Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a remake of a 1973 TV movie and if they kept it as a TV movie it would probably have been received better by the audience I saw it with. Because all it really is is a movie to scare 8-year-old kids. It thinks it’s clever and spooky, but is in actuality just an extended episode of the pre-teen show Goosebumps.
Sally (Bailee Madison) has been sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his young girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in their creepy new Rhode Island house that they are renovating. Sally snoops around the property after she gets there and discovers the house has a basement (which, mysteriously enough, no else noticed). The basement, however, is home to little creatures that want to rip Sally’s teeth out and kill her.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, I expected some really spooky stuff in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Sadly, right from the beginning flashback I was letdown and bored. The atmosphere had so much potential to be freaky and yet it was somehow all wasted. More people were laughing at the movie than jumping out of their seats. And the CGI of the creatures only made me want to watch The Gate (1987) again, which is similar in story but does a much better job at being scary.
What really bothered me most about the movie though is how stupid all the characters were. Pearce’s dad character shows no emotion at all towards his daughter, brushes off her fears, and drugs her to shut her up. Holmes’ character is no better. She realizes Sally is telling the truth, starts to pack to leave, and then goes and puts her to bed after she’s attacked by the creatures. Did I miss something or are these people absolutely clueless?
Director Troy Nixey showed a lot of potential with his short film Latchkey’s Lament. With Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark he comes across as a hack in the same league as Paul W.S. Anderson. Hopefully this is just a bumpy start for him and is not the groundwork for his career.
Unless you have young kids you want to scare, skip Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark until you can watch it at home on your TV. Where it belongs.
Top image: A scene from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Courtesy Alliance Films.