Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Running Time: 99 minutes
Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison
Directed By: Troy Nixey
Rating: 2.5 out of 10
A girl moves into her father’s house only to be assaulted by mysterious creatures living there.
Guillermo del Toro is a brilliant man and yet he missed the mark with this film. He co wrote this fmovie and his penchant for kids in fantastical situations coupled with small creatures that crave bones shines through. (see Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 2.) However the film never hits the heights of success that those other two movies do. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is the story of a young girl named Sally. She is sent to live with her father and his girlfriend at an old stately mansion. What seems like a nice older home actually harbors creatures that want to do her harm.
This movie is asking you not to be afraid of the dark. You don’t need to worry though as what lurks in the dark corners of this old house is more comical then frightening. The film starts off with a great scene involving the houses original occupant and his fascination with teeth. Any horror film that involves teeth usually freaks me out so this was a good start. It was all a tease though as the film never hits that high note again. After a brief introduction to the key players you will be following the film gets under way. The film made no sense to me on any level after the opening scene. Sally moves into the house and almost instantly starts to hear the creepiest voices on the planet. Picture the voice of Gollum from Lord of the Rings blended with Harry Potter speaking Parsaltongue and that is what she is hearing from the dark corners of the house. Instead of the natural reaction of this young child being frightened to death she inexplicably is interested by it. Objects move on their own accord and feet scamper about her room all to her entertainment. Then suddenly about halfway through the film she is like maybe I should be afraid now? it was quite odd. So that is how most of this movie plays out. The creatures in house play evil practical jokes that ultimately get blamed on Sally. For some odd reason no one ever captures a glimpse of these creatures except for Sally as they talk and scamper from place to place. Bottom line is other than the opening sequence and a scene involving some rumpled bed sheets this film never scares the viewer. If you want to frighten the viewer perhaps the Director should have come up with monsters that couldn’t have fit on a hamster wheel?
Even with the terribly conceived creatures and lack of scares, the casting is hands down the worst thing about the film. Sally played by newcomer Bailee Madison is a curious choice for the lead. Her puffy face and permanent emo expression will have you cheering for the house monsters to tear her apart. She ruins the movie with an odd sulky performance reminiscent of a brunette version of Carol Anne from the Poltergeist film. Her father and his girlfriend are played by Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes and they also turn in performances of a less then pleasing nature. When you don’t care what happens to the characters, the movie is never going to work.
This film is curiously rated R when it has a very PG-13 vibe to it. Virtually no blood is seen and when violence does occur it tends to be hidden in the dark or off camera. The film just goes from scene to scene not really doing anything. Of course the level of the creature’s shenanigans increases as the film goes on culminating into a Benny Hill like ending. This begs the question as to why they don’t just open with this tactic in the first place? There are so many holes in plot and design that this film will not connect with many viewers. The house isn’t that scary although for some reason Sally has the weirdest night light ever. The creatures are hard to buy into when you could kick a 40 yard field goal with them no problem. The girlfriend finds out what is happening in the house using a bizarre Dewey Decimal clue. The creatures hate the light and make tons of noise when exposed to it, and yet no one ever sees them or hears them. I could go on and on but to top it all off the ending is truly bizarre, and not in a satisfying way.
Director Troy Nixey’s first feature film is more a disappointment than anything else. Odd casting choices coupled by odder characters really hurt this film. The bloody scenes are whatever and having the creatures obviously computer animated is the wrong way to go. The film never reaches the level of frights that one would hope for in a horror and the story is just god awful.
I cannot recommend this film; even people who really like horror will be off put by this showing.
T Factor + If you like creature horror this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like lots of blood in your horror then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: I am Legend, Piranha.