KATIE HOLMES    GUY PEARCE    BALIEE MADISON

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

I have lost count of the remakes debuting in the 2011 year, but Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is yet another, based on the same name. This is the first time we have seen work from writer/director/producer Guillermo del Toro (Pans Labyrinth) since backing away from The Hobbit. Co-writing the screenplay here and producing, the directing is in the hands of first time feature filmmaker Troy Nixey. The production value is the nicest thing to look at with this film; the stunning location, Melbourne Australia (which doubles for Rhode Island), and del Toro's crafty creatures elevate this from your typical spooky story.

Ten year old Sally (Madison) has come to Rhode Island from her home in Los Angeles to live with her father (Pearce) and his younger girlfriend Kim (Holmes) while they renovate an extraordinary old mansion, which belonged to a renowned painter who mysteriously disappeared. Kim, the interior designer, wants to make nice with Sally, who has her own emotional problems, but it isn't until Sally begins hearing and seeing strange things that they become close, since her no-nonsense father refuses to listen. As Kim begins to compare Sally's unsettling stories with those of the original homeowner, she becomes increasingly alarmed for everyone's safety.

I haven't seen the 1973 version, but opening the film with the destruction of teeth in ones mouth is a sure way to grab the audience's attention. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is, of course, ironic because the evil creatures in the film are afraid of light. The film uses the cliché scare scenes but presents a more honest and relatable fear than most movies of the same genre. Madison, who you might remember from Bridge to Terabithia or Just Go With It, is the heart of the film with her eager investigative eyes and ability to cry on cue. Pearce and Holmes run the gauntlet of the predictable yin and yang parents. With Holmes's career/celebrity what it is, it's very difficult to take her seriously.

With most films of this nature there are the usual things that bug me, like when your daughter is screaming and crying for help, why would you try to pick the lock instead of kick the door down? If tiny rat-size creatures are tormenting you, why not step on them? If you are going to feature the Polaroid camera so much, maybe actually use the pictures and concept to it's full purpose. High production value allows this film to skirt along the better aspects of a horror movie. The back story was enjoyable, but in the end we can't help wondering if it's really just Tom Cruise in that black hole, whispering for his next victim.


Final Thought – Madison makes it compelling, while del Toro delivers quality

Grade C+

By: Dustin Chase W.

Editor: Michael Woody