Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Boasting some impressive visual effects, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is nicely acted, atmospheric and genuinely creepy in places, but it's ultimately let down by some weak plotting and the fact that it plays its hand too early as far as the creatures are concerned.

What's it all about?
Directed by Troy Nixey and co-written by Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a reworking of a little-seen 1973 made-for-TV horror movie. Bailee Madison plays eight year old Sally, who reluctantly moves into an old Rhode Island mansion with her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new partner Kim (Katie Holmes), only to start hearing strange whispered voices almost as soon as she's unpacked.

Investigating the source of the voices, Sally finds a boarded up basement and quickly uncovers hordes of terrifying tiny creatures (think Evil Borrowers) who seem to want her to come and live with them. But can she get Alex or Kim to believe her before it's too late?

The Good
The genuinely creepy creatures are beautifully designed and superbly realised, thanks to some impressive visual effects work. Similarly, Nixey maintains a suitably suspenseful atmosphere throughout and some of the set-pieces are properly scary.

Madison is excellent, delivering a likeable and refreshingly feisty performance that works well. There's also strong support from Pearce, and Holmes is superb as the kindly, would-be stepmother who already has her work cut out trying to overcome Sally's suspicions of her.

The Bad
The main problem is that the film fails to live up to its brilliantly gory opening, in which the mansion's previous owner attempts to bargain with the creatures by doing some spectacularly nasty dental work on his housekeeper; not only does the film never get close to that level of gore again but you also spend the entire film waiting for a similar bargaining scene that never comes (teeth seem to play an important part in that first scene, yet they're never mentioned again).

In addition, the film kills any burgeoning sense of mystery by revealing the creatures too soon and there's a disappointing lack of action that isn't helped by some painfully weak plotting. On top of that, there are too many scenes where characters either behave unrealistically (there's at least one moment where any normal person would immediately leave the house) or fail to grasp the blindingly obvious, e.g. Kim not seeing the connection between the mansion owner's drawings and the creatures that Sally's been talking about.

Worth seeing?
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is worth seeing thanks to strong performances and some impressive effects work but its disappointing script ensures that it's never quite the horror classic it could have been.

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Content updated: 16/12/2017 05:04

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