THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Directed by Troy Nixey
“It is entertaining in the perfected Guillermo del Toro style.”
There’s been a lot of names in Hollywood that stand for something. Quentin Tarantino = witty dialogue. Alfred Hitchcock = heart breaking suspense. John Ford = epic Western. The Coen Brothers = off-kilter weirdness. For a guy like Guillermo del Toro, I’d have to label him as gothic horror. Not everything the man touches turns to gold, but if anything, he has a consistent style…even if he’s only writing and producing. Case in point: DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, a remake of the 1973 film of the same name (and same basic plot, obviously).
Directed by first timer Troy Nixey, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK follows interior designers Alex (Guy Pearce), his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes), and Alex’s daughter Sally (Bailee Madison). Alex has moved to Rhode Island to the Emerson Blackwood manor, where weird shit has gone on for years. As soon as they arrive, Sally, who was shipped there by her mother, starts to hear little voices coming from the basement. Of course, no one believes her but soon they do as the little voices have little bodies…mean little bastards who only want to do terrible, murderous things in the dark.
Like all del Toro films, the atmosphere and setting is picture perfect. Everything feels and looks has gritty and cold as it should. The mansion looks drafty as all hell and a miserable place to live, which is a good thing for a horror movie. For the most part, Nixey keeps the little monsters unseen, though I wish he would have kept it that way for longer (since the $25 million budget doesn’t allow for super fancy CGI). When we finally do meet the monsters, they look effectively creepy from a distance, but when seen up close…eh, not so much. At the same time, I wanted a bit more from the creatures, but then again, the mysterious nature of it all kind of works.
I’m always skeptical when it comes to kid actors as more times than not they ruin a movie if they aren’t going for full on weird-ass-killer-kid. But young Bailee Madison does well as Sally. She’s believable and likeable, even if she comes off a bit bratty (though who can blame her having to go live in a horror movie ready mansion). Katie Holmes is fine as the non-mother, though she doesn’t have a lot to do until the last half of the movie. Both her and Guy Pearce are just kinda there, not playing flushed out characters but just people who exist in space.
Actually, that’s my main complaint against DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. The waste of talent that is Guy Pearce. I’m not sure where his career went south (though he had a nice comeback in IRON MAN 3), but he’s completely useless here. Ever since MEMENTO, the man showed he had some real talent if given the right role. This isn’t that since Alex’s main purpose is to deny anything is wrong with his daughter and obsess over work. Typical dad, right?
So is DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK the epic horror movie that you never saw? No. But it is entertaining in the perfected Guillermo del Toro style.