Directed by: Troy Nixey
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison
Nixey and del Toro’s horror flick warns us ironically in its title – “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” And we sure as hell won’t be, as this twist on the classic tale of the tooth fairy rots into a bore-fest that fails to follow any logic or deal real screams – getting too carried away in its magical and mythical foundations to be genuinely scary.
When Sally (Madison) is forced to move in with her father, Alex (Pearce), and his partner/interior decorator, Kim (Holmes), she immediately wants to return home to her mother for two very good reasons: 1. no one told her living with Katie Holmes was going to be a long term set up and 2. there are creepy creatures living in the basement of her father’s remodeled Gothic mansion. As these creatures (who look like the super-aged, crack-addicted versions of characters from 9) have been eating children’s teeth and bones since the horse and carriage days, Sally’s arrival awakens their evil appetite as they come up to the surface for blood and mayhem.
While Bailee Madison does a great job as a surly little girl, who doesn’t enjoy being patronized into adaptation, much of her frightening experiences are met with the same reactions so that no matter which way the evil beings come, her fear and our fear will always remain at the same low level of crying for mommy. But perhaps the fear factor remains at this level because of how un-scary the creatures of evil are themselves. When they weren’t open to our view, the malicious whispering and pain inflicting tricks of these child-eating freaks tickled our interest in the hopes that something gory or horrifying would happen soon. But such rises in tension disappointingly plummet to the depths of a dusty old furnace as the creatures turn out to be as frightening as a rat infestation.
Surrounded by a Gothic setting of both natural and man-made structures, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had all the right tools to bring a rather preposterous plot to spine-tingling and absurdly original heights. No amount of brooding, screaming, and scuttling around a big house, however, could bring this hope to reality. Flat, tedious and tense at best, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has nothing to worry about when it comes to keeping audiences unafraid of what lurks in dark corners.