Logical thinking has me to believe that a film entering under the subtext genres of “horror” and “thriller” – would, in fact scare and excite an audience at once. However, director Troy Nixey’s newest scarcely original farce, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, simply has me afraid of one thing: the future of horror movies. Though, admittedly and tragically so, Nixey’s incoherent mediocrity is the not the worst of its genre to come out this year (we’ll save that for Insidious).
Again, while overviewing the premise of the film, my worries quickly progressed into the uninspired. Written by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark follows a petite, though oddly devious little girl by the name of Sally (Bailee Madison) as she is shipped off by her inherently retractable and oblivious mother, to yes, her father.
What’s the catch to all of this? Well, Alex (Sally’s father, played very well by Guy Pearce) and soon-to-be wife Kim (Katie Holmes) have started working on the restoration of an ancient, historically beneficial Gothic home. However, after about a day of Sally’s big move in, she starts to sense something is just not quite right with the house. Sally’s adventurous nature leads her down many horrifying and cryptic paths until she figures out that there is in fact, another cruel and ungodly creature living in the mansion.
And so the ridiculous and torturous antics ensue with prolonged monologues of scarce logic, routinely dramatic sequences that are about as genuine as Twilight scenes, and of course, Alex and Kim, starting to believe that their daughter is delusional and insane. No one ever believes the protagonist in these types of films, do they?
Referring back to that crazy little trait we call logic, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark simply doesn’t deliver enough chills and thrills, to be an enticing, dynamic, or even somewhat scary endeavor. The performances from Pearce, Holmes, and very talented child actress Bailee Madison (Brothers) are all a bit overwrought but still compelling. Cinematographer Oliver Stapletown does a seamless job of giving the film this unsteady feeling, with hauntingly beautiful and horrifying designs.
But once that obvious, supposedly chilling music begins to play, we know exactly where this film is going from start to finish. Nixey just can’t find the right tone for his movie as he struggles to flesh out his story while simultaneously failing to deliver engrossing twists and turns on any consistent basis.
Bottom line being there’s nothing new or original occurring here. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark benefits from its talented cast and a few genuine scares, but the film looses steam in its third act, ultimately transpiring into an unconvincing and downright silly finish. The whole picture just feels, well, far too ordinary.
Notes: Rated R for violence and terror, 99 minutes.
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