When 8 year old Sally (Bailee Madison) moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes), they find that there is something sinister in the basement . . .something that wants Sally and won’t stop until it gets her . . .
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, produced by Guillermo del Toro, is a remake of a 1973 television movie. It is a horror film, and while it is not terribly frightening, it does provide satisfying atmosphere. It is not a terrible film; in fact, I liked it quite a bit.
Once Sally moves into the house her father is restoring, she discovers that there are ‘fairies’ or ‘gnomes’ living in the ash shoot of the basement. At first these creatures seem to be friendly, but soon their true motives are revealed. . .they are only interested in eating Sally, per a pact made with a saint in the year 999. As her father’s girlfriend, Kim, slowly comes around and realizes that Sally isn’t just making this up for attention, they both try to get her father to believe. But will he come around in time?
Sadly, this is the area where the movie falters. I’m not sure if it was an editing choice or not, but her father, Alex, just believes throughout the movie that she is disturbed or seeking attention. When he finally comes around, it is in a snap. It’s never really explained what made him realize it was time to get out. While that is not a deal breaker story flaw, it is one that made me stop and say, huh?
Another problem is that Guy Pearce really doesn’t get much to do here. He is just the doubting father. This is a role that seems to have been wasted on Pearce. He is a much better actor than this role offered him. Was he horrible? No. Did he phone it in? No. He just didn’t have a lot to work with.
Katie Holmes, on the other hand, oh she of the vacant stares, actually does a decent job here playing the girlfriend who desperately wants her boyfriends daughter to like her. She never really goes into the over the top character that I expected, and she actually treats Sally as a friend and an adult. This is rare in not just a film like this, but in cinema in general. Another actress or another director may have made the character more cookie cutter and condescending towards Sally. This is never the case here.
Bailee Madison, who looks like an 8 year old Katie Holmes, does a phenomenal job here. She is a talented little girl and is incredibly believable as the fairy main course. Never once did I look at her character and see her acting. I saw Sally the whole movie.
I really did like the look of the creatures in this film. While they are small, they have strength in numbers. What really makes them creepy is that they are small enough to hide anywhere. I really dug the design and really dug the decision to let you see the creatures throughout the film. What good is a monster if you can’t see it? Here, you get to see them in all their grotesque glory.
I do have to say that this film was better than I expected. I really didn’t expect much. While I didn’t find the film frightening, there are very few that I do. I can only think of a few films I have ever seen that scared me. The Blair Witch Project. Wolf Creek. The Exorcist. That’s all I can think of right now. Those films gave me nightmares, especially Wolf Creek, which gave me restless nights for a week. But I digress. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a decent horror film that is worth a watch. It has a nice mythology behind it, and talented actors in front of it. If you are looking for a decent film, not just a decent horror film, give it a look.
Movie **1/2 out of ****