“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 version of Derivative was just happy to be asked along as usual. They all watched the movie and then argued. Every adjective agreed the movie was awful, but they couldn’t agree on another adjective to blame: stupid, silly, childish, hackeneyed, laughable … then they all stopped shouting and realized they were all blaming their fellow adjectives who they hadn’t bothered to invite, let alone asked to defend themselves, so they all looked at their typist (and Netflix queue guy) and said – “Tag, you’re it.”
I’m pretty sure the movie showed up at each theater already spoiled by a rank odor but I’ll warn that this tongue in cheek review has one plot spoiler in it (and it isn’t the finale), so standard warning applies. Preface. Mad scientist/artist is in the basement of his house bargaining with whispering spirits or beings for the return of his son, presumed dead or at least a chance to visit.
Fast forward 125ish years. Sally is sent from her unstable mother in California to live with her father Alex. He is someone who flips old mansions along with his girlfriend Kim (well they both flip expensive old houses, the other interpretation is debatable). Alex and Kim are concerned that this latest project will not pay off leaving them in a financial bind and caring for the essentially abandoned Sally doesn’t help. In short order, Sally is befriended by the spirits of the house. Since she is unstable, the imps can blame their violent pranks on the hapless Sally. In even shorter order thereafter it becomes obvious that while unbalanced, Sally isn’t lying about the beasts. In shortest order, the beasts launch an all out assault. After the dust settles a couple of very tired nouns arrive: Survival, dénouement, and the form of closure that ends in a “?” since he represents the horrible possibility of a sequel –only accountants and hack writers like “closure?” over his emphatic cousin “done”.
The movie was terrible. I got my hopes up because I figure that the brilliant talent that directed Pan’s Labyrinth and directed The Orphanage wouldn’t put his name on a bad movie, surely. He produced this turkey but first time feature director Troy Nixey directed it. It has the spooky big but pretty house, non-traditional family, problem-child who is actually just a “misunderstood” child signatures of del Toro’s quality work. The problem is that those facets are not unique and when mixed carelessly end up creating just a mess. The one major difference is that the other of del Toro’s movies were in Spanish, but this one could have been in any of a number of beautiful or even totally fanciful languages and it would still have been bad.
One aspect that can keep a borderline scary movie still scary is to ensure the creature(s) stay hidden so that we get just voice or shadow or boney finger or tail or something. As a story teller, if you reveal your scary creature in the middle of the story then the things best be really blood curdling scary or you give away one of the biggest pieces of fright. Imagine all of the gremlins from the movie about 200 years ago all got paid their last residual and then had to go begging on LA streets until some director decided to cast them as rats or something. They are all about as menacing as Muppets that have all swallowed a bottle of no-doz which is to say, not. So with the scary visuals shot to pieces, you better have a solid reason why these Spielberg/Dante/Henson creatures should be scary. Well, it seems (and this is the spoiler but the fact is among the first things you learn in the preface) that these creatures want one and only one thing.
Children’s teeth. They are willing to cut dresses and slash tires and nearly kill a gardener and ruin a dinner party because they are all hungry for children’s teeth. Apparently the Tooth Fairy is a little bit of a loose woman and her illegitimate spawn do all they can to terrorize the almost-pretty while trying to un-dent-ify and otherwise kill the not quite gorgeous’s troubled children.
The main reason I watched it is the same reason Boring lobbied for it. Ms. Madison is a truly talented actress. But this part required the range of any toddler of any age in any tiara of any size, so using her amounted to a worse version of the del Toro bait and switch. The movie also starred Guy Pearce as her stressed out dad and Katie Holmes as the “other woman” cum savior. The former is a strong actor and I can only assume he lost a bet. Ms. Holmes played her heart out and wasted pretty much every minute of it.
Be afraid of losing 100 minutes of your life. Oh, and one last thing, Conventional, Boring, and the literary Derivative all agree, there isn’t anything funny or ironic in the movie either.
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
*** 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
This remake of a made for tv movie was pretty interesting and in some scenes, scary. The plot was decent enough and some scenes definitely could make you jump in your seat. This movie is a nice change of pace from all the Paranormal Activity or Insidious movies and their not-so-scary knockoffs.(which btw I did not think were scary movies.) It's a good thing that this movie did not take the direction that most horror movies have done lately, as in trying to copy the success of Paranormal Activity … 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.