Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – Review

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – Review

By Darren Moverley – 3/10

This is a silly horror movie with the kind of daft plot that seems ripped from a particularly bad episode of a children’s television show like Goosebumps or Are you afraid of the dark? Even the childish title suggests the inspiration came from those children’s television show. It’s so lazy and arbitrary they might as well have called it Jitterbugs or Boo!

It’s hard to believe that this came from the mind of the most imaginative fantasy filmmaker currently working in the industry: Guilermo Del Toro. The film proudly proclaims to be presented by Del Toro at the start. A film presented by an established director is a sure sign that it is total schlock: see Wes Craven presents Wishmaster; Francis Ford Coppola presents Jeepers Creepers. It’s a marketing gimmick that has the opposite effect to that intended. If said director is so keen to present the idea, why didn’t they direct it themselves? Del Toro also wrote this – and his influence is all over it – but he probably decided not to direct as it is an impossible task to make this creature feature into the genuinely scary horror movie it wants to be.

It starts bad and gets progressively worse. The period set prelude is hammy and over-the-top. We are then thrust into the present where the unlikely couple of Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes – two actors who look awkward and clueless in a horror movie – inexplicably decide to live in the kind of house that would prompt a child to scrawl manically in black crayon within minutes of arrival. Unfortunately for them they’ve brought a child along, who, unfortunately for her, looks haunted and frightened even before she steps inside the creepy mansion.

What will she do when she makes contact with the malignant threats that lurk in the dark basement? Are they real or just a figment of her dark imagination?

Now the house itself is the star of the film. It creates a foreboding atmosphere and it really deserves a better standard of supernatural threat.

The problems for the film start when the creatures, which look menacing in the shadows, come forward and look horribly comical in full view. They are one foot mischievous imps; if a randy elf raped a rodent, then their ugly offspring would probably look like these ankle biting critters.

Films which feature one-foot monsters usually have the good sense to not take themselves too seriously and instead play for laughs as well as scares. After all, if you can kill a creature by stepping on it, then how threatening can it really be? Gremlins and Critters were both franchises that adopted a tongue-in-cheek tone and therefore they were both funny and occasionally frightening. The director of Don’t be afraid of the dark makes the big mistake of taking the screenplay deadly serious. It doesn’t have a chance of scaring anyone over ten years old. In fact you are going to be mightily annoyed if you’ve paid money to see Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and a spooky child unconvincingly battle some badly designed CG, English speaking, mini rat monsters.

The finale includes one of the most implausible movie deaths in screen history. If a character had been flapped to death by angry butterflies it would no doubt be more scary and convincing than this.

Don’t be afraid of the dark is about as much fun as waking up in the middle of the night to find a rat sitting on your face crouching in the crapping position . In a word: rancid. If you want to be scared by angry rodents, go to the local pet shop and prod a hamster with a pencil. Doing that would be infinitely more frightening than this sorry mess of a horror film.

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

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