By Morgan Cordary–
From classics like “Poltergeist” and “The Omen,” film audiences have always found horror stories centered around children to be particularly creepy. Writer Guillermo del Toro’s work and Troy Nixey’s new film “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” produces an effect similar to its horror predecessors, but leaves something to be desired. Del Toro’s impressive resume and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s” downright terrifying theatrical trailer were slightly misleading to audiences, ultimately resulting in disappointment.
The film opens with a scene from Blackwood Manor in the 19th century showing how its owner disappeared. In the first modern day scene, architect Alex, portrayed by actor Guy Pearce, and his new, young girlfriend Kim, depicted by Katie Holmes, are at the airport awaiting the arrival of Alex’s daughter Sally, acted by Bailee Madison. In the days following her arrival, Sally is very apprehensive about leaving her mother and having to form a relationship with her father’s girlfriend. Meanwhile Alex and Kim continue to fix up Blackwood Manor with the intention of selling it and making the cover of a real estate magazine.
Sally hears an eerie voice from the basement calling her name and for days she becomes obsessed with discovering what’s hiding in the blocked furnace. When Sally unleashes the evil from the basement into the mansion, she must gain Kim’s trust to save the family.
Bailee Madison’s performance as Sally is definitely one of the film’s strongest points. She doesn’t seem like a clueless, immature child but rather a captivating young actress whom the audience becomes easily attached to early on in the film. With del Toro’s experienced touch, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” uses excellent character and plot development to set itself apart from cookie-cutter horror flicks in which all characters are disposable.
The theatrical trailer was a misleading collection of the film’s scariest scenes, and the R rating was confusing to say the least. Increased exposure of the mansion’s evil creatures made it more reminiscent of “Gremlins” rather than any of del Toro’s previous works. Since it opened on Friday, Aug. 26, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” has played regular shows at Stoneybrook Cinemas, Dixie Dozen and Preston Crossings. However, if you’re looking for something to scare you for longer than a collective 5 minutes, this one is better to skip.
Photo courtesy of Miramax Films