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Tuesday, August 30, 2011



"You know, they don't like bright lights."
-- Sally

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a 2011 horror film directed by Troy Nixey that serves as a remake of a 1973 TV-movie of the same name. When her mother sends Sally (Bailee Madison) to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the Rhode Island mansion they're restoring, the tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. As Sally explores the mansion grounds one day, she stumbles upon a hidden basement of which her father had no knowledge. When they pry the basement open, Sally begins to hear voices calling her name from beneath a furnace. Curious, she begins to pry the steel gate open but is quickly stopped by the groundskeeper Mr. Harris (Jack Thompson), who is subsequently attacked by a group of goblin-like creatures. Terrified by the encounter, Sally begins to fear for her own safety inside the house. She starts to have her own encounters with the creatures, and they become increasingly more bold as time continues to pass. However, she cannot convince her father that the creatures exist, and she continually finds herself stuck in battles against them on her own. Soon, the creatures start to make their presence even more known, and ultimately, no one can deny their existence or their ultimate goal: to kidnap Sally.

I had mixed feelings going into this film. The main reason behind seeing the film in theaters was the hope that the audience reaction would be rather comical. I personally didn't think there'd be much in terms of quality cinema from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, but I suppose you can't ever count out Guillermo del Toro completely, even if he's only producing a film. Unfortunately, I couldn't really get into this one at any point in the film.

I thought it started out relatively well with a sufficiently creepy opening sequence. The scene set the tone well, and from that point, we could have had a decent flick. Sadly, things spiraled from there, and a lot of it has to do with issues with screenplay and continuity. I can't quite get into specific instances - for starters, I'd rather not give anything away, but I also don't want to spend ages writing this post - but I can tell you that there were quite a few eye-rolling instances in terms of storyline and plot development. Quite a few horror clich├ęs fell into place throughout the film, and there were even a couple laughable moments. Ultimately, however, there just wasn't any real explanation of any of the events in the film. As I walked out of the theater, I felt like I had more questions than answers, and that's never a good sign for a film.

The acting wasn't horrendous, but I wouldn't go out of my way to applaud the performers either. It felt a little like Pearce and Holmes were mailing in their performances, and if they actually read the script beforehand, I don't really blame them. They weren't going to have a ton with which to work, so I didn't really see any motivation for either of them to bring their A-game. I thought Madison was decent in the film's central role, and I've been quite the proponent of her acting ability since I first saw her 2009's Phoebe in Wonderland. I think she has a bright future ahead of her, but Don't Be Afraid of the Dark didn't necessarily give her the opportunity to showcase her talents.

However, the biggest problem with the film was easily the style of direction. Even though the film had the del Toro stamp, it didn't really feel like a del Toro film. Instead, it's Troy Nixey's first feature-length directorial effort, and you can see where the inexperience shines through. He doesn't really command the presence the camera gives, and with a film this dark, it should have had a very brooding quality about it. Instead, it all felt a little dull, and at moments, it was downright boring. I went to see the film with a friend who never leaves the theater for a bathroom break, but she was so off-put by the pace of the film that she managed to make it to the restroom and back without missing anything of importance. That's not a good sign for any film, but it's especially true for a film in the horror genre. If you're not throwing out cheap thrills, then you need to keep the viewer in constant suspense. Otherwise, you're going to lose your audience.

Ultimately, I can't begin to recommend you see this film. Definitely don't take the time to see it in theaters - wait to rent it if you're really dying to watch it. It's getting mixed review from critics right now, but this critic is definitely panning it just a tad. As much as I wish I could have loved it, it was just too confusing and too boring to be considered a quality film.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: D
1.5 Thumbs Down

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