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While it's pleasantly atmospheric and initially quite scary, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark ultimately fails to deliver the skin-crawling chills of the original. Read critic reviews
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Dec 01, 2013First of all, the rating is all wrong. I think 15 is more like it. There were times when the characters' actions were painfully stupid and I thought the ending was rubbish. Despite all that, I really enjoyed this one.
Oct 11, 2013<B><I>DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK</I> (1973 and 2010)</B> WRITTEN BY: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins (2010), from, the 1973 script by Nigel McKeand DIRECTED BY: John Newland (1973); Troy Nixey (2010) FEATURING: Kim Darby, Tamara De Treaux, William Demarest, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Robert Cleaves (1973) Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Jack Thompson, Garry McDonald, Alan Dale, Julia Blake (2010) GENRE: <B>HORROR</B> TAGS: mystery, haunted house, demons RATING <B> (2010 version): 5 PINTS OF BLOOD</B> RATING <B> (1973 version): 8 PINTS OF BLOOD</B> PLOT:<B> Upon the breaking of a seal in a long disused basement, tiny devils escape and seek to murder the house occupants.</B> COMMENTS: If you're looking for scary movies to watch on Halloween, the Screaming Room has two for you this week which fit the bill very nicely! Guillermo del Torro (CRONOS ; MIMIC ; SPLICE ) has written an update of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, a 1970's horror movie which achieved cult status. It's well-produced, bold, loud, visually spectacular, and worth seeing, although it loses some of the essence of what made the original so good. For purists, the first version is also available, newly digitally remastered. The two films nicely compliment each other. The late 1960's and early 1970's brought a number of high quality, made for TV network horror pictures, especially those produced for ABC Movie Of The Week. Considering they were made for television and aired during family hour, these efforts are original and imaginative. What's more, they're actually scary. The movies had a lot of atmosphere, the characters died awfully, and the stories didn't always have the happy endings so requisite today. Examples include films such as PICTURE MOMMY DEAD (1966), DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969), HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLEN (1970), SEE NO EVIL (1971), THE STONE TAPE ( 1972), THE EYES OF CHARLES SAND (1972), ALL THE KIND STRANGERS (1974), and DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982). Asserting what a profound impression it made on him, filmmaker Guillermo del Torro felt compelled to reinterpret the 1973 TV movie DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. . In the original, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, Kim Darby (Mattie in the first TRUE GRIT ) plays yuppie homemaker Sally Farnham, who's plagued by demons she unwittingly unleashes from an ash pit underneath a sealed-up basement fireplace. With major plot elements repeated a year later in The Exorcist, and makeup characterizations which reappeared in the PUPPET MASTER films, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK provides chills and Freudian undertones unexpected in a family hour TV movie of the time period. As the goblins' maliciousness becomes increasingly aggressive, Sally's behavior grows correspondingly erratic; her friends and power-attorney husband are convinced she's gone mad. The little ones want Sally body and soul. After assaulting a naked Sally in the shower with a straight razor, they ineptly kill her decorator by mistake, leaving Sally as the suspect. When her distracted husband leaves town on business, Sally's left alone with her demons -literally. She finds herself in a bind when the demented Lilliputians tie her up Gulliver style, and drag her short-skirted, quivering, moaning form to the cellar for God-knows-what. Artfully filmed in shadow and light, the premise works better than you might think. It's one that must be handled skillfully lest it become funny for the wrong reasons, with a silliness akin to the Evil Monkey hiding in Chris Griffin's closet in the animated TV sitcom, Family Guy. Writer Nigel McKeand (in whose McKnight-Hill style Victorian home DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was filmed) and director John Newland pull it off almost as frighteningly as Stephen Spielberg executed a nearly identical premise a year earlier in the chilling and shocking 1972 made-for-television, SOMETHING EVIL. In the 2010 DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, as would be expected in anything authored by Guillermo del Torro, the elements are enhanced and grotesquely larger than life. The manor is huge and Gothic, the small amount of violence is bloody, and the pit under the basement fireplace becomes a bottomless chasm to hell. The film begins with a backstory which is only alluded to in the original. Sadly, del Torro drops the ball later in the film by trying to explain too much with his characteristic love of mixing myth with "history." The haunted mansion's original patriarch is enslaved to the goblins, and our first encounter with him has him yanking out his maid's molars and feeding them to subterranean demons as an offering. Despite it's R rating (there's no nudity), DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2010) is a kid's movie. In this new version, Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) is a taciturn, pouting little girl who moves to a mammoth country estate with her recently divorced dad (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes). Imposing sets and dreamlike cinematography are right out of a demented Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. This child's eye view technique is typical of del Torro. The optical footprint of DON'T BE AFRAID is what most distinguishes it. It's overdone, but visually spectacular in exactly the sort of way you would expect a big budget haunted house yarn for kids to be. There's artistic use of visual continuity. The elaborate latticework of Sally's headboard compliments the brass screens of the air vents and the artfully carved antique benches on the manor's grounds. With camera angles such as one in