I first watched the original TV movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” when I was a mere child, I have to admit, I’ve had some nightmares during that time because of that film. Then again, I was a small child then, and it may have made me much more….shall we say resilient to horror movies since the horror genre is my mother’s most loved genre. The original was very simple; yet so creepy, and with those three ghoulish tiny beings whispering “….spirits breed….” can just send chills down one’s spine. When I heard Guillermo Del Toro ( of The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos and Pan’s Labyrinth fame) was producing and co-writing this 2011 re-issue of the film that scared me as a child, I was ecstatic. I knew the original had several areas to improve upon and I hoped for Del Toro and director Troy Nixey could come out with a well-woven tale of supernatural horror. Perhaps I should’ve re-watched the original before I saw this film, but I do remember some of its key sequences quite vividly…
Many years ago in a huge manor, (not a spoiler) an old man called Emerson Blackwood (Gary MacDonald) seemed to perform medieval dentistry on his young maid to appease some goblin-like creatures called Homunculi. Fast-forward several years later and the film opens with a young girl named Sally (Bailee Madison) moving into the very same Blackwood manor with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new wife named Kim (Katie Holmes), her father looking to have the historical manor put on the front page of a magazine. But when the ancient evil that Blackwood had faced many years ago resurfaces and desires Sally for some reason, the family must stay in the light to remain safe…
I have to admit the film gave me strong impressions of “The Orphanage” and “The Devil’s Backbone”; the atmosphere and the set designs all have that Del Toro signature and it worked on its advantage. I have to freely admit that the film is gorgeous and has exquisite cinematography that exudes the look of a classic haunted house film. The film uses several trickery with shadows and how the light itself can be so creepy even when it looked like a glimmer of safety. I know Nixey was the film’s director but the style and the feel of the film surely had the Del Toro influence.
The film’s premise does have some borrowed elements from other horror movies, but it doesn’t hurt it at all. The direction and the script was very focused in the telling of its tale, while it was simple, it manages to bring forth the key elements of terror into development. Your own house where danger lurks with no sense of comfort is a terrifying thing. As with Del Toro’s other movies, he uses the element of childhood fear and brings forth the myth of the tooth fairy into play as well as the dread of the unknown. I’m really not certain, but the creatures felt like they had influences from the first act of “Hellboy 2” as they had several qualities as to the hunger for bones and teeth. This had several Del Toro stamps all about it as it uses its elements of fantasy and symbolisms to generate its sense of suspense and dread. The original left this unexplained and it resulted with a much more solid threat of the unknown. Even the trio of creatures in the original was much more creepy; not to say that this remake’s hordes of creatures weren’t intense or scary, it’s just that the original had a more subtle execution for the creatures. I did notice several scenes that were obviously tributes to the original movie.
The creature designs were pretty good; they were quick-moving and definitely looked like ghoulish fairies that looked very ancient. The music and the sound effects were truly engaging as the film made me feel the claustrophobia around the Sally and Kim characters. The film’s visual and aural manipulations were spot on. The film’s cast also proved quite competent; Katie Holmes was surprisingly competent as Kim and Guy Pearce fit the role of the skeptical father. Bailee Madison proved to be a capable young actress; I thought she was able to convince me of her fears and she truly felt helpless in many of the film’s sequences. I do have to admit that while some of the characters felt a little clichés, (I mean a skeptical father, a stepmother trying to prove herself and a child with issues) the direction was able to engage me nonetheless through the unraveling of its story.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” may prove to be one of the more credible horror movies this past 3 years; amid the areas of bad remakes and reboots, I welcome a remake that allowed to expand upon the original film. While the original focused on the unknown, creepiness and unanswered questions, this re-issue feels more like a horror-fable-fairy tale. Del Toro and Nixey had come out with a highly entertaining horror feature; while not perfect, it is proof that a horror film doesn’t need to be, as long as the film manages to capitalize on its key elements and Del Toro and Nixey had done so quite well.
*** out of **** What's one to expect from a haunted house horror movie produced by legendary Spanish native Guillermo Del Toro? If one has seen the great visual poet's directorial works, one might expect elements such as storytelling told through the eyes of a child, old-fashioned scare tactics, and talk of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and monstrosities that live under the floorboards. If it is any of those things that you desire or anticipate; then by the time "Don't Be Afraid … more
“Conventional” called “Boring” and they both emailed the non-mathematical version of “Derivative” and they all decided to see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Conventional said “Guillermo del Toro’s name is on it and I was totally undone by The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth” and Boring said “Bailee Madison’s in this and she was good in Bridge to Terabithia and stole the show in Brothers.” The literary … more
Take one young, unhappy girl who is sent to live with her busy, preoccupied father and his overly sweetgirlfriend, throw in a super big scary gothic mansion with a basement, that has a sealed off fireplace (are there any other kind) and a hundred (give or take) ancient, super ugly, tiny demon like creatures, badly in need of dental work, and you have the film 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark'. This film is written by one of my favorite horror guys, Guillermo … more
Star Rating: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is an exercise in atmosphere and sheer creepiness. The plot is essentially a compendium of haunted house clichés, but I find that I don’t much care – not when the visuals and the mood are dictated by co-writer/co-producer Guillermo del Toro, whose fascination with insects, monsters, and dark places could not have been more appropriate for this story. Even in its routine state, the film is still … more
Guillermo Del Toro has given us a minor miracle; a remake of a horror movie that not only NEEDED to be remade (since not many people are familiar with it), but also one which succeeds in being a genuinely frightening film about a little girl, a big, scary house with an ominous basement, and swarms of ugly little demonic monsters--what more could you ask for? This film is already on my Best of The Decade List.