Reviews: Dont Be Afraid Of The Dark

Flawed yet Overall Enjoyably Creepy


What astonished me the most about this film was that while it does play with an excessive number of horror tropes, it really has fun with them. Guillermo Del Toro and director Troy Nixey are obviously took a lot of inspiration from films like Saw, Sleepy Hollow, The Shining and even a bit of Gremlins and it has fun unabashedly playing tribute to it (There''s a very good scene where Kim is discovering the backstory of the unexplained goblins all while Sally slowly attacked in a bath that seems right out of a Hitchcock film).

What I think most reviewers tend to overlook is the growing relationship between Kim and Sally. The father's new girlfriend Kim (played by Katie Holmes), and his young daughter Sally (Bailee Madison) play their parts very well and very effectively. Madison was very convincing as a lonely child caught between the disputes of two unforgiving parents. Holmes gave a very heartwarming performance as the new girlfriend who didn't want to invade in as a replacement parent but still cared deeply for her even in the beginning. Unlike another Del Toro film with the same premise, the emotional core was much more convincing here.

Another aspect I loved about the film was how it handled the perspective of a child's curiosity. Sally is an extreme introvert and as described doesn't have that many friends. As a result, she's easily manipulated by the promise of new companions. It reminded me of an inverse version of "The Borrowers", where the little people inside the house want to be noticed by the child but had malicious intentions. Furthermore, the design of the little goblins in question, while relying on CGI, is still very unique and scary.

That said, there is quite a large number of Fridge Logic to this film as well. The motivation for the unnamed gremlins in the film is vague- why exactly do they feast on teeth? Why do they leave coins and how do they get them? Are there more out there in the world? Why do they specifically want a child sacrifice when at the end an adult sacrifice pacifies them? Never explained.

So yes, a lot of points of this movie don't quite make sense in retrospect. But for what it's worth, this film is genuinely entertaining. Definitely Needs More Love.

Don't Be Fooled By The Trailer

I'll say it straight away, this film is about tooth fairies and if you can't bring yourself to get spooked by that then this film will lose you after 5 minutes.

If you do decide to give it the benefit of the doubt you will be sorely disappointed. This film is a tired ball of horror film cliches that manages to squander every interesting thing about it long before the half way mark.

It confuses building suspense with large periods of nothing and drops in some faux symbolism early on that amounts to nothing, and any suspense it does manage is undercut by music playing constantly throughout. The periods of silence in the film could be counted on one hand.

Although stupid decisions are par for the course in horror films some of the actions in this one require far too much disbelief than most people can manage. The father, in particular, is written so dumbly that it makes him unlikable, much like most of the cast. They have nothing particularly notable about them and Sally seems the best developed of any of them but damn is warming to her hard. At least the audience sympathises with Kim on that.

I'm amazed this is a 15 rated film because it feels like a Disney Channel production. Once the creatures appear it loses any shred of credibility with awful CGI (They used CGI on a metal rod!) and the scariest moment in the film is in the trailer. The monsters whisper menacingly but bar one moment (which I imagine they snuck in to get the rating) DO NOTHING. They have no sense of threat at all. That the main page describes this as terrifying boggles me.

The very worst thing about this is how boring it is. If any of the above things could be forgiven it would be because the movie was enjoyable on some level, but it really isn't. This film will bore you into sleeping and the music will keep you awake to sit and suffer.

If you want to watch a creepy film about a girl exploring her new house while her parents are too busy to pay attention to her and meeting some untrustworthy creatures who want to keep her, try Coraline.

I would rather watch Darkness Falls than this.