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 of the Dark" has ran its course, you'll have been satisfied. A remake of a made-for-television film of the same name; this is not, alas, a Guillermo Del Toro film - it was directed by first-timer Troy Nixey - but it's certainly a Guillermo Del Toro story. Since the man shares the screenwriting credits as well as that of a producer; this is only fitting.
It would seem that Nixey sees himself as a sort of successor or predecessor to Del Toro; who appears to have stuck closely to the newcomer throughout the film's production. As the saying goes, great minds think alike; and in this case, we get "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". While it's nothing great or particularly memorable, I appreciate what the masterminds behind the film and its story were trying to do; and for the most part, I feel the film serves its purpose. Yes, it could have been truly great; but it's the rare kind of horror movie where one cannot simply dismiss what would typically be known as "flaws" by that name alone. Because in fact, they are not flaws; for the filmmakers somehow make every last one of them charming, and that's no simple task.
The story takes place at a creepy old mansion, Blackwood Manor, which is somewhere in Rhode Island, as we are told. The movie opens with a disturbing little scene in which an old man sets up a nasty little trap for the housekeeper of the estate; tripping her with a wire that is placed on the stairs leading to the basement, and when she's down on the floor, ultimately ripping her teeth clean from her skull. Indeed, we don't see most of the graphic details associated with the act; but Nixey is able to establish his atmosphere this early on in the film, and we feel the fear; although perhaps not quite enough of the terror.
The building is then bought by a family of three; father Alex (Guy Pearce), mother Kim (Katie Holmes), and young daughter Sally (Bailee Madison). The kid is having trouble accepting the newest addition to their family; her mother Kim, who has just married Alex recently. Kim tries to reach out to Sally in a number of different ways; although initially, it just doesn't seem to be working out. However, there are other problems at stake; for we are about to discover the discreet, diabolical force behind the old man's actions in the sequence that opens the film. It would seem that small, fast, plentiful ghouls that live behind each wall and under the basement (which is sealed off upon the arrival of the new residents of the household) had driven the old man to do what he did; and now, they want Sally.
But why must they have the poor child? And why is she the only one who ever sees these little beasts? Del Toro's screenplay puts an emphasis on the power of children in the service of perception and vision; leaving the adults of the story to remain skeptical and often in disbelief throughout, until the end, when they finally come to turns with reality. Madison is very convincing as the young, adventurous Sally -which certainly helps, given that most of the time; she's the character we're following. Although a general focus on the power of a child's mind and point-of-view are not particularly new to the fairy-tale like scripts of Guillermo Del Toro.
Perhaps it wasn't the wisest of choices to show the basement-dwelling creatures in full physical form. They are revealed to be creations of special effects, yes, but good special effects nonetheless; and I think that counts for something. I'll admit that the movie does show a bit too much, meaning that it's never absolutely frightening, but to deny that it's thoroughly creepy would be doing the great horror genre a whole lot of disservice. Del Toro certainly proved that he had a story to tell with this remake; creating an entire mythology for his little CGI creatures. Del Toro is the writer; Nixey delivered the message, and he did so with style and wit. With the help of his cinematic superior, he's able to make a giant haunted house impeccably creepy and Gothic architecture shockingly effective. The film is consistently a marvel to simply look at; visually complex, and at times, narratively resonant. There are no doubt better horror films out there, but that's an irrelevant complaint.
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 … 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.
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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