Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has chills, thrills, and things that go bump in the night, but is it right for you? Hit the jump and find out if you should be afraid to see this movie or not.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark never tries to be more than what it is. For that I applaud it. What it actually turns out being though is a cast of people who you will probably find ignorant, whiny, and possibly stupid, but the plot is written in a way that these characters aren’t plot-holes. Their characters are really just that ignorant, whiny, and stupid on purpose.
Really though what this means in a horror movie is “I don’t relate to these people, so let’s see some killing of these whiners!” Call me old school, but there is a special something about seeing a father who is too busy trying to get on the cover of a home redecoration magazine to notice monsters everywhere, a girlfriend/interior decorator who is too busy trying to win the daughters approval to notice monsters everywhere, and a little girl who is too busy to…. wait… no she knows there are monsters from the beginning and wants to be their friend *facepalm*.
Yo, little girl named Sally, if the things that want to be your friend constantly whisper “Come to the basement”, “Turn off the lights”, “She looks delicious”, and are all around evil little bastards then, you know…. don’t be their friends.
The cast is small, with Guy Pearce as Alex, the too busy working father, Katie Holmes as Kim, the girlfriend who loves art but doesn’t inspect the basement filled with art, and Bailee Madison as Sally, the little girl who thinks demons would be fun to play dolly with.
The art direction is wonderful and, as several others have noted, has the Guillermo Del Toro vibe to it, despite the fact the Del Toro only produced and Troy Nixey actually directed. This is Troy Nixey’s first feature-length film, as he is normally a comic-book illustrator (having worked on a few Batman comics here and there and a few series I’ve never heard of). Nixey’s comic book background is evident throughout the movie and hues of gold, black, and brown are used artistically to create an atmosphere that screams “Holy shit, this place is creepy as hell.” The mansion is a treat to the eye, although unfortunately we only get to see a few rooms of it, and the yard feels enormous and creepy although we never get a sense of where everything is location wise. The set pieces feel a bit disconnected and if a better sense of location had been given it would have helped elevate this movie above some of its story failings.
Other than that there is a groundskeeper who gets a screwdiver stabbed through his knee, razors slashed on his ankles and face, and a pair of scissors put through his back. He then calmly walks up stairs and says “I had an accident”. No fucking shit?! How this was explained to the police was never explained to the viewers. I guess hospitals get a lot of people who look like a tool shed tried to make them their bitch.
Anyways, the story lets you know these little things live under the house in these caves and every time they are released they drag somebody back to their lair and eat them to replenish their ranks. They are especially fond of stupid children and teeth. Something the movie only references is the fact that in the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (or Nightmare in Europe), the creatures needed to consume the soul of whoever released them and turns them into one of their own.
Honestly, I thought the monsters turned out great. Bordering on terrifying and humorous they come off as a mix between Gremlins, Gollum, and a pack of sewer rats. You know that scene from the previews with the little girl under the sheets? Yeah, it is a lot scarier in the theater. Speaking of the scares, there is much more chilling horror than dread horror, if you understand that. The atmosphere and scares are great, but once you leave the theater you don’t feel a lingering threat.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a great popcorn horror movie with good production values, good scares, and an entertaining story with a few plot holes in it. I rate it 7 out of 10. (A 7 for me means “Go see it at theater if you are bored, but there isn’t anything at the theater that couldn’t be accomplished with a dvd rental.”)