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Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark – Review

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark – Review

Aug 29, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Troy Nixey, 2011

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a 2011 horror film written and produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by comic book artist Troy Nixey.  It is a remake of the 1973 made for television movie of the same name.  The film has a rather eerie 19th century beginning where Emerson Blackwood, a famous artist who owns a beautiful mansion, lures his maid into the basement and promptly knocks her teeth out using a hammer and a flat edged tool of some kind.  We quickly learn that the teeth are for the fairy/goblin like creatures hiding in his furnace who are whispering to him and holding his son as ransom.  They want children’s teeth, not maid’s teeth, and both he and his son ending up perishing.

Fast forward to the present where a father, his girlfriend, and his daughter are moving into the huge house so that he can restore it and hopefully land on the cover of Architectural Digest.  Sally, the daughter, is unhappy about her living conditions as her mother has “shipped” her off to live with her father.  Alex’s girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) tries to befriend the Sally, but finds out that it will take time to earn her trust.  Soon, the goblin creatures lure Sally into the basement and although she initially thinks they might be friends, she learns that they are evil little creatures who want her teeth.   Meanwhile, Kim is becoming more and more sensitive to Sally’s pleas for help while Alex can only concentrate on his career.  The film climaxes with a “final battle” between the creatures and Sally, ultimately taking the life of Kim but failing to kill Sally and Alex.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a beautifully shot film with memorable direction and gobs of atmosphere.  The opening title sequence is gorgeous and the 19th century scene at the beginning of the film sets a creepy and exciting tone for the remainder of the film.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up.  This is because of two reasons:

First, the creatures are bland.  Nixey (and perhaps del Toro) reveal a full visual of the creatures fairly early in the film.  Although I applaud them for their willingness to show the antagonist in its full form (something del Toro does all the time), I can’t help but being underwhelmed by the revelation.  The creatures look like a humpback piranha with feet.  After the audience is shown the little monsters, they really no longer create any kind horrific expectation.  In other words, you aren’t hiding your eyes in fear that the creatures might pop back on the screen.

Second, the filmmakers utilize whispers extensively throughout the film.  The creatures use whispers to communicate to Sally and although it seems like the concept might work initially, it soon gives way to cheesiness.  Incredibly predictable things like “we want you down here” and “they always come back” are the whispers we are privy to.

Bailee Madison does give a solid performance as Sally and we find a theme in her suffering that del Toro has shown us before; we see something similar in Pan’s Labyrinth.  The movie is enjoyable and worth the viewing time but does not live up to its potential.

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