DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2011)
The original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark may be corny and a bit cheesy by today’s standards but, it still has plenty of spooky atmosphere and chilling moments and I’ll admit it scared the heck of me as a little boy when first aired in 1973. It told the story of a young couple that move into an old house inhabited by demonic creatures who target the young wife, Sally, to claim her soul.
The remake from producer Guillermo del Toro and director Troy Nixey, keeps the old house but, makes Sally a little girl (Bailee Madison) with the diminutive demons after…her teeth? Sally moves into the cavernous old mansion with her dad Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) and once the creatures are unleashed, their nasty activities (shredding Kim’s dresses and Sally’s teddy bears) are continually blamed on Sally as a result of her emotional distress over her parents divorce… despite a character being savaged when Sally is nowhere near. Even when it is obvious something else is going on and Kim looks into the folklore behind the house, Alex still doubt’s it’s anything but Sally’s bid for attention and leaves her in situations where she can easily be victimized by the scurrying little monsters. But if they didn’t, it wouldn’t allow for the overblown Gremlins-ish attack scenes in the finale act.
So, does Nixey deliver a spooky flick and are the creatures at least scary? Sadly, no. The CGI critters show up fairly early and are smaller and more numerous then the original demons but, don’t have anywhere near the menace they should. They evoke the hairy wingless versions of the tooth fairies from Del Toro’s Hellboy 2 and to a degree they are similar as teeth play a part of their character for whatever reason. That and they are paraded out in full view far too much and the over-exposure and the obvious CGI origins kill any effectiveness they might have. As for the positives, the film does look great with sumptuous production design and gorgeous cinematography but, sadly Nixey, from Del Toro’s and Matthew Robbins’ script, never is able to make it scary. He’s a competent enough director but, just not able to establish suspense or the atmosphere of dread the film needs. It may entertain some as a dark Disney film or a humorless Gremlins 3 but, it never works as a horror film even thought the intended victim is a child and she is played sympathetically by young Bailee Madison.
And while on the subject… the cast are fine with Madison standing out as Sally. Holmes is adequate as the new girlfriend trying to overcome Sally’s dislike and win her over. Her concern once things get weird appears genuine. Pearce is a little heavy handed as the dad who thinks it’s all in Sally’s head and seems a little callous when it comes to his daughter’s well being but, that seems to be how the character is written and the character in the original TV movie wasn’t much better, a little too self-centered to realize something strange is going on till it’s too late. Too bad a good cast could help generate what the film lacks, scares.
Overall the film is not bad, just not scary. It is sumptuous to look at but, the CGI creatures look like exactly that and have no weight or threat or personality. The film is simply not frightening and afraid of the dark is something it never makes us.
2 and 1/2 CGI creatures.