which Sally finds herself standing in a ring of toadstools, and another in which her face is framed by a tangle of vines, the implication is clear: Sally is webbed in. Like the perpetually foreboding and gloomy skies overheard, the mansion's cathedral-sized interiors are almost always cast in shadow. Akin to catacombs, duct work entwines its way through the walls. Creaking and groaning like a giant bellows with its myriad of ornamental grated heat ducts leading to an abysmal, possessed basement incinerator, the very edifice itself seems complicit in what is to transpire. And what transpires is that Sally is either very naughty, or has the IQ of a stringbean, because after the demons in the sealed-up basement incinerator whisper some very nasty, sick things to her in their hoarse croaks, she of course unbolts the damn thing and lets them out. Slowly, sardonically, all hell breaks loose in the Hurst household. Sally's phantasms embark on a malevolent series of destructive endeavors, for which Sally gets the blame, widening an already tense divide between Sally and her elders. As a result, Sally perversely attempts to bond with the goblins out of frustration. The plan backfires, and a child psychologist makes the scene as the situation spirals horribly out of control. The little entities really want to kill Sally. She's trapped in the mansion with them, and nobody will believe her. Sally will have to scheme her own salvation. You'll see some stock conventions in this 2010 version which will remind you of frivolous, campy movies which were likely inspired by the 1973 original: Greminlins, Ghoulies, Beasties, The Puppet Master franchise, etc. The plethora of films about tiny hellraisers in our collective memory tames the fright factor in Guillermo del Torro's version. That's a shame because there's nothing lighthearted about the DON'T BE AFRAID movies. They're deathly serious and the premise works. In the re-make, thanks to 21st century technology, the demons are impressive and scary, They get a lot more camera time than in the original. Sometimes less is more however. The goblin chill factor in the second film contrasts with the way the original cultivated our fear. In that one we caught for the most part, only fleeting glances out of the corners of our eyes, of the darting poltergeists. The known is never as frightening as the unknown. Which version of this story is the best? Both have their merits. The 2010 release has a contemporary feel and it's family-friendly. It's a big-screen extravaganza. The 1973 DON'T BE AFRAID is more intimate and is aimed at grown-ups. Despite the impressive special effects in the remake, the 1973 film's economy of sensation makes it the more sophisticated effort. In the 2010 film, Del Torro does a clever job of expounding upon the plot elements and story essence of its predecessor, making it bolder and more colorful. While this second DON'T BE AFRAID is solidly in the horror genre, with lots of loud, malevolent action, the first film is more subtle, features some genuine chills, and achieves its horror agenda by building an atmosphere of slowly mounting dread. The 1973 DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK has just been digitally remastered on DVD. Both DON'T BE AFRAID movies make a good Halloween package, but if you're trying to decide between one or the other, here's a final thought: When the studios redo a solid film, they often rearrange some of the details, such as who does what, and what happens to whom. This keeps the updated version from being a predictable duplicate. It also tends to weaken the story. The writers usually got it right the first time.
Jun 22, 2013Entertaining Movie. I liked Katie Holmes acting in the Movie. I have never seen such a brutal scene in a Movie already in the beginning. Poor lady. Very clever creatures, what made them very grumpy and Nasty. Well if I were thousands years in the Dark and under the surface of the ground I would be grumpy too. lol
Nov 02, 2012So yeah, these little creatures definately aren't the delightful ones that Bailee Madison faced in Terabithia. If you ask me, I say don't be afraid of the dark, little Bailee Madison, be afraid of Adam Sandler, because earlier in 2011, Little Nicky got Madison in "Just Go With It", a title that makes an offer that I hope Madison will not accept too often, because as young as she is, she is just too good of an actress to be in films like that, as this film further proves, which makes this film's being so underwhelming all the more disappointing. Granted, it's still a pretty likable film, and one that does actually get pretty tense, yet it's a bit hard to be fully invested in the situation, because I always had a prediction about what's behind the terror that end up wrong, yet still stood firm: Xenu, coming for Katie Holmes. I don't really know why Tom Cru-I mean, Xenu (Don't worry Tommy, I'll try not to blow your cover, you immortal rascal you) had to terrorize this little girl along the way, but hey, this is Guillermo del Toro we're talking about, and if he's tackling a dark fantasy film with a little girl, he's going to work in child endangerment somewhere. Shoot, if he was writing an episode of "Barney and Friends", he would probably have Barney turn into a demon and eat one of the kids, which is why Del Toro probably should have worked with Pete Jackson years ago, because these not so heavenly creatures seriously needed to do something about those obnoxious brats in "Heavenly Creatures", and probably would have made "The Lovely Bones" a bit more interesting. Yeah, I joke, but I still really liked "The Lovely Bones" ("Heavenly Creatures" was garbage though, shut up), and certainly more than this film, which isn't to say that this film is bad, as it is indeed pretty decent, and certainly more so than "Just Go With It". Sorry Adam, but I think I'll go with this film instead, and yet, even then, it's hard to fully go with this film at times, for although the final product gets under skin at times, it's all too often too slow to catch up with my full attention. Now, quite frankly, while I wasn't necessarily going in expecting something terribly boring, I was expecting this film to dull out quite a bit, and while the final product is certainly not as slow as I expected, all too often, things limp along too slowly for the film's own good, whether it be because of atmospheric overbearingness or simply