Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is mind-numbingly awful, I might as well say it straight out. It's just so...bad.
To be completely fair, I can't even recall the television movie of the same name. I may or may not have seen it, but seeing this updated version certainly didn't bring back any memories, good or bad.
With both writing and producing credits to his name, Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Pans Labyrinth, among others) brings us a film directed by Troy Nixey that for being R-rated, brings less scares than an especially tense episode of Glee. Having just witnessed on the big screen the marvel that is The Woman in Black, I am well aware that a PG-13 movie can still deliver the goods, so just knowing that DBAOTD is a film made for age 17+, just seriously appalls me. What the hell gave it an R rating? There was very little blood, few curse words, no nudity, and definitely NO intense frights.
|Another house to add to my list of horror favorites, to be sure!|
|Wait, is that Suri Cruise? Nope, Bailee Madison.|
When Dad puts a carousel night-light in her bedroom to help her sleep, its little tune awakens something in the long-forgotten cellar. We hear voices coming from the old fireplace, whispers that call to Sally and make her curious enough to sneak through the house in the dead of night with a flashlight to investigate. Believe me, she's much braver than you or I would be in the same circumstances.
|They're coming to get you, Sally....|
These little scurrying monsters cast a spooky shadow, but when they present themselves and you could pretty much kick them to the curb like a hockey puck: NOT. SCARY. They also put me in mind of the Compys from the second Jurassic Park movie - but of course the wee compsognathus is a much more terrifying specimen than what have here. These little jaspers growl and snarl and make crazy faces at Sally, and the more she tells her dad about them, the loonier he thinks she is, even calling in the child psychiatrist for a chat.
Meanwhile, Sally gets blamed for shredding a few of Kim's dresses with Alex's straight razor, and after a bit of a fit, Alex tells Sally to go to her room. Knowing that the sharp-implement-loving creatures are behind the deed, Sally draws pictures of them that Kim ends up finding. She becomes concerned (um, hello? No kidding!) and tries to convince Alex that something is going on. Alex is too busy with his career and hosting a dinner party for his architectural friends to be in the least bit eager to leave. Thankfully, Kim has a heart and she and Sally grow closer, determined to convince Alex that there is indeed, something to be scared of.
Naturally, the "terror" of the creatures escalates, but I really can't get behind what they are trying to do here. Like I said, if the creatures were in the least bit scary, I might be more inclined to enjoy the atmosphere of the awe-inspiring yet ominous house, but I almost felt stupid for watching this film. It actually started to make me a dumber individual!
|Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce in the most fantastic basement I have ever seen!|
I expected so much more when I originally heard this film was being made. I mean, del Toro has a reputation for exemplary work, even though he seems to be rumored to have about fifty different films in the works. Like one of the lines in The Breakfast Club, "I expected more from a Varsity letterman!"
I have a sneaking suspicion that it may have been a scarier film if they would not have shoved the creatures down our throat, giving us glances of them at every opportunity. The lousy CGI that generally kills any film of this kind did just that here. In a world where things that lurk in the basement are made to jump out at us and say cheese, it just falls utterly flat. I am a much bigger fan of what you can't see.
Again, I have no idea what made this an R-rated film. There are a few moments of blood here and there, but nothing even remotely hair-raising or even macabre. It has the usual haunted house enticements: tragic past, dark corridors, voices in the darkness, warnings from the doomed hired help, etc., but there's not really much else to say about it. It had serious potential, and flopped terribly. I'm assuming it is supposed to be a "monster" movie, per se, but wow.
Worse than that even, I read somewhere the creatures in this particular basement were supposed to be fairies. Um, really?
Also detrimental was the oh-so predictable and anti-climactic ending. One that I saw coming a mile away. But hey, at least there was an ending. Too bad I can't get those ninety-nine minutes back...