Friday, October 19, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Directed by Troy Nixey.
2011. Rated R, 99 minutes.

Bailee Madison
Jack Thompson
Julia Blake
Alan Dale
Trudy Hellier
Garry McDonald

Sally (Madison) is a tween who, according to her, was perfectly happy living with her mother. However, mom thinks the girl is a few Barbie dolls short of a complete set, if you know what I mean, medicates her and ships her off to live with her dad Alex (Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Holmes). Sure enough, soon after arriving at the mansion dad and Kim are not only living in, but renovating, she starts hearing voices coming from a basement no one knew existed. Dad busts open the basement, pleased he has more house to fix up. He doesn’t buy the voices so naturally he and Kim also think the girl is nuts but don’t know what to do with her since sending her back is not an option. On the other hand, we know she is completely sane and the things she hears and sees are quite real. What she sees are a bunch of tiny, evil creatures with a liking for sharp objects and a peculiar appetite. This is a remake of a made-for-TV movie from the 1970s starring Kim Darby. Almost forgot: PG-13 horror that somehow earned an ‘R’ rating ensues.

Okay, the prior sentence takes an unnecessary shot at Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. It is better than that line implies. The creatures themselves are immediately reminiscent of those from The People Under the Stairs, at least to a person like me who hasn’t seen that movie in well over a decade. They are a particularly vicious lot when given the opportunity and prone to pop up suddenly, giving us a few jump scares.

Director Troy Nixey acts as an extension of Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth, both Hellboy movies) who hatched the idea to do this remake and serves as producer. Nixey gives us a sufficiently spooky tone, those aforementioned jump scares and a couple of truly harrowing scenes. He wrings what he can from a clichéd screenplay. As is often the case in haunted house flicks, dad is oblivious to what’s going on, while (step)mom is at first skeptical but slowly comes around. There’s also the old man who doles out ominous warnings and always looks nervous, obviously knowing more than he’s telling. Finally, we eventually discover some of the house’s dark secrets. These are not explained in nearly enough of a coherent manner, but still move the plot forward.

Speaking of the plot and things unexplained, we’re left with a number of holes and a blatant setup for a sequel. Given what happens in the beginning, the last scene doesn’t make sense other than to give those already frightened one last chill. This makes it a decent watch that falls apart under even rudimentary scrutiny. Therefore, it’s best if you don’t think about it too much. This includes not trying to figure out that ‘R’ rating I mentioned earlier. I get it, I guess. The opening scene is truly squirm inducing and one other scene is a bit on the bloody side. Still, it wouldn’t bother me one bit if this garnered a PG-13 especially since that’s the crowd likely to get the most enjoyment out of this. Either way, it’s best if watched in the dark you shouldn’t be afraid of with some jumpy people who are.

MY SCORE: 6/10

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