because of there being nothing going on. Being more along the lines of suspense horror, this film relies on a lot of atmosphere and anything but a lot of eventfulness, and although that very often works, perhaps just as often, it leaves the film to get too steady and do-little for its own good, as well as pretty repetitious with what events it does, in fact, boast. Of course, the flaws in Guillermo del Toro's and Matthew Robbins' plotting certainly don't end there, as further damage to momentum is dealt by most every plot point being a familiar one, until the final product's story is made nothing if not cliched and conventional. Steam takes further damage from some of those conventions being of a somewhat farfetched nature, for although certain character and story happenings didn't go as far over my head as it did for others, make no mistake, even I, an overthinking white person, have to admit that I couldn't fully lock into the mindsets of some of the characters, nor could I fully lock into this film's mythology at times, thanks to a few hardly buyable occasions that you can still see coming just enough for even the more relatively farfetched moments to supplement the predictability that plagues this film. This film is more intelligent, well-crafted and, certainly, ambitious than plenty of other horror films of its type and level of slowness and conventionalism, and that carries this film a fair ways, and may even dilute the sting of the film's missteps, yet not so much so that the missteps don't stand as clear as day, for although this film could have fallen more flat, it very much could have hit more. The film is watchable, yet getting past its missteps presents too difficult of a challenge, as the film limps along too much for its own good, and plummets into too many moderately farfetched occasions and glaring tropes along the way, until it is finally rendered too predictable to be all that engrossing, and with the ambition behind this project making things feel even more awkward, the promising final product collapses as rather blandly underwhelming. Of course, for every slip-up, there is something to pull this film from the darkness and into the little of decency, for although this film stands to cut deeper, it still gets to you at times, with visual style never ceasing to strike. Although it's a bit hard to see, the film's pretty promising and effectively hooking opening quite possibly delivers the most when it comes to visual style, yet never throughout this film does Oliver Stapleton's cinematography truly underwhelm, as it boasts clever coloring, lighting and definition detail that absorbs the visual depth of this film in fashion that's rarely all that breathtaking, yet consistently strikes, whether when we're facing pretty brighter moments or neatly bleak darker moments. The film's visual style compliments the dark depths of the film's themes, and as far as musical style is concerned, well, yeah, this film really doesn't deliver all that much, for even Marco Beltrami's and Buck Sanders' is quite conventional, to the point of actually diluting the film's effectiveness almost more often than not. However, when Beltrami and Sanders do actually find true musical inspiration, while they can't dismiss the glaring conventionalism, they hit with tracks that not only provide decent tunes, but intensify the atmospheric bite of the film with either intriguing somberness or gripping intensity. Of course, in order for something to be intensified, it must first be established, and while that ol' comic book-writting Canuck Tony Nixey doesn't deliver as much as he should with his feature-film debut, when he does, in fact, deliver, he hits pretty hard, presenting an atmosphere graced with a kind of ominous bite that often creeps under your skin and creates intrigue, and when that intrigue comes to a head, Nixey delivers on some pretty tight tension that sometimes pulls you to the edge of your seat, sometimes breathes life into a sense of consequence and almost always engages, to one extent or another. Nixey still stands to thrill more, yet he does deliver on tension when he needs to most, while keeping consistent in an intrigue that keeps you going, and goes assisted as a supplement to the engagement value by the performances, or at least one in particular. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce do their jobs, and do them well, as you would expect them to, but at the end of the day, the final product really rests upon the shoulders of the extremely young leading lady Bailee Madison, and let me tell you, while this film limits material for Madison so much that it keeps her from delivering a consistently truly upstanding performance, Madison further proves herself to be a promising talent by capturing the Sally Hurst character's uneasiness, - both as a young girl facing such usual problems as family issues and as the victim of something as certainly less usual as teeth-stealing demonic terrorists - as well as other defining aspects with believability, while delivering on emotional range and an effective presence that leaves Madison to become both Hurst and a reasonably compelling lead. Sure, Madison doesn't have the material to make this film as compelling as it should be, going opposed by many missteps that undercut the strengths of the film, yet in the end, Madison finds herself standing as just one of the fair share of strengths that manage to fight back the missteps just enough for the final product to stand as a decent chiller. In conclusion, atmospheric overbearingness and do-little plotting, made all the worse by repetition, create slowness that deals damage to the film's momentum, which goes further slowed down by the film's excessively plummeting into cliches, some of which are of a somewhat farfetched nature, thus leaving this promising project to fall as underwhelming, yet not so much so that it fails to get to you more often than not, attracting your eyes with striking visual style, and attracting your investment with genuinely effective moments in director Troy Nixey's atmosphere, which, at the very least, provides enough consistent intrigue - supplemented by a reasonably compelling lead performance by young Bailee Madison - to make Guillermo del Toro's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" a generally engaging chiller, even it does still stand to thrill more. 2.5/5 - FairCameron J Super Reviewer