I was never really excited for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark but I was curious to see how they would be able to improve on an already cheesy 70’s TV show. When I saw the trailer for it, I thought it looked amazing but at the time I didn’t know it was a remake. As time passed I forgot about the movie until my friend watched the original TV show and said it was really cheesy. So, on the eve of its premiere, I was beginning to show a little excitement. This was a chance for the filmmaker and Guillermo (as the producer) to construct an homage to 70’s horror where the music and the mood are the scariest pieces. In the end, I walked out of the theater with a feeling of “eh.” It certainly isn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It was okay. The film centers on a father, his young daughter and a stepmother who is NOT evil like any other horror movie. The young daughter, Sally, begin hearing voices coming from an old gated up hole in the basement. The voices say they want to be her friend but she quickly learns they want to attack her. Thinking that his daughter is crazy, the dad believes all the attacks are staged by Sally to get attention. Sally’s dislike for his new wife may have been the cause of that, however, the “no so evil” stepmother does a little sleuthing and finds out that little creatures that eat the teeth of young children inhabit the house.
One of the biggest problems that I had with the film, and it doesn’t tarnish the entire movie, was the willingness to show the creatures in extreme detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with a movie that feels like a demonic version of The Borrowers but I didn’t need to see all the details. By doing a Google search on Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, it seems as though the original did the same thing. The beginning of the movie has a man, named Blackwood, who chiseled his teeth and his maid’s teeth out and offered them to the creatures in exchange for his son. While in the process of sticking his head through that hole in the wall, something grabs him, we hear screams and then his entire body gets sucked into it. That was creepier than anything else in the movie. By showing your monster too much, you lessen the scare value and it reveals just how funny the creature or creatures are. I think if we saw small movement, or even a silhouette running in the shadows, it would have built up a better mood. If they had to show you what the creatures looked like, I think the best part to do so would be when Sally is lifting up her bed sheets and one of them pops out. It’s fast, it shows you it’s face and it’s a great teaser.
Perhaps Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was marketed for horror fans that are within the R-rating. I can’t help but think of Insidious when I talk about it because they both seem to rely heavily on the same scare techniques of the 70’s, loud abrupt orchestral pieces and a very definitive mood. As a side note, I wonder why Insidious got a PG-13 and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark got an R? There wasn’t any swearing any either of them from what I remember. However, in the case of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, it wasn’t so much moody as it was loud noises. I’m fine with that because a lot of horror flicks use the loud noises to scare it’s audience but what made Insidious so good was the mood and it’s willingness to use silence as a means of scaring the audience. For younger horror fans, loud noises and foreboding music works and it’s a staple in the horror genre, I just wish they did something a little more different.
With all that said, and this goes for Insidious too, I love that Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark isn’t just your typical haunted house movie but rather something much more with a creature that is very reminiscent of old world demonology. The tooth-snagging creatures could be interpreted as teeth fairies seeing as how they steal your teeth and leave a piece of silver in it’s place. They almost seem like they drew inspiration from Medieval and Colonial takes on fairies where they were seen as monsters or demons that attacked children. I love that idea that there are things that live within the walls of my home, which is why that line, “Are you feeding that thing that lives in the wall again?” from People Under the Stairs freaked me out. I know this is a remake and I’m sure all this more appropriately applies to the original but I haven’t seen it yet, so I am basing all my assumption on the remake.
All in all, it wasn’t a near-flawless movie but it was still entertaining at times. I guess what separates me from a majority of the new horror fans is that I like it when the monster is left to your imagination. On the way back from the theater, my friend leaned over to me and told me that it would have been far creepier if they only revealed the creatures in the forms of the drawings. I couldn’t agree more. Otherwise, the acting is what you’d expect from a horror movie but the little girl was fantastic. It always seems to be the case. The mansion was creepy and I felt like it owned something to The Haunting remake. I also really enjoyed the bitter ending; I didn’t expect it and it was pretty cold. I won’t spoil it but it’s pretty sad. I wouldn’t rush out to see it but it’s a good movie to watch if you have surround sound and have nothing better to do on a dark stormy night.