DVD Review: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Troy Nixey’s remake of 1973 TV movie, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, follows an architect (Guy Pearce), his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and daughter (Bailee Madison) moving into a luxurious old mansion, unaware that the basement is full off goblin-esque creatures that feed on children. Guillmero Del Toro co-writes the screenplay as well as producing the film.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark seemed to swiftly disappear from cinemas, making little impact and personally I believe it deserved a little more credit. Nixley has presented us with an extremely old fashioned, atmospheric piece of horror storytelling, however it unfortunately lacks the scares to be truly memorable. The film opens in what seems like the mid 19th Century in the mansion, which sets up a foggy, darkened, almost Hammer Horror-like atmosphere. This scene sets up the concept of creatures living in the house, just in time for a present day couple to move in. So far, so good, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark looks set to be an entertaining old fashioned haunted house tale with a bit of creature horror.

The chills are rather frequent, prior to seeing what these creatures look like – we’ve had some time to generate terrifying monsters in our minds. This is completely shattered when we do see the creatures, the horror immediately disappears as, quite frankly, these goblins look ridiculous and make strange noises, were they meant to be comic? I don’t know – but they essentially look like background characters from Small Soldiers. Despite, ruining one of the big mysteries of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark reasonably early-on Nixey continues to do well on building up atmosphere in the old mansion setting. The production design of the film is truly excellent, combining some of the best elements of the gothic horror genre. However, regardless of how much gothic atmosphere the film creates, it delivers no real scares, or even jumps.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is not completely spoilt – there is an incredibly confident lead performance from youngster, Bailee Madison who actually plays quite a complex character, tormented by these annoying creatures. The concept of a parent thinking real monsters their child talks about are simply imaginary friends, is an interesting one and one of the strongest elements of Nixey’s film. Katie Holmes is relatively convincing and there is an sub-plot developed focussing on her character trying to be accepted by Madison’s unruly stepdaughter. Guy Pearce is a welcome addition to the cast, yet the character has little to do apart from disprove his child’s theories about these goblins.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a fairly entertaining and highly atmospheric piece of filmmaking with a well crafted nostalgic charm and gothic atmosphere but ultimately feels spoilt by childish, unfrightening villains and a lack of authentic scares.

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Andrew McArthur
Stars: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes & Bailee Madison
Director: Troy Nixey
Release: 20th February (DVD & BR)

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