Oct 19 2011 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
DON’T Be Afraid of the Dark is a horror movie starring Bailee Madison (Sally) as a young girl sent to live with her dad Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes).
Sally ends up having more than unpacked boxes to worry about when she discovers creatures that want to claim her as one of their own.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark combines the haunted house movie with a twisted take on the mythology of the Tooth Fairy.
It’s produced and co-written by visionary Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) who, as a ten-year-old, was haunted, and later inspired, by the 1973 TV movie of the same name.
Del Toro handed over directorial duties to Canadian Troy Nixey, making his full-feature debut.
Nixey brings plenty of creative visuals and his camera barely stays still, right from an opening swoop through the house’s gate in a prologue that ends with some nasty DIY dentistry.
He also makes the clever decision to use some point-of-view shots for the creatures and frames air vents and an open fireplace that hint at the evil lurking within the house.
Nixey also has a little star in Madison. She’s blunt, wise beyond her years and her sadness and frustration at those around her shines through.
The house is almost a character in itself with winding staircases, large book shelves and immense grounds and Nixey takes us on an early camera tour around the place as we discover it along with Sally.
Innocent children’s items like a night light and teddy bear are used in a sinister way and the sound design is suitably creepy with the creatures whispering and breathing and Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders’ gothic score.
As you’d expect, darkness features heavily with small bursts of light from torches, sunlight and Sally’s night light trying their best to seep through and keep the dark-dwelling creatures at bay.
Speaking of the creatures, Nixey and del Toro use CGI to bring them to life and while they look pretty good, I can’t help but think that the practical effects the latter used in Hellboy would’ve been more effective.
Del Toro and Matthew Robbins’ screenplay refreshingly doesn’t portray Holmes as the wicked stepmother; in fact Sally gets on better with Kim than her own parents.
But there are some disappointing cliches. Pearce is nothing more than the becoming more frequent in modern horror ‘sceptical male’, a librarian conveniently has all the answers to the creatures’ mythology when Kim goes on a research trail, and a thunderstorm hits during the closing sequence.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is also far from terrifying and more in tune with ‘kiddie horror’ like The Hole (2009 title) and Monster House than The Others and Paranormal Activity.
But with Hallowe’en just round the corner, you could do worse than check out this well-shot, good tale with a wonderfully wicked climax.
Rating - 6 out of 10.