There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of In DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK…

It’s only been a few weeks, but there’s already a legitimate contender to challenge CONAN for Worst Movie of the Year. I was actually looking forward to the Guillermo Del Toro produced, Troy Nixey directed DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. The original version of the film (1973’s TV movie, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK) was a few years before my time, but it seems to have struck a resonant chord amongst its many advocates. Going in pretty cold, my expectations for this new film were nil, but I am a huge fan of most of Del Toro’s output and am always impressed with his team of art directors, so I figured the movie would at least look good.

 


(There…I just saved you eleven bucks. The monster design is the only cool thing about the movie.)

Well, it’s not ugly… There are some cool tracking shots of the scary, old mansion at the center of the action, and the diminutive terrors living beneath the house – goblin-like little monstrosities with high-pitched growls and scratchy, whispery voices – are freaky enough – I wouldn’t want to run into a pack of the scrabbling beasts in the dark or light. Too bad the film over-exposes them and wastes their creepy potential. Something broken in the way the movie has been constructed sucks the scares right out of it. Suspense builds to nothing. Scenes meander (some exchanges between bad actresses, Katie Holmes, and the film’s lead, ten-year-old, Bailee Madison, are down-right painful). Interesting ideas are squandered.


(Not sure if it’s PC to point out how bad this child actor is – Still, I think she really sucks. Grow-up and learn how to emote, kid!)

 

The evil ghoulies have a neat mythology, but the script only touches on bits about their primeval origins. Further exploring their ties to the natural world, old gods, and the dark magic that used to exist before man went and got all civilized, giving us more fairy tale aspects and playing up the fantasy in dark fantasy, would have definitely strengthened the film. As it stands, we see way too much of the savage creatures and hear too little about their nefarious designs.

I’m not the type of reviewer to bore you with summary or ruin the movie dissecting spoilers. If you want either you’re only a few Google searches away. Let me just say, I recommend you save your money. The acting here is sub par at best. The narrative is way sloppy (and poorly realized). Worst of all, the movie commits the most serious of cinematic, cardinal sins – it’s boring!

 


(I’ll show you how to party down!)

If you want to watch a lyrical, creepy, dark fantasy, check out Del Toro’s masterpiece, PAN’S LABYRINTH. Or, if you want to be scared, and maybe even a little shocked (by a beautifully plotted, third-act twist), give the Del Toro produced, THE ORPHANAGE, a look. If you want crazy, goblin action and wild, monster mayhem, go for Joe Dante’s GREMLINS.

 


(Me too!)

As much as it pains me to say it, Loyal Reader, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is a real dud. It has some great, dark elements. That none of them manage to come together is a real shame.

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