Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark Review
by Bret Dorman
Sometimes good ideas for movies are just that, a good idea. Take for instance Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. Script co-written by Guillermo Del Toro. Haunted House aspect. Creatures. Good idea. But that’s it.
The Story: Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pierce) who really needs to renovate some old house to jump-start his career. He makes kissy faces with his new gal pal Kim (Katie Holmes). Also, there are creatures that whisper really loudly.
Afraid/Dark opens with an obligatory scare/death scene. Man looks down a well, music swells, camera pushes in, tension builds… hold… hold.. then Blam-o! Wide shot of his legs kicking as the creatures attack and we get a solid 15 seconds of screaming at max level! 15 seconds is a long time to listen to a really loud noise. I don’t know if my theater just had the volume up extra loud or what, but it was highly unnecessary for the creature attack to be THAT loud. Loud doesn’t equal scary. Especially when prolonged like that. It equals annoying.
In some good Horror movies, most particularly Poltergeist, the main characters and the viewer are punished for being curious. In Poltergeist, there are playful spirits that slide chairs and move things around. Even though it would be frightening its still fun and we want to know more. The more curious we get the more we are punished.
The problem with Afraid/Dark is that the opening scene clearly shows these creatures to be malevolent (we would know anyway just because of the genre/advertising too I suppose) but also the way they talk is way too obvious. No character would open a grate with those voices coming out of it, no matter how lonely they are. They should have ‘tricked’ her by imitating a child’s voice and seeming playful, but then to each other switch to the raspy voices.
The good thing about the creatures is the design and ‘twist’ on a classic child’s ‘fairy tale’ of sorts. The creatures were obviously designed by Del Toro, as they look like something you would have seen in the Troll Market from Hellboy II. Creature design is important in a movie like this. As Kim finds out more she finds out what the audience already knows. There is something to do with a drawing and art and that reveal to the connection is done well, but ultimately I want to know more about the fairy tale aspect.
The movie ends with a grand finale ‘action-y’ type scene. Problem is, the creatures are rather tiny. Sure, in numbers the present a threat and at first they just seem rather mischievous but soon they are unrelentingly malicious and brutal in their attempts to take on humans. But I would have liked to, at the end, up the ante. Let’s see a giant version that’s like a soldier, the smaller ones being scouts or something. Instead the movie treads water when it comes to the creatures. The simply get a little more aggressive each time we see them.
A lot has been said about Alex. People seem to make fun of the fact he wants to get on the cover of Architectural Digest. Funny thing is if we had gotten some hack thing for his character want people would be like “lame” or “unoriginal”. Architectural Digest cover makes sense. He’s an architect, which is his motive for moving in to the ‘haunted house’ and his career isn’t going well. Maybe getting on the cover of Architectural Digest won’t solve all his problems, but it makes sense for him to want to be on the cover of Architectural Digest. I’m sure for architects being on the cover of Architectural Digest is great! Two things though. Architectural Digest gets a lot of plugs in this movie. About as many times as in this paragraph. Also, Architectural Digest is pretty silly. I mean, Architectural Digest, come on.
Thing is this obsession with Architectural Digest does get in the way of him caring for his daughter and the fact that they go through with the whole dinner thing at the end given what the little girl, Sally, has seen and been through is really outrageous. If this movie wants to play it straight and smart, then don’t have your characters staying in a place where very violent things keep happening and most of your main characters know something evil is lurking in the vents.
In Conclusion, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a standard horror movie. There are some problems, one big problem, but the creature design and myth is pretty cool. I’ll be nice and count that more than the things I didn’t like.
Final Grade: C+