Film

Darkness Falls
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Columbia, in release

This is undoubtedly the first horror film to portray the Tooth Fairy (yeah, you heard me) as a murderous, vengeance-mad banshee. That innovation aside, this is horror-flick boo-ya at its most rote. Caitlin (Emma Caulfield) tries to help little brother Michael (Lee Cormie) overcome night terrors with the help of ex-boyfriend Kyle (Chaney Kley), who, after losing his last baby tooth, saw his mother killed by the Tooth Fairy, a flapping wraith in a porcelain mask. Since then, Kyle's been kind of ghostly himself—terrified of the dark, popping antipsychotics by the fistful, working in a casino to support what looks like a three-pack-a-day flashlight-battery habit, and drawing lots of pictures of the Tooth Fairy. Mayhem ensues when said Fairy starts picking off the supporting cast. Caulfield, who displays a gift for supernatural screwball as the reformed demoness Anya on Buffy, is seriously underused; the Tooth Fairy, whose appearance on-screen is inevitably accompanied by a whole lot of surround-sound shrieking, is not. —Alex Pappademas


The Guru
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Universal, opens January 31

Bolly-go-lightly hybrid The Guru manages to have its dosa and eat it, too—allowing that culture is a con game, while seeking pleasure in the deception. Dance teacher/Grease fan Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry) leaves Delhi for New York, where he becomes an East 6th Street waiter, a porn flick tyro, and an accidental society sage. Befriending Ramrod Studios headliner and anxiously affianced schoolteacher Sharrona (Heather Graham), Ramu translates her spiritual take on carnality into profitable karmasutric mumbo jumbo for his gullible patrons. As a dirtier Deepak, Mistry is blankly sweet, suitable for his role as Subcontinental Rorschach. Authenticity is gleefully moot here: An agent calls Ramu "Indian, or—excuse me, Native American," while Marisa Tomei's New Age burnout delivers a line of cell-phone patter as precise and vacuous as a DeLillo outtake: "I want the suede not the leather. I want every color." The Guru shows similar appetite. —Ed Park


Final Destination 2
Directed by David R. Ellis
New Line, opens Jan. 31

Apart from its opening highway catastrophe—a chain-reaction collision that doubles as drivers' ed scare film—this risible thriller is merely a sadistic series of misread premonitions and vile murders. Having put a dent in "death's grand design," the motley near-roadkills (prom queen, state cop, junkie, etc.) are doomed to declaim expository speeches referring desperately to the first film, and to suffer gruesome, ironic deaths via power tools and other appliances. It's hard to root for a heroine ("Gilmore Girl"-ish A.J. Cook) who wails, "It's a sign! Nora and Tim are going to be attacked by pigeons!" And you wonder, if Fate is truly wicked, why it doesn't, instead of constructing Rube Goldberg guillotines, afflict hubristic youths with fatal fistulas and cases of dropsy. —Justine Elias

 
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