Don't Be Afraid of The Dark

Director    Troy Nixey
Starring    Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Alan Dale, Jack Thompson
Release    26 AUG (US) 7 OCT (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


3rd October 2011

Let's get this out the way from the off, shall we? I find most horror movies all a bit 'samey' - more often than not, it'll be a dull, repetitive case of count the clich├ęs. Needless to say, it's not my favourite genre. But would this remake of the 1973 made-for-TV horror change my stance on the scary movie? In short; no, even if Guillermo del Toro is 'presenting'. [What a horrible image - Ed]

After a promising, bum-clenching opening involving a chisel, a hammer and some teeth sets up the story admirably, we're thrown straight into a typical horror movie set-up. Get your check list ready.

When the young Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent by her mother to live with her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new interior designer girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in a large sinister mansion in Rhode Island, she begins to hear voices from the basement. Goblin-like critters looking like a cross between Gollum and gremlins that speak impeccable English and have a taste for children's teeth, call out to her. They cause all sorts of mischief around the house - knocking shit off shelves, turning the lights off, ripping up clothes, stealing shavers - that kinda thing. The blighters.

This week at Paparazzi School: why you're never too young to 'upskirt'.

So we've got a big, spooky house, a creepy, possibly disturbed child, an old man dishing out warnings, things that go bump in the night and a dismissive, distant parent. It's as if del Toro, on writing and producing duties here, scribbled some notes on other horror films and cobbled together an entire film. A worrying prospect when you think this bloke had a hand in The Hobbit screenplay.

Derivative conventions aside, the story struggles along at a plodding pace with little emotion, little to give you the willies and very little actually happening at all. And when the 'action' does kick off, you see bugger all because everything's plunged into darkness, even in the middle of the day. Jesus, does this house get no natural light? The title is a literal warning.

The whole darkness thing would've been a decent idea had it been executed correctly and kept some mystery about the creatures, affording only fleeting glances here and there. Unfortunately, this mystery quickly goes out the window the minute one of the gremlins screams in Sally's face. Subtle stuff.

The film's silver lining comes in the shape of the young Bailee Madison. Commanding the screen much like Hailee Steinfeld did in True Grit, she gives a superb, mature performance for her age, keeping Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce very much in the shadows, much like the rest of the film (zing). Pearce and Holmes lack any real chemistry: it's hard to care for one-dimensional adults.


What could have been a well-crafted, terrifying tooth fairy tale ultimately falls on its arse. Knowing del Toro's history for original, frightening stories, this bog-standard mess has to go down as a missed opportunity.

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