Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Quaint Dark

Artwork for an earlier proposed release is quite stunning

 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, shot mostly in Australia (standing in for Rhode Island, US) is an agreeable horror movie with slick production values, non-hurried pacing, solid performances, and believable special effects. It also comes with a free odor that smells like Joe Dante's Gremlins.

The question arises: Is "agreeable" enough? A young girl (Bailee Madison), who looks like a slightly pudgy, moppet version of Katie Holmes (who also appears), starts to hear and see little monsters in the house that her father (Guy Pearce) has recently purchased. Nobody believes her until the blood-letting begins.

The film is a remake of a decent telemovie and, thanks to Troy Nixey's controlled direction,  makes no hideous errors. It's just not terribly involving. I always felt like I was watching actors doing things. There were no vicarious thrills.

It was amusing to see Australia's 'Norman Gunston' (Gary McDonald) killed off in the opening scene. Other Aussie thesps such as Jack Thompson, doing a gruff American accent, turn in decent performances. Pearce, usually solid, is solid here, too.

The film is R-rated in the U.S., but I don't think the rating is deserved. Hostel 2 was also R-rated, and that was a gleeful extravaganza of grue. This is not. Come on, MPAA, let's have some consistency. I know, I know, that's like asking a politician for full disclosure. The violence here is fairly light, a little bloody, and there are some stabbings with miniature instruments. Films such as this are generally judged on their suspense quotient. Unfortunately, there isn't much suspense for the viewer here, although there is some for the characters. In this type of dramatic construction, it's a problem when the viewers are ahead of the characters.

I like Guillermo del Torro because he's a genre enthusiast. He saw this film's source many years ago and thought it could be a choice candidate for a remake. In an interview, he mentioned that they shot the film with a PG-13 in mind, but got hit with an R rating. This approach explains the timidity of the material. It doesn't explain why it's not terribly creepy, though. I fear we're suffering a horror overload and it's getting harder and harder for filmmakers to come up with stuff that rattles us. Everything is accessible to anyone these days. Horror films like this almost feel quaint.

Those in the eight to thirteen age group who haven't lived long enough to process experience into "quaint"  would have enjoyed this moving picture. Shame the rating excludes its perfect audience. 


  1. Good review! Will probably wait until this hits DVD. I do like the non-hurried pacing and that Guy Pearce is in it.

  2. jervaise brooke hamsterAugust 31, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Phantom, could you just concentrate on reveiwing nothing but: horror, science fiction, and fantasy from now on. The reveiws of those kinds of imaginative type films, books, and tv are much more entertaining to read than the reveiws of the drama's and gangster movies and all that other out-moded garbage that you still often insist on reveiwing on this site, its something i`ve told Ty E and mAQ that they should be doing over at Soiled Sinema as well, cheers my old mate.

  3. Ty -- It's a decent effort with its heart in the right place.


    hamster -- As this is my blog, I'll review what I'm passionate about, or impassioned to oppose. You've "told" Ty E and mAQ what they should be doing over at Soiled? How's that project going for ya?!

  4. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 1, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I`m pretty certain that Ty E and mAQ are NOT pansy queer bastards but they still insist on besmirching and polluting their site with a lot of pansy queer bull-shit. Thats the one thing that stops Soiled Sinema from being arguably the best film reveiw site on the entire web, if they could just guarantee me that they weren`t going to reveiw any more fairy faggot dog-shit (or British made hogwash either obviously) and were instead just going to focus completely on horror films from now on, the site would be close to perfect. By the way, i hope you`ll be heeding my advice as well, as i said, only horror and science fiction from now on OK, thanks Phantom.

  5. We dont need another hero:

    All we need is Pauline Hickey:

    As she was in 1985
    at the age of 17.

  6. Love your blog! I was extremely excited for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, being the huge fan of Guillermo I am. I was deeply saddened when the initial press reviews were terrible, but it gave me hope again to read your review! If you have a second, you should visit my blog. I review lots of films as well and we do share some similar opinions, with the exception of Super 8, which I loved.

  7. Adam -- thanks for stopping by and reading the blog. I will look up your blog shortly. Never mind about differing opinions on Super-8. I wish I could enjoy all the films I don't enjoy. We're different, but mature enough to respect that.