Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark – Film Review

House hunting

Release Date: 7 October 2011
15 | 99 minutes
Distributor: Optimum Releasing
Director: Troy Nixey
Cast: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Alan Dale

If you’re going to tell a truly terrifying tale, you’d be hard pushed to find a better setting than a dilapidated country house. Abandoned mental asylums and overgrown graveyards might come close, but for domestic shivers, the near-to-collapse mansion is surely top of the list.

The creepy pile of bricks in Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, a remake of the 1973 TV movie of the same name, is pretty much the perfect specimen, snapped up by property developer Alex (Guy Pearce) and girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in an effort to make the covers of property magazines and relaunch his flagging career. He really should have paid more attention when viewing, though. When Sally (Bailee Madison), Alex’s daughter from a previous marriage, is sent to live with the decorating-obsessed pair, she quickly discovers a hidden basement that contains the lost works of the artist who lived in the house many years before, and an ominous-looking grate. When the grate is removed, revealing a seemingly bottomless pit, Sally starts hearing scratchy whispers everywhere in the house, imploring her to “come and play” in the basement. Lured into the hidden corners of the house by the menacing voices, Sally’s new friends begin to reveal their true nature, spreading fear and bloody havoc across the halls.

Gloomy, sinister, shot through with a pervasive sense of unease and swathed in oppressive darkness, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is perfectly poised horror that revels in its gloomy atmospherics. Co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, it has echoes of Pan’s Labyrinth in both its unsettling tone and earthy colour palette. Like del Toro’s 2006 film, the story revolves around a troubled girl who, unable to connect with her surroundings, seeks solace in fantastical companions.

Unfortunately, this is also where Don’t… loses some of its bite. Once the evil basement-dwellers are revealed (at around the halfway point) the scares dry up, and the bleeding of the fantasy aspects into real-world settings jars a little. But this isn’t enough to spoil Troy Nixey’s artfully shot and thoroughly entertaining directorial debut, a film that’ll give you second thoughts about relocating to that country pile.

Rob Power