DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Starring Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake and Garry McDonald. Directed by Troy Nixey. 99 minutes. Rated M (Horror themes and violence).
There was once a little, scary telemovie, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 1973. A husband and wife go to redecorate an old house and the wife discovers little, lethal monsters in the basement. Now, almost forty years later, there is a more up-market re-make, co-written by Mexican director, Guillermo del Torres (Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies). It is no longer the wife who goes down to the basement and encounters the monsters, it is a little girl, which probably makes the film that much more scary.
The title is misleading insofar as the film-makers hope that you are scared of the dark but don’t mind being scared, especially if the scares come from the screen.
There is a prologue in an old-English Gothic looking house, with a gory touch or two concerning teeth, that can set audiences on edge – and it is all explained rather clearly later. But, the perpetrator, an artist distraught at the death of his son, is played by Gary McDonald – and then Jack Thompson (with the eerie American accent he has done in so many films and which you never hear from anyone else, Julia Blake and Nicholas Bell turn up so we realise that it was probably filmed in Australia, standing in for the US.
The plot is fairly basic when you think of it. Divorced father has to look after his daughter as he renovates a mansion. His girlfriend is with him and the daughter does not like her. When the daughter encounters the monsters, no one believes her. Fortunately, the girl and her father’s girlfriend bond and...
Katie Holmes is quite good as the girlfriend. Guy Pearce does a turn as the father. But, it is Bailee Madison who has to do all the dramatics in confronting the monsters. The latter are effective small, snarling, teeth-bearing creatures who look like relatives of the Gremlins.
It is all more or less predictable (except part of the ending which seems more than a little cruel so that you can’t say it all ends happily ever after), but that it what this kind of blend of horror, thriller and monsters is all about.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 3, 2011.