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September 4, 2011
Review - " Don't Be Afraid of the Dark "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Directed by: Troy Nixey
Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison

For a genre that is supposedly only of interest to an obsessed core of
fanatics, there's an awful lot of wiggle room within the phrase "horror
film." Quite a few subcategories exist. For me, a suspenseful,
jump-scare-filled flick with imagination and a playful relationship to gore
is the sweet spot. This is very much the sandbox in which Don't Be
Afraid of the Dark wishes to play, and, by and large, it plays well. It is by
no means revolutionary, or even all that memorable, but it is, as they
say, a "good time at the movies" and bound to get lodged somewhere
deep in your mind as "oh, heck, what was the name of that movie with
the girl and the monsters? That one wasn't half bad."

The film begins with a creepy, gothic prologue and, perhaps, the film's
only true gross-out. A depraved old man offers up the bashed-out teeth
of his housekeeper/victim as alms to...well, we don't know yet.

Cut to today and a gloomy kid is met at the airport by her Dad (Guy
Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes.) Holmes's anxious need
to make a good impression blows up in her face when the talking
stuffed bear incants an "I love you" a little too soon into the
relationship. The little girl, however (played by Bailee Madison), seems
wise enough to take this in stride. The troubled child is more concerned
with the fact that her mother has punted her across the country with
nothing but well wishes and behavior meds.
As luck would have it, Dad and the new g.f. have put their future into the restoration of a creepy old New England mansion -
the very same mansion from the prologue! - and they've got an upcoming deadline in which to wow the editors of an
architecture magazine. Will the house be in working order in time? Well, considering that it is a) haunted by demonic
creatures of some sort and b) now home to a needy girl whose looming adolescence can be perfectly externalized by the
chaos of said demonic creatures, the odds are not in their favor.

A more likely turn of events are
sequences in which young
Bailee Madison comes this
close to being consumed by
the wee beasties that live in
the basement - wee beasties
that, of course, only she can
see and no adults believe are
real until it is too late for them.

The scenes in which the grown
ups don't believe that, no duh,
there are monsters on the
loose work wonderfully.
There's a certain delight in this
type of onscreen aggravation,
no? Unfortunately, only some
of the set pieces that involve
said monsters really work.
There's the bit with the
bedsheets you may've caught
in the trailer that will get you
yelping no matter how many
times you see it - also some
other moments involving sharp objects, small holes, ears and eyes. Then there are sequences, like one in a bathtub, that fail
to live up to their promise.

The other unfortunate business is the way the world building is kinda shoved aside. It's a shame because there are a lot of
possibilities. The old man from the beginning is a mural painter and naturalist, and I think a lot more could have been done
with this. What's there is cool, but considering this film comes under the Guillermo Del Toro umbrella we have the right to
expect a little more with the creative imagery.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark gets
a modest recommendation from
me. It hits all the right beats,
even if some of 'em feel a bit by
the numbers. (This is, after all,
a remake of a 1970s TV
movie.) There's just enough
going on beneath the surface
and the performances are
strong enough to cover for any
flat sequences. What it trades
in for true terror is made up for
in a general, enjoyable spooky

I'm not generally a horror fan
but this one had just the right
mix of plot, suspense & frights
for me.