Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2010

Any fan of Guillermo del Toro can’t help but anxiously await for the release of his new films and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is no exception.  If del Toro somehow missed your notice (I don’t know, perhaps you live under a rock) he is well known for such visual masterpieces as Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the two Hellboy films.  It also doesn’t hurt that he has been nominated for an Oscar and won a slew of other awards.  For this fan, however, it is del Toro’s stunning landscapes and intricate imagery that usually has me salivating in anticipation of his next flick.

So yes, the imagery in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is beautiful.  The old mansion in which most of the film takes place, along with its grounds, is something you are more likely to see in your imagination than in real life.  Also, as is his style, the use of contrasting color and interwoven collages always have your eyes noticing things in the background that otherwise would be just another prop.  To sum it up, although del Toro didn’t direct this movie — he wrote and produced it — he has once again done his job and done it well.

The plot centers around Alex (Guy Pearce, Memento), Kim, Alex’s girlfriend (Katie Holmes Cruise) and Alex’s 8 year old daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison).  As Alex and Kim are restoring an old mansion, little Sally comes to live with them in the mansion as the renovation is under way.  As kids are wont to do, Sally investigates the grounds and finds a basement not yet unearthed by Alex and Kim.  It is in this basement that bad things originate and soon Sally has a very real reason to fear for her life, but naturally dad and Kim aren’t so believing of Sally’s tales.  For all of its beauty and wonder by way of the scenery, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is little more than  a dark twist on the tooth fairy; think the tooth fairy meets Gremlins and there you have it.

First let me say that this is a good movie.  However,  (you knew it was coming, right?) I believe the biggest downfall of this film is how it was marketed.  I only saw references to it here and there before viewing, but nowhere did I see that it was a children’s horror movie.  It’s a really good children’s horror movie, but your average adult will find little to make them jump and certainly isn’t going to make them leave any lights on.  That being said, I can see this movie scaring the crap out of the 7-12 year-old range of kids and most likely, ruining the tooth fairy for them for quite a while.  If I had children I would love to sit and give them their first taste of a horror movie with this flick.  But since I don’t and was expecting an adult horror movie, the movie fell short for me.  Nonetheless, I still recommend giving a watch, and breaking my rule of not knowing anything about a movie before viewing.  In this case, if you want to enjoy this movie, it’s definitely a good idea to keep in mind what you are in for before hand and make sure you take the time to enjoy del Toro’s outstanding visuals.

SCIENTOLOGY ALERT:  We all know that Katie Holmes is the poor child who got herself married to Scientolo… er, Tom Cruise, and it does rear its ugly head in this movie.  However, it is only a very small (and unnecessary really) part of the film, and happens to be the one area I agree with the Cult, I mean “Church” of Scientology — doping our kids up with drugs is not the best decision in the world.  I’m not a cult member, so I do believe that in some cases it is necessary, but let’s be real — we do tend to over medicate our kids these days.  Anyway, like I said, the anti-drug message is in there, but it’s pretty small and if you don’t loath Scientology like I do, you probably wouldn’t even make the connection had I not done it here.  I only mention it because I like to make sure we are all aware when a real monster tries to insidiously enter the picture.

**Also, in case you weren’t aware this film is a re-make (of sorts) of the 1973 movie of the same name Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.