Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Miramax Films

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Troy Nixey

Review Rating: 7

After being sent to live with her father and his girlfriend in an old house they’re redecorating, young Sally discovers sinister creatures living there who want to claim her for their own!

I expected…more. I expected, something else? Guillermo Del Toro, for pete’s sake. He didn’t direct, I understand that, he helped write the film. The movie is also apparently a remake of the made-for-TV movie of the same name from 1973. Really? ’73? Oi vey. But then, if you love Del Toro’s work, you may have noticed at this point a delightfully disturbing trend of his, to make movies that involve Fairies that are hardly Tinkerbell material. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, are prime examples of this. And while dark Fae is awesome, this particular film is supposed to be a horror flick. Rather than relying on jump scares or gore, this movie concentrates on the acting and some amazing sets, plus some fairly good storytelling.

Everything starts off with Lord Blackwood, back in the day, summoning his housekeeper and making an offering of her teeth (yes you read that right) to the unseen creatures, in exchange for his son back. That never ends well, and we cut to present day. So Sally is sent to live with her father Alex, who separated from her mother awhile ago and moved in to renovate and hopefully sell the old Blackwood Manor of his current girlfriend, Kim. I would like to note just how much Kim did for this whole messed up family and especially Sally, considering that’s not her child and she’s simply the girlfriend of the father. Sally is sad and pouty, wanting nothing more than to go back home to her mother. Inevitably, she discovers through a series of mishaps, a basement, a boiler, and a locked door with runes above it that she just has to open, because she heard voices that told her to. (The runes apparently say BE AFRAID in Elder Futhark, they don’t say that in the movie, but I thought that was a neat touch.) Sally’s curiosity leads to the death of the maintenance man who’s been there the longest, and now that the Dark Fae are out, they’re coming after Sally to take her away too!

Guy Pearce is Alex, and frankly, I miss him taking roles like Memento, instead of this mess. His character is small minded and tunnel-visioned, and I just couldn’t stand the bad black hair. Katie Holmes is girlfriend Kim, and I admired the way she doggedly tried to help Sally, right up to her bitter end. The night of the big party, where Alex is giving a speech while Sally hunts Dark Fae under the dinner table, Kim is determinedly packing their things, to get Sally away from this awful situation. It doesn’t work out too well for Kim, but she’s still a freaking Hero. And then there’s Bailee Madison as Sally herself. Plucky, kind, and far too concerned with dark corners like Alice, Sally is supposed to be the star of the show. Or her, and the Dark Fae. Even with all the fine Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style acting and more CGI than you can shake a computer at, the Dark Fae creatures come across as looking like magical rats. And while yes, the idea of a bunch of magical rats coming at you in the dark to drag you down into a boiler and the darkness below to become one of them is very creepy, it’s not exactly terrifying visually. Willard was actually a lot more creepy, and had nary a CGI bit anywheres. Despite the fact that Kim went and researched the whole Blackwood manor mysterious deaths thing and got a brief education on some Dark Fae who like to eat childrens teeth, they didn’t much go into the backstory of the bad Fairies or the why of it all. And you don’t have to, that in and of itself can be scary, but it just leaves us more time to see the actors hot-footing it away from a green screen with scissor blades.

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