|Review: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Wednesday, 05 October 2011 13:28|
Director: Troy Nixey
If monsters are hiding in the shadowy parts of your house waiting to eat you, don't go running to Guy Pearce for help. He's flipping useless. That's the main lesson to take away from this Guillermo del Toro-produced horror based on the old 1970s TV movie. That and darkness? Yeah, it's terrifying.
As the title suggests, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark relies on a simple device: the dark. It hides the unknown and the things that go bump. So the first half of Troy Nixey's film is an unbearable string of unreliable torches, skirting boards, scuttling noises and spooky music.
No, it's not original, but that's the point. What horror film hasn't relied upon the fact that what you don't see is what scares the most?
Of course, 10 year old Sally (Madison), stuck with her dad (Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Holmes), sees everything. While the adults renovate an old house (OF DEATH), Sally explores the basement as tiny voices whisper to her. "Come here, Sally... We want to be friends..." the voices say. And stupid little idiot Sally listens.
Introducing a child protagonist into the mix is a very del Toro thing to do. It's also what makes the movie work - Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes are good, but the parent-child relationship has none of the impact of other films, like The Orphanage. Instead, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark uses its talented young lead to keep things as stripped down and tense as possible.
As Sally runs around catching glimpses of limbs and teeth, Nixey's smooth low-level camera captures that childhood feeling of sheer terror. You'll spend most of the movie trying to think of anything but what's in front of you. Does your phone need charging? What about that shopping list you meant to write? Who were the seven wives of Henry VII again?
It's a shame that the terror fades away when the creatures are revealed - they're like the hairy love children of Hellboy II's fairies and the apes from Planet of the Apes - but the cliched set pieces are still amusing fun. And as long as Sally's on screen, you'll feel less like biting your nails and more like chewing your whole hand off. Just don't go running to Guy Pearce when you've got no arm left.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a terrifying bundle of old-school scares. Just hope they keep the lights on during the screening.
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