Wicked Wednesday: Fall into Darkness (1996)

The 90s were so good at teen drama. From 90210 to Clueless – there was some really iconic stuff in the decade.

But drama that leads to death, fake deaths and plots to frame your friend for murder? Truly iconic, and that’s what you get in this made-for-TV adaption of Christopher Pike’s novel Fall into Darkness.

Sharon is a rising star in the piano world, and a Julliard hopeful. Her playing catches the eye of the wealthy Jerry Price, who invites her to a party at his house one night.

At the party, Sharon learns that Jerry and his sister, Ann, are incredibly wealthy orphans. She meets Ann, a haughty and rude girl. Despite being absolutely catty towards Sharon, the girls become friends.

As Ann and Sharon grow closer, Jerry’s affections for Sharon grow. When he tries to come on to her, though, she rejects him.

Burnt by the interaction, Jerry goes to his friend Chad’s place and gets drunk. It’s that night that the girls learn that Jerry has supposedly taken his own life by jumping in front of an oncoming train.

Ann is distraught. Even more so when Chad tells her why – that Jerry couldn’t take the rejection from Sharon, mixed with his depression. Ann becomes angry and begins plotting Sharon’s demise with the help of her boyfriend, Paul.

For the first part of their plan, Ann invites the gaggle of friends to go camping. During the bonfire, Ann makes Sharon angry by belittling her playing. Sharon storms off and Ann later follows – claiming to want to apologise.

When the girls are in the woods, Ann begins screaming Sharon’s name, setting it up to look like she’s being attacked by her friend. Ann throws herself from a cliff, seemingly to her own death.

From there the boys all tell the police that they believe Sharon has killed Ann. But no one can find the body.

Sharon must prove her own innocence and uncover the truth before the real killer comes for her next. It’s a pretty fun maze of twists and turns. Though eventually (and probably a little too soon) the truth becomes obvious. The story still manages to keep the pace up, though, even when its audience knows where things are going next. I think that’s partly due to how compelling both Tatyana M. Ali and Jonathan Brandis’s work.

Fall into Darkness takes a lot from its predecessors in many ways: a bad boy with Jason Dean vibes, a lack of humour and camp to show that it’s taking itself seriously. It’s not really breaking any new ground. That being said, it’s still a good time, and it’s pretty nice to return to basics here. I have read that this is a not-so-great adaption of Pike’s work, so maybe this is even due a reboot?

Pike is one of the pillars of YA and children’s horror fiction in the 80s and 90s. But somehow, there aren’t very many adaptions of his work. At the time of writing, Fall into Darkness remains the only one. An adaption of superb Midnight Club for Netflix, created by the always-dependable Mike Flanagan, finished production in 2021. If there’s a success there, hopefully more adaptions will follow. I personally am ready to find more of his books and give them a read!

Also, can we get a boutique label to start releasing nice blu-ray editions of these made-for-TV movies. Honestly, the quality of some of these films is so bad! I’d kill to watch these and be able to see what the actors’ faces look like.

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