It's safe to say that visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) makes a pretty good living off things that go bump in the night. The director of the upcoming Hobbit films produced and co-wrote one of this summer's only notable horror films Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. His decision, or whomever's decision it was, to let new-comer Troy Nixey lead this 1973, made-for-TV revival was the only noticeable flaw to this well-made remake.
The story follows a little, raven-haired girl named Sally who goes from her unloving mother's care in Los Angeles to Rhode Island where her father (Guy Pearce) and his lady-friend (Katie Holmes) are renovating a deceased painter's home that holds a demonic little secret. As if depressing family issues weren't enough, poor Sally can't even turn the lights off once her curiosity gets the best of her.
On the surface, it appears to have everything a good horror film needs: The spooky, Victorian-style mansion, the ominous New England weather and, of course, a child who would give Stephen King the heebie-jeebies. But it lacked in the most important area: The ability to consistently scare its audience from beginning to end.
Don't get me wrong, it had its moments - a scare here, a jump there - but once the little monsters come out to play, you start to realize a quality flashlight and a good pair of steel-toed boots can solve the family's infestation problem. Keeping the little creatures completely in the shadows would have done wonders for this film. We're scared of the unknown, not little gray monsters that do pinpoint Gollum impressions. It felt like a Guillermo del Toro film with a substitute director afraid to think outside the box.
Being Nixey's first big-league project as a director, he played it a bit too safe, not fully utilizing its "R" rating, leaving me to wonder what the final product would have been had Guillermo Del Toro positioned himself behind the camera. But where the film lacked in scares, it made up for in craftsmanship. This is an overall well-made movie supported by on-par acting from the film's main characters, justifying the movie ticket's price tag - which is always a plus.
For the easily scared, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark should do a fine job of delivering jolts of adrenaline while the thicker-skinned viewers may tilt their experience toward the disappointing side of the scale; an enjoyable film, just be sure to leave the expectations of witnessing the next Exorcist at home.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce
Directed by Troy Nixey