2010, USA. Horror / Fantasy / Thriller. Director: Troy Nixey. Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Matthey Robbins, Nigel McKeand. Cast: Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce.
Old, creepy house – checked. Alienated and misunderstood little girl – checked. Drawings – checked. Looking for the root of evil in a classic library – checked. Bathroom scene – checked. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has all the necessities to become a strong ghost story. Problem is, it’s not. It’s a creature movie. It’s a creature movie applying the formula of a supernatural, ghost story. It’s gremlins inside the Amityville.
Producer and writer Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) is a fine storyteller with strong visualization. This house-based horror could still work as a creature film if only those creatures can look convincingly scary. But they are merely the ugly version of Alvin’s friends. Yes, they talk. In English. There’s no logical explanation on how they can master the English language. Learning from their past victims, perhaps? I find it hard to believe. I find it easier to believe that the Autobots and Decepticons have been reading Jane Austen from the world wide web.
Nevertheless, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has a lot of thrilling scenes and jumpy moments. It is finely made, well-structured, and it plays skillfully with the lighting. The music helps a lot, the under-the-blanket shot is the finest ever, and kid actress Bailee Madison performs strongly. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce are disposable, though. Worth watching in the biggest screen with great sound system, but only during weekdays for cheaper admissions.