Lights don't just flicker off because of a supernatural influence that no one else can see. They do it because a monster is attacking, and that monster likes to take out the lights. Since there's some physical entity to hit, people can fight back instead of just being scared all the time. And, you get to actually see the monster.