Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark offers up your worst childhood nightmares
Starring Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, and Bailee Madison. Rated 14A.
Don’t you hate it when something crawls under your sheets in the night that isn’t your bedmate of choice, your cat, or Matt Damon? That sort of creepy crawling (and we’re not talking insects or spiders) happens in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and for a moment it’s your worst childhood nightmare come true on-screen. Aaaaaaah!
Guillermo del Toro obviously thought it would be super fun to relive his own apparent boyhood freak-out upon seeing the original 1973 TV horror flick by cowriting and producing this remake. Success! This film will so scare children out of their tender wits they’ll never, ever agree to move into an old mansion their dad and his girlfriend are renovating so they can get on the cover of Architectural Digest.
That’s what happens to young Sally (excellent Bailee Madison), whose divorced parents decide that living with architect/asshole daddy Alex (Guy Pearce) and his interior-decorator girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in a hulking, gothic East Coast house while they fix it up beats life in L.A. (Okay, they have a point.) Pronto, Sally discovers a basement nobody knew existed—Alex and Kim are, after all, only professionals rehabbing the entire house. And from a grate covering the furnace, Sally and we hear voices whispering Sally’s name, asking her to play. No, Sally, no!
First-time feature director Troy Nixey does conjure that feeling of lurking unknown menace. Glimpses of glowing eyes and sinister claws, and the sounds of “things” scuttling through air ducts and under beds are all stuff you don’t want in your own house, so good. But when the voices reveal their owners—with echoes of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth—and the nastiness kicks up, things feel rather less scary and more silly, if you’re a semisentient adult. Hey, dummies, just turn on some lights already.
Watch the trailer for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.