Director: Troy Nixey
Starring: Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce
Release Date: Out Now
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a re-imagining of the 1970’s TV movie of the same name which enchanted writer Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) watched as a child. On paper, the fantasy horror flick has all the components of a genre classic. It includes the customary autonomous closing of doors, the creaky floorboards, and the haunted mansion that altogether make it one gigantic cliché. Throughout its course the plot also begins to seem more comic than chilling, ultimately struggling to be taken seriously.
The story follows neglected child Sally (Bailee Madison) who is sent to live with her estranged father (Guy Pearce). Sally moves into her father’s new home, which he intends to restore with his interior designer girlfriend (Katie Holmes). Left to her own devices, Sally stumbles upon a secret room which is located in, unsuprisingly, the dark and eerie basement of the mansion. She soon learns that it is inhabited by child eating Gremlin-like creatures. Sally’s world is turned upside down by these monsters, who parallel the upheaval in her own life that she must confront and conquer.
The first half of the film is promising. It plays on the ancient fear of the unknown, which works perfectly in tandem with the awe-inspiring set design and cinematography. Obviously, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is little more than a love letter to the horror genre from Del Toro and director Troy Nixey, but it works effectively, and even thrives in some areas. With an unnerving sense of atmosphere and a strong visual sense running throughout, there’s no doubting Nixey and Del Toro’s credentials as fanboy savants of seventies horror.
However effectively suspenseful the film may be, it’s not long before it goes downhill. It’s at the point when you actually see that these murderous creatures are but five inches tall and could be fought off with a hurley that the hilarity of the story starts to emerge. As director, Nixey is attempting to walk the line between fantasy and reality and yet gives the audience no strong belief that the film commits to either.
Despite its drawbacks the film is strangely likable. It holds a quality which is only recognisable in the considerable power of the cult movie, at the end of it all the audience leaves the cinema oddly entertained. What more can you ask for?
In a Nutshell: Starts well and then descends into ‘so bad that it’s good’ territory