Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Review

This title is surprisingly contrary to the subject matter.

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.

Or the clitoris, so as not to offend our female readers.

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…

made the best of a bad situation…

and generally kicked ass…

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.

Cousins of the friendlier and less murder-y “underpants 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!

~Jonny Green

6 thoughts on “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Review

  1. LOL…..I am not a horror fan at all but if a film is gonna grab my privates, by God, I am gonna see it! Hilarious review….Let’s see how well Kate counter reviews…

  2. Jonny, I must admit I am a bit confused. You seem to like this movie but dislike the characters, creatures and plot. Is this a “go see it if you like horror” or a “this is a good movie that people will enjoy”?

    That confusion aside, I wish I could write with as much wit as you. From ball sacks to Scientology, you pull this shit out!!!

  3. It’s not technically a Counter-Review, and I don’t want to put up another article about what is basically an agreement.

    Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, though fraught with a misleading title and some gaping plot holes, is adequately effective in its suspense, emotional element, and art direction. It has a good balance between paying homage to the horror genre while throwing in some refreshing elements.

    While Mr. Green is correct in his assertion (“the terror grabs you by the balls right away”), I must say I felt similar terror in my OVARIES. The clitoris is not the female equivalent of the testicles. That just might be the Mills education talkin’…(testicles:ovaries::clitoris:head, or even shaft)

    Mr. Green also brought to my attention the incompetence of the film’s protagonist who is very apparently pre-pubescent. She is not an adolescent from the looks of neither her build nor her maturity/decision-making skills. Sally can be explained for, but her parental figures are the ones who need to be reprimanded. I found a lot of the characters’ choices and mistakes improbable, but I also found the film’s atmosphere helped it to overcome logical leaps. It is a fantasy film, after all.

    Oddly, the more I attempted to write a traditional “counter-review”, the more lukewarm I feel about this film and the more I agree with Jonny. I know I was torn between being sated by the film’s visual effectiveness, but wanting more in terms of plot and depth. Perhaps Jonny Green feels the same? Another confusing element about the film is the shifting degree of “scary” to “not scary at all” upon which the director didn’t seem to have a proper hold. Though the beginning sequence was terrifying, it was mostly so because of the glaring unknowns. The more that is revealed, the more impish and pest-like (rather than menacing) the demons become. My friend and I actually giggled at their use of tools! Del Torro films are hard to pin down, but I can say with absolute confidence The Devil’s Backbone is worth your time if you want to be truly scared.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the twist on an old childhood story and some effectively scary moments. There is some art history and mythology thrown in, and I was entertained. I will say this is a “good time at the movies”, not necessarily a horror film for horror film buffs, or even a “horror” film for the general public. Luckily, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I could have done without the coy pond scene. I was waiting for those fish to become relevant again! I would go see this movie if you have nothing better to do on a discount day, and don’t expect anything as breathtaking as Pan’s Labyrinth.

    • Just for future reference, a counter review does not have to be a disagreement. Quite honestly, if we all wanted to write glowing reviews for the exact same movie, I would be ecstatic because I would have more to read. Just sayin… : )

  4. Clitoris in terms of sensitivity, not functionality. I’m not sure any girl knows what it could feel like to be grabbed by the ovary.

  5. I probably should have used the term “pre-pubescent,” but something about that word always makes me feel dirty.

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