Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Rhoades)

Shining Light on “Don’t Be Afraid Of the Dark”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Kids fear the dark. After all, there might a monster hiding in the closet. Or a goblin lurking under the bed.

Back in 1973 a TV movie played to those fears. In the contra-named “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” a young woman (Kim Darby) discovers goblin-like creatures living in a sub-basement under the house.

Even though I’d been raised on drive-in horror features like “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” and “The Mummy,” this scary premise that tiny monsters might be running rampant in my home struck a nerve. Should I call an exterminator?

Hollywood is the ultimate recycler. A new version of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is now playing at the Tropic Cinema.

In this remake, the young girl who discovers the goblin infestation is played by Bailee Madison (a veteran actress since appearing in a TV commercial at two weeks old). Guy Pearce (“Memento,” “L.A. Confidential”) takes over the father role played by the late Jim Hutton. And Katie Holmes (Mrs. Tom Cruise) stars as the father’s girlfriend, a slight twist on the original movie. Katie’s character is named Kim, perhaps an homage to the original star.

Horror movies require naïve or stupid characters. Who else would venture forth when warned, “Don’t go in the basement”? Here, young Sally (Bailee Madison) discovers a hidden basement with a sealed fireplace. Despite her dad’s admonishment she pries open the portal, allowing these goblins to escape into the house. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Kim (Katie Holmes) does a little research, discovering that a previous owner’s son disappeared. Before vanishing, the boy had ranted about tiny Stone Age creatures that abducted children to replenish their ranks.

Katie Holmes says, “When I read this script, I was scared and I had to turn on all the lights in my house. I thought I heard noises. And I held my child really close.”

Write-producer Guillermo del Toro spent 15 years chasing the rights to redo “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” Then he tapped comic-book artist Troy Nixey to direct the film. “First-time directors, it’s a bigger risk but when you’ve made the right choice the reward is 10 times more satisfactory,” he defends his choice.

“I had a great time working with him,” gushes Katie Holmes. “He’s an amazing illustrator and to see that translated into his work with visual design it was really exciting.” And scary. After seeing the results, she admits, “I usually sleep with the lights on.”

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