Review: Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

(Originally published October 2011)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is quick to remind us that it is a retelling of a teleplay by Nigel McKeand, but is also a remake of a 1973 movie. Pleasantly however, this remake proves to be the right calibre of scares!

Any fan of Guillermo Del Toro will see the similarities to his other works, the film itself rests neatly between The Orphanage‘s haunted visuals, and the more magical, otherworldly elements of the superior Pan’s Labyrinth.
The film starts by showing us it means business; a man is seen bringing a chisel to a woman’s teeth! This is easily the goriest the film gets, but it sure does jolt the audience.
Years later, a father, working as a restoration official, moves into a newly renovated mansion with his daughter and his new partner. While the inquisitive young girl broods after her parents’ divorce, she uncovers a dark secret within the house; a horde of small vicious creatures that can only survive in the dark.

The film played out like a classic haunted house movie, full of Gothic imagery, deep shadows, curving stairwells and enchanted gardens. While it may not bring many original ideas, it still brings a good scare here and there without too many cheap shots.
The acting from our protagonists is decent. Our young heroine proves to be independent in her actions and this is successfully maintained throughout, even as things become too much for her, you still believe it. Katie Holmes too gives a good performance, while Guy Pearce is positively irritating as a career blinded douche of a father!

The creatures themselves are enjoyably scary, keeping mostly to the dark initially allows for their CG reveal to be less awkward (cool trivia: Del Toro provides some of their voices).

Give it a watch, the film shows there’s still plenty of life in the old Haunted House story.

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