Sunday, November 10, 2019

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Movie Name: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Year of Release: 2010
Director: Troy Nixey
Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Maddison, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, Nicholas Bell, Garry McDonald, Eddie Ritchard
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is the feature directorial debut from Troy Nixey, following his previous work on short features.
The film is a remake of a TV film from 1973, and the screenplay comes from the writing duo (and frequent collaborators) of writer/directors Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins (the latter being a long time associate of Steven Spielberg, whom he worked with on "Batteries Not Included" and "Amazing Stories"). The film follows the story of young Sally, who is coming to live with her dad in Providence, Rhode Island, for some whispered reasons, which she never really understands. Her dad and his new partner, Kim, are in the process of recovering a dilapidated estate, in the hopes of being able to sell it once it's fully completed, so they can finally make some good money from it. Sally is resentful of the whole situation, but starts warming up to the house when she hears whispers coming through the air shafts. These whispers call out her name, and they come from an unearthed basement, that the three of them soon discover. In the hopes of making friends, Sally unbolts what she thinks is a furnace, but turns out is a passageway for creatures, who have far more ominous and dark motives than they led on to believe.
It's hard not to draw comparisons between the creatures from this film, with the ones Guillermo Del Toro built to inhabit his classic "Pan's Labyrinth". The creatures, the little fairies/sprites that populate this film, have sinister motives, which are definitely different than the ones that appeared throughout Del Toro's film. However whereas "Pan's Labyrinth" managed to create a universe of fantasy and how  that became a different reality in which the lead character, Ofelia escaped into it (even if that universe was dangerous and possessed of a beauty that was borderline menacing), this film goes for the suspense, hunted house type of approach, only with creatures replacing the typical ghost story. The final results lack substance in terms of visceral suspense and menace, and also in effectively creating an environment of danger. The creatures and their motivation are never fully realized, their danger quota is never fully realized, the same being applicable to the point of view from the director. This film feels somewhat generic, never fully capitalizing on the gothic look that the property has (at some point the film does invoke Alfonso Cuaron's "Secret Garden", but it's never fully leveraged). The lack of stylistic approach also extends to the characters, who are ultimately flat, even if the cast is a talented one, particularly in the case of Guy Pearce, a fantastically gifted performer who has little to do in this film. A missed opportunity.