Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is an odd title for a film that gives you nothing but good reason to be afraid of the dark, but I guess that’s all part of the fun of it! There is a lot about this film that makes it a cliched horror film, the only difference is that there are some impressive A-list actors, interesting new monsters and a splash of Guillermo del Toro (interview) from time to time. The problem is, that this film asks you to suspend your beliefs in the wrong ways. Believing that monsters exists in basement and are after your teeth — awesome! Buying that human beings act the way they do in this move — failed movie magic. There were a lot of good things about this movie, but it loses its way about halfway in, making it a horror film that will likely not be remember. Find out why…

The Players:

Plot:

Caught in the midst of two divorced parents who both seem to only be concerned with their careers, a young girl is sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend. She’s alone, angry and in need of friends, Unfortunately the friends she finds are some creatures that live in her new home, that pull her in with love, but have quite heinous intentions.

The Good:

  • Playing With Our Real Fears: It’s a broad but mostly true statement to say that no one likes old, dark basements, no one likes the dark when they’ve being chased, no one likes teeth being taken from their head unwillingly — it’s safe to say that straight out of the gate this film plays on some pretty basic fears that many of us can all relate to and therefore be scared of (which is what we all want when we sit down to a horror film!). The start of the film brings your in a plays with your fears in a delightfully evil way. Unfortunately, it’s unable to keep that, but more on that later.
  • Bailee Madison: Man is this girl an actress to watch out for. In person she’s well spoken and can field the press as well as any seasoned professional. On screen she’s the most believable of the bunch (though even as a child I don’t think I would want to talk to spirits coming from a furnace, but I am old and jaded critic now, so maybe I’ve just forgotten) and she’s a pleasure to watch because she has a creepiness in the film that intrigues you, but enough heart that you always care for her.
  • The Ending: NO SPOILERS. Don’t worry. There were some issues with the way the film was bit up. A lot of the reason why this film worked for me is because of the strong start and ruthless ending (the middle was a bit muddled). To follow that up, quite literally the last line spoken before the credits role is my favorite part of the film. It was a nice touch by the filmmakers and one that allowed to audience to leave on a fun note.
  • Katie Holmes: This is probably the most bad-ass we’ve seen her yet. Unexpected, nicely done, and fun to watch.

The Bad:

  • Monster Premiere: They show the monster too soon and too much, and eventually allows for them to become a bit of a joke which takes away their danger. They’re already a slightly implausible enemy, so it hurt them to have any humor added. I don’t want to give away their weaknesses, but they do have them, and for them to be treated in anyway but seriously, takes away from the power and the suspense that the film needs in the last act. It’s a shame to see because they start so damn strong and then they get under-minded. Also, without giving too much away again, not all of their actions are justified and sometimes their motives don’t really add up making them again, less scary because they’re less believable.
  • Unrealistic Timing: Once everything goes wrong, and they decide to escape, why oh why does it take 4 hours to pack a suitcase into the car and (again) why or why do you leave the targeted victim by themselves in a room that has attacked her before… and to add to that, AT NIGHT. I’m all for going with a story, but when a film asks us to looks past SO many things like this in a row it begins to take away from “realistic fears” which is what gives the film its impact.
  • Not Enough Guy Pearce: He’s one of the best transformative actors and yet his character is almost completely one dimensional, his actions are kind of justified in his lines but there needed to be more time to see the results of those lines and he’s given too little screen time which is just a damn shame.

Overall:

I wanted to love this film, there are some many great parts to it but unfortunately it doesn’t add up to the whole that I hoped for. That being said, there are some quality elements to it that if you’re not a crazy cinefile like me, you probably won’t notice them and have a fine time. I have a low threshold for horror but found that I could easily make it through this film. Yes the opening and moments of the film are tense, but for the most part this is a very easy to watch film to watch or bring a date to.

Rating: 5.7/10

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is in theaters August 26th.

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