"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" Guillermo Del Toro, the fantastical auteur behind "Hellboy" and the critically acclaimed "Pan's Labyrinth" is a legend. Indeed, with his fascile skill in showing supernatural creatures from other worlds that exist in our own man made historical horror-zones, he has earned that esteem.
With the current "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark", he has tried his hand at producing and writing. Del Toro, it seems, has entered a Spielberg phase, and has handed the reins to famed comic artist Troy Nixey. Del Toro himself wrote the screenplay, which is based on an old made for tv movie that was supposedly one of the most frightening things on tv at that time.
Perhaps so. But... from the look of things on the net, I have my doubts. This new version, from what I can deduce, follows the original pretty closely: An architect (Guy Pearce) moves in with his troubled young daughter (Bailee Madison), and new fiancée (Katie Holmes) to a creaky overbearing, over-polished old house. There are strange little creatures living in the ash-pit or the basement or somewhere Down There. Egad! I say!
I'll be honest. The first fifteen minutes were quite scary. I turned my head away. But the scare factor had more to do with the sudden jolts of noise then the actual images. Having CP, makes me an easy jumper as it is. The most frightening segment of the film is the beginning. A man goes after a lady's mouth with a chisel to remove her teeth and then gets dragged Under with horrible screams. True horror comes from within and the unseen. The initial events are scary because we haven't seen the creatures. We can only hear the strange rhythmic, snickering whispers.
But as soon as we get a glimpse of the gnomic pests, sometimes rodent-like, sometimes like something from an unproduced sequel to "Gremlins" the film loses its jolt. It becomes comic-- A Lovecraftian Saturday morning cartoon. Demonic fairies under the bed? Scary? Rated R? Is the MPAA on Ambien? I think Guillermo has lost his lenses. It isn't for kids? Or is it?
Okay, the film is about as scary as the cookie monster in most scenes. But I still enjoyed it. After a while it's fun to watch the little imps scamper about as the human adults make the same mistakes we've seen too many times: they open doors that they should leave undisturbed. And they kick around when they should leave---immediately without waiting for first light.
My favorite scene is when the little ones scamper about in a beautiful bouquet during a fancy dinner party. And then harass young Sally over a tablecloth. Pure kitsch!
If you want to focus on whatever eerieness "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has, look out instead for the artwork in the folios and the mural featured in the film. Creepy stuff with some of Del Toro's flair coming through here instead of those predictable scares.
The film does have a kind of campy retro charm that makes it watchable, so I guess in its own way it did succeed. Although fans of the original teleplay will have to judge for themselves.
I can't imagine you would loose any sleep over it either way.
Okay, now I'll turn out the light.
And with my luck, I'll probably jump.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org