If a mansion looks freaky, don’t enter it and make yourself at home.
This is the tale about a young girl (Bailee Madison) who moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and discovers they are sharing the house with devilish creatures, that can only attack you when the pitch-bright lights aren’t shining on them.
It seems like no matter what horror movie he produces, Guillermo del Toro’s name always seems to pop-up more than the actual stars in the movie. I mean it’s obvious that horror-aficionados love the hell out of this guy because of what he can do with any weird, creature design but does it really matter whether or not the guy produced the flick or not? I don’t, and this is flick is a prime example as to why I think that way.
Instead of making the smart decision and handing the directing duties to del Toro, the honors are given to a dude named Troy Nixey and believe it or not, for the first hour-and-a-half, the guy doesn’t do a bad job with what he’s given. Nixey does a nice job of not relying too much on showing his monster/ghost, but instead uses the darkness to keep our suspense up and to have us continue to wonder just what the hell is this thing that were dealing with here. This also sets up a pretty nice mood, where everything’s tense and creepy, and had me going for awhile. That is, until Nixey got the bright idea to show off his monsters about 30-minutes in, and then that’s when things went all downhill from there, folks.
Usually when flicks show us the monster right-away, it doesn’t bother me unless they’re scary and have a distinct look to them that deserves to be feared whenever they show-up. These ones here, are not those type of monsters. Without showing you exactly what they look like, I’m just going to say that they look like tiny, mouse rats that just got it on with a Gremlin, who just so happens to be the brother of Gollum’s more-deformed, little bro. It’s a very lengthy synopsis as to what these creatures look like, I know, but that’s the whole problem with this film is that they look absolutely as ridiculous as I made them out to be and totally takes you out of the film right away.
However, Nixey doesn’t even get that idea from the get-go, so instead, he just continues to pile and pile on more and more of these little creatures, in a way so that he can actually get us scared by them, but it doesn’t work and just made me laugh. Hell, it made me angry that these dumb-asses in this movie couldn’t just find it in their guts to pick up something and smash their fuckin’ bodies or do something. And also, what’s all that shit about them being sensitive to bright-lights, that nobody, absolutely nobody seems to use against them? This movie went from having me pretty creeped-out, to having me just angry with everything that was going on and most of that is because of the characters.
Notice how I ended that last paragraph by saying the “characters” and not the performances, because believe it or not, the performances are actually okay. I’ve never, ever been a big fan of Katie Holmes (one of the few similarities between me and Tom), but she’s actually fine here as the girlfriend that reaches-out to this girl early-on in the movie. Then, there’s Bailee Madison as that said girl and is okay too, but it’s obvious that she’s only there to be a bit weird and scream. And lastly, the one who I was very sad to see show-up in a pile of junk like this was Guy Pearce as the father, who just seems like he’s phoning it in beyond belief and that’s a real shame too, because Pearce is a great actor but just has never really been given the chance for the break-out role here in the U.S. If he thought this was going to do it, he was dead-wrong.
What irked me the most about the characters these three portray is that they are the standard, most obvious, most unoriginal characters to ever show up in a horror movie. It all starts off like nobody believes the little girl, who sees all of this weird shit; then weirder shit starts to happen; then they call up the psychiatrist; then one of the adults finally catch-on to what’s really happening; and then it’s almost too late and just about everybody dies. I’m not going to give away whether or not that last part actually occurs in this movie or not, but you pretty much get the gist of what I’m throwing around here. This is exactly the same type of crap you can expect from a horror movie, and it’s a shame because this is one that starts off with a whole lot of promise and even worse, it’s one that del Toro even signed-off on. I didn’t care a single-lick for any of these characters and I didn’t even care what these little ‘effers did to them either. It was a very blank feeling for me throughout this whole movie and just goes to show you that no matter how creepy or weird-looking your monster may be, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, show it in the first 30-minutes. That my friends, is what we call “jumping the shark”. And oh, does this movie do that all right.
Consensus: Even though it starts off promising with a creepy atmosphere, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark soon piles in to a cliche, predictable horror movie that we have all seen done before, but this time, with weirder-looking creatures/monsters that make you laugh more than squeal.