Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a theatrical remake of the 1973 TV Made-for-TV Movie of the same title. The film was directed by Troy Nixey and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Already finished in 2010, it was shelved in the course of Miramax' sale by Disney and was released on August 26, 2011. It made its round through several film festivals and conventions before release.The plot revolves around a little girl named Sally being sent to her father Alex's house. There, she meets her father's new girlfriend, Kim. As Sally explores the house, she comes across a strange grate in the basement. Unknown to her, the grate contains evil creatures called Homunculi that live underneath the basement. Alex does not believe her when she tells him, but Kim does. As time runs out, Sally and Kim must stop the creatures, who want to claim Sally as one of their own.The movie is currently rated R for "violence and terror". Meaning, it was rated R only because it was terrifying.
All There in the Manual: The origins of the Homunculi and the life and adventures of the owner of Blackwood Manor, named Emerson Blackwood, are detailed in Don't Be Afraid of The Dark: Blackwood's Guide to Dangerous Fairies.
Be Careful What You Wish For: In the prequel, Blackwood expressed a desire to prove to his fellow scientists of the existence of faeries, and wanted to better learn about the homunculi. He later grew to regret it, as his obsession estranged him from his family, and resulted in his wife getting killed and his son being captured by them.
Berserk Button: For God's sake, don't give the homunculi anything other then children's teeth.
Don't try to warn anyone about their existance either. The poor groundskeeper.
Bigger Bad: But it turns out that the Bigger Bad is none other then Blackwood himself, who was turned into a homunculus.
Big Fancy House: Blackwood Manor, which is also a Haunted House complete with creaking doors, an overgrown garden, a misty lake and hooting owls in the night.
Bittersweet Ending: Alex and Sally get away, but Kim (the true hero of the story) is captured by the homunculi and soon becomes one of them. Also, it's obvious that the people who buy the house next are screwed.
Body Horror: Dear God, the sight and sound of Kim's legs breaking as the homunculi pull her into the fireplace will haunt you forever.
Bottomless Magazines: Real Polaroid cameras have about ten photos per film, and the type of flashgun used here has 5/6 shots, but Sally manages to transcend these limitations considerably.
Deadly Bath: Admit it. You totally knew that the homunculi were going to attack Sally the moment she got into that bathtub.
Deal with the Devil: It's later revealed that the homunculi leave coins in exchange for children's teeth in accordance to a deal they made with the Catholic Church centuries ago. In fact, the prequel novel expands on this, saying that other groups in the past, such as Vikings, have made similar deals with the homunculi, usually not without dire consequences.
Despair Event Horizon: By the time of the film's prologue, Blackwood has clearly crossed it. The novel goes into more detail.
The Fair Folk: The homunculi. The fairy ring Sally finds in the garden pretty much clinches it.
Blackwood's Guide to Dangerous Fairies reveals more about the nature of the Fair Folk: They were a side effect of Creation, but refused to side with either God or Lucifer in the war in Heaven. As such, when the war was over, God decided it was best to leave the "Children of the Earth" to their own devices, free from the laws that govern mankind. Certainly explains a lot, when you think about it.
Heroic Sacrifice: Kim manages to get Sally free from her ropes and tells her to run while she gets captured by the homunculi herself. Made into a Fate Worse Than Death when it's discovered that anyone not killed by them basically becomes one of them.
Hostage for MacGuffin: At the beginning of the movie, the homunculi promise to give Blackwood back his son if he gives them children's teeth to eat. He attempts to persuade them with the maid's teeth instead. They are not pleased.
Hot Librarian: Male example; the unnamed young librarian who gives Kim information about the homunculi.
Hope Spot: Hey, Kim's still hanging on! Oh wait, there she goes...
I Just Want to Have Friends: The reason Sally listens initially to the voices coming from the basement; she's new in town, her father's busy, and she isn't particularly fond of Kim. At that point, a group of tiny voices saying they want to be friends with her doesn't seem so bad...
Improvised Weapon: The homunculi use whatever sharp objects they can hold to attack their victims. At the end of the film, Sally kills Blackwood by crushing him under her flashlight.
Jump Scare: Quite a few. Most prominent in a scene where the homunculi raid Sally's room in the night. Sally crawls under the blanket of her bed to chase them down. Suddenly, a homunculus comes out of nowhere and screeches.
Mama Bear: Kim will do anything to protect Sally, and even gives her life to save her.
Missing Mom: From Sally's perspective, her mother pretty much dumped her on her father. The saddest part? She's right.
Even worse was that Sally thought she was just visiting. Then she asks her father how long she's going to be staying, and it turns out she's there for keeps. Her mother just didn't tell her, although one could make a case that this was because she thought Sally wouldn't go of she knew what was up. (Given the fact Sally has tried to run away before, she may well have been correct.)
Related to the above apoiler is the fact that we never learn how the Homunculi assimilate humans into their ranks... and that just makes it creepier.
Ominous Musicbox Tune: Sally's nightlight emits one whenever it is on. It's what reawakens the homunculi.
Our Fairies Are Different: The manual goes into great detail about exactly how they're different and where the fairies are from. The homunculi are identified as 'tooth fairies' a number of times, along with darker names.
Secret Keeper: The groundskeeper knew about the homunculi's existance the whole time. He ultimately pays the price when he discreetly tries to warn Sally and her family about them.
Shout-Out: The librarian who gives Kim information on the homunculi asks her if she's ever heard of Arthur Machen. A notable case, because Machen's writings on fairy folk are cited by Del Toro as the inspiration of the Homunculi's portrayal in the film.
Emerson Blackwood, the mansion's former owner, is named after writer Algernon Blackwood.
In the course of scaring them away, Sally takes numerous pictures of the critters, and even removes one of their arms. We never see any of the pictures, they don't seem to convince the father very much, and the arm is never mentioned again.
It's implied the groundskeeper survives the attack. There's a body. Did they go public? We'll never know.
Alex was there late at night when Kim disappears suddenly, with a large number of broken windows and doors and spilled blood left from the night. Wouldn't the police be just a little interested in what happened?
Wicked Stepmother: Averted with Kim. She actually tells Alex that she feels like one due to Sally's initial coldness towards her, but she's not even close to actually being wicked.