Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - Fright Fest Review #1

From producer Guillermo Del Toro, we are delivered a haunted house story, well, of sorts.

Alex (Guy Pearce) is a resotorator and he hopes his new project will place him on the restoration map.  Divorced and now living with Kim (Katie Holmes) in their restoration project, Alex has to take in his daughter Sally as his ex wife decides she can no longer handle her. However they are not alone in the house with an evil living deep inside it, trapped away in a long forgotten, sealed, basement.  When Sally discovers the basement skylight in the overgrown gardens no-one could foresee the danger this would put all connected to the house in.

The film begins solidly enough with an opening giving us some background on the history of the house. Unfortunately the problems lie with the present.  Undeveloped, selfish characters make it very difficult to actually care about what happens to them.  Guy Pearce's Alex, especially, doesn't appear to care much beyond the house and being famous. It is this main issue that prevents the film from delivering real scares. Also the continual desire to constantly show where the creatures are simply serves to lower any built up tension, the exception being a well executed sequence in the library.

The exposition as to what was happening was handled far too briefly and lightly considering we expect these people to believe they have ancient monsters living with them.  All brought out in a five minute conversation with a librarian.  It seemed the filmmakers were less interested in bringing us into the story as trying to deliver cheap scares.

Shallow dialogue and a far too slowly paced build up made it hard for me to remain particularly engaged in this feature.  However I will say that it was beautifully photographed and competently directed, making great use of torches an other light sources to light the certain scenes.  The creatures are too much of a mixture between Gollum and Gremlins for me but granted they did carry a certain sense of malevolence.  And a special mention has to go to Bailee Madison who plays Sally as, for such a young actress, she pulled off her part superbly.

Overall though this seemed more a horror film for the twilight horror audience than for those who like their horror horrific.  Or at least scary.  Unfortunately this was neither and felt a little like Del Toro was merely a figurehead marketing tool rather than someone who actually provided insight and assistance to a new director.



  1. Nice site and good review, I thought the bedding sequence was the closest it got to having a scare, liked the first person perspective. It was beautifully shot though and there was a definite del Toro feel to things with much of the cinematography, Katie Holmes was also better than I expected.

    However, generally like you I found it hard to care too much about the characters. And also the story wasn't really explained - if they already had the child at the beginning, why did they take the father? Given they could live so long why did they need to "replenish their numbers"?

  2. Thanks for the comment, and a very good one too. I get what you mean with the cinematography but it still felt like a watered down Del Toro overall. Makes you wonder if the studios had more impact on it with wanting a PG13 rather than the man himself wanting that rating.