DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
Directed by Troy Nixey. Starring Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce. 100 mins.
In cinemas October 7
FORMULAIC HORROR OFFERS CHILLING MOMENTS, BUT ITS ANTI-SMURF DEMONS FAIL TO SCARE
Depressed and lonely since her parents’ divorce, young Sally (the fantastic Bailee Madison) becomes the perfect target for murderous beings that dwell in the basement of her father’s (Guy Pearce) home. Preying on Sally’s vulnerability and her father’s belief that she’s psychologically disturbed, the light-evading beings slowly seduce Sally, promising her a better life if only she’ll join them.
From the bone-chillingly atmospheric prologue, to the potential exploration of a disturbed child’s mind, it’s clear why writer and producer Guillermo del Toro wanted to remake the 1973 made-for-tv movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Based around scuttling, psyche-scarring shadows, the film lends itself brilliantly to the Horrormaster’s trademark techniques of terror; a love of atmospheric settings, eerie lighting and creepy critters.
But perhaps too reliant on del Toro’s skill at maintaining tension, neophyte director Troy Nixey unveils his creatures far too early, completely deflating any suspense within the first act. With no surprises left and the molerat-gnome bullies proving frankly underwhelming, nothing remains to conceal the fact that the formulaic screenplay is riddled with as many outrageous plot-holes as it is potential jokes about Scientologist Katie Holmes starring in an anti-psychiatry film which finds her apprehended by sinister midgets.
From the creature’s muddled motivations to the unrelenting stupidity of the protagonists, to the lengthy exposition-laden monologues aimed to assist cerebrally challenged audience members, the film emanates an infuriating laziness. A vicious, terrifying attack on Sally in a darkened bathroom becomes a potential-laden tease, a lingering demonstration of the unsettling atmosphere that could have been achieved had any care been paid to the screenplay.
The title of this film is meant to be a creepily ironic jab; an exercise in reverse psychology; a dare you can’t help but fail. Instead, it becomes merely a simple instruction, one very easily followed. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark? You won’t be.
See the trailer here.