Rating: 2 stars out of 5
The Stars: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson
The Story: Based on the 1973 made-for-television movie, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark bears much resemblance to its original, but instead of focusing on an adult female protagonist, this 2011 remake tells the tale of young Sally (Madison) – a feisty but slightly emo little girl who had to deal with her parents’ divorce. To make things worse, her flighty mother suddenly dumps her in rural town with her estranged, workaholic architect father (Pearce) and his new interior designer girlfriend (Holmes).While the grown-ups are busy renovating the old Rhode Island mansion, Blackwood Manor - also their place of residence, Sally becomes the unfortunate target for a group of raspy-voiced, supernatural beings who lurk in the darkest depths of their new home and seem to be relentlessly hunting her for their own nefarious purposes.
The Buzz: The movie was co-produced and co-written by director Guillermo del Toro (Blade II, Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy series), who was reportedly so scared witless by the old TV movie that he decided to rehash the original with a couple of his own flourishes.
inSing.com thinks: Del Toro has consistently delivered rather skilled fantasy fare with the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and even the Hellboy franchise. Sure, the guy seems a bit kooky, but with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark he seems completely off his mark.
The film’s screenplay is sadly uneven and riddled with loopholes that would be apparent to anyone who possesses more than two brain cells to rub together.
Namely, despite the fact that we’re given the impression the creatures need to take a child’s life to boost their numbers/survive, we find out later it’s really any human life, though they never bothered to harass any of the adults in the house until Sally appears.
There’s also a housekeeper/gardener (Thompson) who’s obviously privy to the secrets of the house although we never find out how, and whose role is ultimately unnecessary and wholly confusing.
Another strange inclusion comes in the form of an over-zealous librarian who provides a lot of exposition mid-way in an attempt to hastily explain some of the missing parts of the story. The acting is mostly plausible; when you have Holmes out-doing Pearce you know you have a problem.
Fortunately, Madison turns in a lovely little performance and adds genuine terror to the handful of suspenseful moments (to give del Toro credit, there were a few scenes of palpable tension).
If she plays her casting cards right, she could well be on her way to Abigail Breslin/Dakota Fanning success. For now, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark might be a film she’d want to leave off her resume.