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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Review

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

GUILLERMO del Toro has felt compelled to remake Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ever since being terrified and influenced by the 1970s TV movie of the same name as a child.

But while he serves as both producer and co-writer of the screenplay, the ensuing film could perhaps have also benefitted from his deftness of touch behind the camera as Troy Nixey’s film flatters to deceive before eventually underwhelming.

The film picks up as a young girl named Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent back to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new wife (Katie Holmes) and soon finds her new home is haunted by tiny demon-like creatures with a hunger for children’s teeth.

Despite repeated attempts to persuade her dad that she’s not merely crazy, Sally eventually finds an unlikely ally but faces a race against time to prevent herself being snatched by the creatures forever.

Part classic haunted house story, part creature feature, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark also riffs on the tooth fairy myth and contains a number of elements that are now synonymous with del Toro’s brand of filmmaking, and which can be seen in his classic works such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone.

But while initially intriguing, certainly creepy and sometimes gross (witness the scene-setting prologue), Nixey’s film eventually loses interest as the creatures are revealed a little too early and the narrative falls into a repetitive routine of having Sally terrorised every time the rooms go dark.

By the midway point, characters resort to tired horror movie conventions, while the lapses in the film’s logic become increasingly apparent. Come the end, a lot of the premise has fallen apart.

Of the performers, Madison acquits herself well in the role of Sally, remaining just the right side of precocious but Holmes fails to tap into the psychology of her reluctant mother figure (despite several rumours of her own difficult past) and Pearce is largely under-used.

Jack Thompson at least has fun in the role of a veteran gardener who knows more about the house’s history than initially letting on but most of his scenes also come during the stronger opening section than the hokey final third.

Nixey’s film is likely to provide the meeker horror fans with some moments to unnerve and make them jump and isn’t completely without elements to recommend it, but it fails to carry the emotional punch that Del Toro was undoubtedly seeking, either as a horror or a convincing human drama.

As a result, you can’t help feeling that this is a missed opportunity.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK Release Date: October 7, 2011