This is a semi-familiar tale, of a girl (Bailee Madison) who is sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in the historic mansion that they are renovating together. The great thing about this movie is it is not chock-full of deaths, pointless gore or over the top rock music that fees like advertising.
It is suspenseful, and thrilling though not necessarily scary, not that it doesn’t provide a few jolts in your seat. As soon as Sally (Madison, of Just Go With It, and Brothers) moves in, the house’s deadly past begins surfacing, at first to only Sally, making it all the more frusterating.
An evil presence, we’ll call it, though it is not ghosts or devils, think something more typical of Del Toro, seen in Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth, is prevalent here…
At first Sally thinks her interactions with the creatures are merely playful, though god knows why any little girl would be so open to befriending creepy whispering creatures that live in a basement furnace grate. I suppose loneliness and resent towards her mother who sent her away could explain her monster naivety. Things do take a turn for the worse when Sally slowly discovers the truth about her new pals.
Eventually it feels like a bit of a haunted house flick when nowhere feels safe, and every moment is on edge, even daytime. The beauty in Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark lies in Del Toro’s mythology. This guy knows how to set up a story, from the beginning to the end, which sadly is rare in horror movies, bet heree there is a consistency. Well-thought out consistency that you know was not tossed together by a few tired writers sitting around drinking venti lattes wishing they were home watching ESPN.
Guillermo Del Toro’s writing duties are split with Matthew Robbins, who co-wrote Mimic with him in 1997. Everything is high quality, from the beautiful cinematically classical music to the cinematography to the above average acting, for horror. I am thrilled to see Katie Holmes back in a movie, after Tom Cruise’s Scientology-kidnapping of the once rising starlet.
Pearce’s father character, Alex, is typically daft and disbelieving (like most leading male Del Toro characters) and too busy with his architectural investments to notice much else, whether it’s with his daughter (though he does try) or his girlfriend, who seems more concerned for Sally’s safety and convinced of the looming danger at hand.
Ultimately I am not pleased with the ending, well, I am, but am not in another way that I cannot mention, to avoid spoilers. Regardless, this is a good film, perhaps a horror movie for the more open-minded fans of true storytelling and intellect. As much intellect as a film about a creepy house can have. I agree with Roger Ebert on this one (and every other) I give it three and a half lemons out of five.
Reasons TO See Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark:
- Excellent storytelling, acting, cinematography and music, especially for a horror movie
- Katie Holmes’ revival
- MONSTERS, and a haunted house
- Creepy, and suspenseful
- Guillermo Del Toro (as writer and producer) has he EVER let you down?
Reasons NOT To see it:
- One of the main characters, possibly two, are fairly unlikable/distant
- You may or may not like the creature effects (I was fine with them)
- Relies heavily on a very small pool of characters
- Slightly controversial ending?