In Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark young Sally (Bailee Madison) moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) into the old mansion they are renovating. Excited by the presence of a child the things that go bump in the basement start to stir.
Here we have a horror film not relying on excessive gore, violence or loud noises for its scares, though these elements can still be found. Don’t be Afraid of the Dark instead played on my worst fear, that there’s something lurking in the dark that I can’t see. As a result there were moments of genuinely terror, proven by the fact that I spent most of the film with my coat up to my neck for protection. Worth noting though that I am a wimp when it comes to horror films, which is precisely why I enjoy them so much.
Being “presented” by Guillermo del Toro does not result in the visual feast of originality we’ve come to expect through films like Pan’s Labyrinth or even The Orphanage. Instead Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark falls into the familiar formula as Sally is repeatedly ignored by her parents despite increasing evidence that she may be telling the truth. The fact that Guy Pearce continues to deny any spooky goings on after a worker comes out of the basement with more than five objects sticking out of his neck, claiming to have had an accident, is plain stupid.
Bailee Madison is fantastic as the young girl at the centre of the trouble but sadly Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes gave much more wooden performances. Pearce has done so many better roles recently you can tell he’s not really trying and Holmes is probably just out of practise.
Good for an occasional scare but it won’t change the way you think about horror. I’ll admit to feeling a bit jumpy after the screening, but then you should see me watch [Rec], that’s a whole different league of terror.