#262/ 365 – ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ – 99 mins
Cinema Challenge #106 / 115
Visiting her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the gothic mansion they’re renovating, young Sally (Bailee Madison) decides to go exploring. Down in the depths of the creaky old house, she finds a hidden basement that has been sealed for more than a century. Inside, voices begin to beckon her, pleading for help. Little does she know that these belong to the malicious creatures who originally inspired our fairy folklore…
There are several things to like about Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The mansion and its surrounding gardens in Roger Ford’s quite outstanding production design manage to mix dark fairytale and gothic horror which always seem convincingly real. The CGI of the creatures are visually stunning, who immediately conjured up thoughts of Joe Dante’s 80’s classic ‘Gremlins’. Then there’s a commanding screen presence in the shape of the young Bailee Madison, she gives a fantastic and mature performance for her tender years, upstaging Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce, who really lack any worthwhile performance and real chemistry here.
Though ultimately and despite a promising and bum-clenching opening sequence involving a chisel, a hammer and some DIY dentistry which is surprisingly grisly, and a couple of well crafted if fleeting genuine scares. In the end the film’s biggest disappointment is that it just isn’t very scary if scary at all throughout for a horror chiller that could and should have been so much better – needless say you won’t need to sleep with the lights on after watching.
Guillermo del Toro (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) who co-wrote and produced, said he was completely ‘haunted’ by the original ’70s TV version of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark when growing up and that’s where you can see this modern version being the most effective, for it’s younger teenaged audience – as its sure to scare them.