Writer/producer Guillermo del Toro’s remake of the 1973 made-for-television movie “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” may have well been marketed under R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” heading.
That is not to say the new R-rated horror flick should be viewed by children. After all, it is bloody, violent and downright dark (for lack of a better word). However, while it is definitely fun, “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” is too silly to be scary yet too funereal to be funny.
Bailee Madison plays Sally, a young girl who moves to Rhode Island to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in the 19th-century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the house, Sally starts to hear voices coming from creatures in the basement whose hidden agenda is to claim her as one of their own.
Sure, it sounds absolutely terrifying but, unfortunately, even the most finicky filmgoer will have no trouble sleeping like a baby after having seen “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” Somebody ought to tell del Toro that it takes more than just an eerie atmosphere to scare people – especially in the wake of far more effective horror flicks, like this past spring’s “Insidious.”
On the other hand, del Toro gets credit for at least trying something that resides outside of the realm of the norm. The little creatures that terrorize the family in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” may not be very intimidating but at least they are not your run-of-the-mill antagonist. Therefore, at the very least, the movie is entertaining.
Moreover – and this was likely unintentional – “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is quite the knee-slapper. It might have actually worked as a comedy if the consequences exhibited over the course of the film were not so sobering. Instead, we are left watching a movie in which everything is oddly idyllic and the characters are naïve to the point of stupidity.
Still, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is worth a watch simply for the amusement. Its old fashioned ideas about horror are enjoyable, especially if you are tired of the same old serial killers, dead Japanese girls and rebooted psychopaths that plague the genre as of late. However, do not be surprised if you end up rooting for the little creatures to successfully “claim” Madison. Her acting is atrocious.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (R – 99 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.