Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark Netflix Streaming DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Troy Nixey
Starring Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Jack Thompson, Alan Dale, Julia Blake, Garry McDonald
Originally Released: August 26, 2011
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a fun horror flick that appropriates heavily from classic horror, fairy tales, and some of producer Guillermo del Toro‘s own films as well. While del Toro handles production and writing duties, direction is capably handled by Troy Nixey in his debut. Connected with some great performances, excellent monster effects, and some outstanding set design and lighting effects, this is a movie well worth checking out.
Effectively a remake of the 1973 TV movie of the same name, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark explores the line that marks the division between fairy tales and horror stories. The story follows young girl Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) as she relocates to live with her father, dealing with the difficulty of being a small child in a broken family.
Her father, Alex Hurst (Guy Pearce), with partner Kim (Katie Holmes), is in the midst of restoring an old mansion to sell. As Sally begins the difficult transition into a home foreign to her, after feeling like she has been “given away” by her mother, she begins to encounter the darker and deeper mysteries of the mansion. Discovering a hidden basement, Sally is led by a series of dark and creepy whispers that will unearth horrors unimagined.
Being produced by del Toro, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark borrows many facets and elements from some of his previous movies, including Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. These components manifest themselves in both storytelling, but notably in set design, with some parts appearing they could have been positioned in many of del Toro’s movies, including The Orphanage. This element of familiarity stems down to the very base that all these films are, essentially, modern fairy tales turned into horror and/or fantasy movies; or used with horror iconography and otherworldly symbolism.
The lighting and camerawork also add to this element of familiarity – lending great power to the sensation of déjà vu, making the viewer feel that “they’ve been here before,” but understanding that this is a different movie from those directed by del Toro. On the topic of technical work, the sound engineering in this movie is quite an achievement as well, with some considerable work done on the voices of the beasts in the movie – whispering and haunting, and guaranteed to make chills run up and down your spine.
Having been made in Australia, the film contains a veritable group of fantastic Australian talent, some of which American viewers may not have seen before. Lead man Guy Pearce is already known to fans, having been in quite a few accomplished movies, puts in a good performance; as does the memorable Jack Thompson, who our readers will remember from Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones as Cliegg Lars, placing himself in a “creepy old guy but actually a wise man with a warning” role that is both extraordinary as it is memorable.
On the other hand, it is illustrious Aussie Garry McDonald who puts in the show-stealing role of this movie as far as I am concerned. While many American movie fans may not be familiar with him, McDonald is an icon down under, having stamped his talent over decades in the realm of comedy (KISS fans may recall him as the eccentric Norman Gunston from the band’s notable 1980 tour of Australia).
In his extremely short appearance in Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, McDonald establishes himself as a genuine and talented actor, being able to embrace any role. His position in this film is something I hope future directors take note of – as I could see him taking on some further roles in multiple genres, especially horror after this performance. So here’s a “good on ya, mate” and some dinkum true blue kudos to you Garry, you bloody legend, you.
Whilst we’re on the topic of the cast, Bailee Madison does a brilliant job in the leading role of Sally Hurst. Madison does a completely convincing effort in her performance, particularly with the difficult job of pulling off the scenes in which she is trying to converse with the (up to a certain point) hidden monsters. She especially does well with some incredibly emotional scenes, having to deal with being split between parents in a divorced family. She has considerable talent, and I look forward to seeing her in future films. The rest of the cast do a fairly good job as well, including Katie Holmes, who I had my doubts about walking into this film.
I think horror fans should be moderately happy with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. There’s a reasonable amount of gory scenes without going overboard, but the film excels in frights, with numerous scenes that are (sometimes quite literally) killer in the darkness. While it does not break any new ground, as a horror fan, it’s an enjoyable fare, with a nice nod of the hat to del Toro’s previous fairy tale influenced films.
While it shoplifts many elements from a slew of horror films, and del Toro’s own filmography at that, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a movie worth watching. Casual film fans will enjoy the fright-fest nature of the creepy nature of the little monster creature things that would even give Gremlins nightmares. Horror fans will have a ball with this one, with some excellent special effects, great lighting and camera work, and some outstanding performances. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a hell of a lot of fun – check it out!