Sunday, January 8, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - 3 out of 5
I never heard of this movie until I went to Redbox to do my usual thing and get the new releases on Tuesday.  Doing a little research before making the commitment of spending a dollar a day to rent this flick, I discovered the film was a remake of a made-for-TV horror film that came out in the 70s.  I never saw the original and never saw a trailer for this one so my interest wasn't peaked...until I saw who wrote it.  Guillermo del Toro, the man who gave us Blade II (in my opinion, the best in the trilogy), the Hellboy movies and Pan's Labyrinth--as well as all around cool dude--penned the script and, like the process of just adding water (or in this case del Toro), I was instantly ready to watch this film.

I'll admit it, I'm disappointed he's not directing The Hobbit.  I would have loved to see his vision
of Bilbo's adventure.
And there he is in the background...

"I will reward your love for me with 30 seconds of  unbroken
and very unsettling staring."
The movie is about a man who takes his daughter and girlfriend and moves into a home (creepy one, of course) he's remodeling.  The daughter discovers, through her course of hating being uprooted from her mother and brought to the country and dealing with daddy's new lady (and being that it's a horror film and kids are magnets for evil things in horror films) the house contains a spooky basement with an equally spooky sealed metal hatch where spooky voices are whispering spookily to the little girl (did I mention all of this is spooky in nature?).  Well, since little kids are inherently dumb (or curious, depending on which side of the fence you're on) she opens the grate and releases little demonic creatures into the home and terror rises...of course, the adults think the ranting and raving of the small child is her "acting out" and "being crazy" from "too much sugar."  What a bunch of there really such a thing as too much sugar?

Hey, it's the guy who played Cliegg Lars in Star Wars.  I wonder what happens to him in the film...

Oh no, Cliegg!!!  First your wife is taken by Tusken Raiders, then you lose your leg and your son-in-law
falls to the dark side.  Now this?!?
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has some very creepy elements working in its favor but it never truly hits a scary peak.  The setting of the ominous home definitely makes for an overall unease throughout the film and the little demons creeping around the place are definitely nightmare inducing but the film stops short from delivering any real scares.  However, I didn't find this surprising (or even disappointing) because del Toro is a genius at coming up with dreadful scenarios without resorting to the cheap scare of a cat hiding in a closet (seriously, why are cats always in closets in horror films?  I've had a cat for the last 11 years and she has never once entered my closet).  Add to the fact that former comic book artist Troy Nixey successfully took del Toro's words and crafted them into shadowy images on screen, you have yourself a decent horror film that doesn't insult its audience with generic scares.

I'm not quite sure is the girl is going for child-like wonder or if she's about to stab something
with a sharp object she's hiding behind her back.

However, the true aspect that hurt the film is its pacing.  The movie does a terrific job at building up the suspense and the movie looks like its really going somewhere as the little girl's father (played by Guy Pearce) continues to believe that it is more likely his offspring is going crazy than seeing little nasty beasts running around the mansion and his girlfriend (played by Katie Holmes, graciously released from her cage to be in this one by Tom Cruise) is on the path that she might start taking the screams of terror from the little one to be real.  This is all moving along well...until the third act comes along.  The pinnacle of the film, the part where all hell breaks loose, comes completely out of nowhere like the producers lost a dozen pages of the script or the DVD skipped ahead.  The jump didn't disorient the film too drastically but with the pace that was already set from the film, it felt like the movie saw the finish line in sight and decided to get its second wind.

That is the look of a woman who just realized who she's married to.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is, overall, a decent scary movie.  You'll never jump out of your seat with fear but its hair-raising atmosphere is enough to give it a shot.  You won't write home about it (do people still write home?) and chances are if you give it a chance, you'll never watch it a second time BUT, unlike 90% of all other mainstream horror films that are shoved down our throats and sold to us as being "scary as hell" because they show reactions of paid actors in an audience trying to look scared in the green-lit of a night-vision camera that Paris Hilton made famous, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark could have been a lot they could have made it a "found footage" film and made that evil Paranormal Activity money.  So, the fact it didn't sell out and go that route already makes it a better horror film than most.

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