Who out there is a Guillermo del Toro fan? Come onnnnn… lets see those hands. Hellboy? Blade 2? At least give me Pan’s Labyrinth. At any rate, del Toro has a darkly whimsical and fantastic imagination, elements that are very much present in this modern remake of the similarly titled 1970’s horror movie. Even though he didn’t direct, his influence as a writer and producer are still felt heavily in the story and creature/set design. Sitting in the director’s chair was newcomer Troy Nixey, a man I hadn’t heard of before watching this movie, but would now be happy watching more of.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” opens up with the classic scary looking Victorian house and eccentric recluse decaying and descending into madness down in the creepy basement. This isn’t exactly a flashback, but sets the scene for future events. Needless to say, the terror grabs you by the balls right away, inducing a squirmy, cringe-worthy feeling deep in the loins. As if something terrible from the deep had, you know, grabbed you by the balls.
That’s all I’m going to say about the opening scene, because really to go into more detail would be doing your movie watching experience a disservice. Jumping forward, we’re introduced to the main “protagonist” of the film. Why did I put “protagonist” in quotes, you might ask? Well in true del Toro fashion, it’s a young girl uprooted away from one parent who doesn’t want her around, and relocated to another parent who… well, he’s doing the best he can. That by itself isn’t why this girl sucks. She sucks because unlike other adolescent female movie heroines who have picked themselves up…
Sally mostly bitches, moans, cries, and makes a pest out of herself. And that’s when she’s not actively creating problems that end with other characters getting stabbed, cut, maimed, kidnapped, or straight up killed. No wonder this girl’s mom didn’t want her around! She’s got all the self preservation instincts of a suicide bomber.
So Sally gets shipped off from her home in LA to go live with her architect father, Alex (Guy Pierce), and his live-in girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). After Sally rejects their attempts at love and affection, she decides that she’d rather get cozy with the creepy-ass voices she hears coming out of the basement furnace. Yeah, that’s totally something a normal person does. This girl has the personality of an infected bug bite. So naturally she releases these evil and ancient creatures from their iron prison so that they can start running amok through the house again.
I really enjoyed the tone and pacing this movie delivered, combining to create a tense but imaginative atmosphere. I always enjoy Guy Pierce, even though he wasn’t given much to work with as the dad who has to suddenly balance work, his daughter, and a girlfriend. He comes into his own a bit towards the end, but serves mostly as background. Holmes delivers a pretty decent performance, especially for someone with thetan levels as high as hers. She probably goes through the most compelling character arc, first trying to fit in with the new family dynamic she’s been thrust into, and later as the only one who believes Sally’s crazy stories about underground demon gnomes.
My last critique of an otherwise adequately scary and suspenseful horror flick has to do with the vile creatures responsible for all the mayhem and slaughter. Very creepy, very imaginative, very cool, but revealed entirely too early. I mean, half the fun of this movie was supposed to be not knowing what’s going on in the dark recesses of the house, allowing the audience to project their own nightmarish visions onto the silver screen. Sure, there’s a point where you need some sort of grand unveiling, but after you get your first good look at those little guys the mystique is gone, replaced with a tepid understanding. Other than that, solid showing, film makers!
Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!