Thursday, 8 September 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Dir: Troy Nixey ("Latchkey's Lament")
Cast: Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Julia Blake, Jack Thompson
USA/Australia/Mexico, 2011

Seen: September 1, 2011 at Scotiabank in AVX

Reason to see: Horror movie

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) is a remake of a 1973 film of the same name, and sometimes I can be harsh on remakes but I thought I would give this one a try. We follow a young girl named Sally who comes to stay with her father (Guy Pearce) who is restoring an old mansion. There certainly was a sense of the house being wounded, like patching over worn out pieces over and over until even the patches are threadbare, and this tone floats through the film giving it a creepiness that really works for horror. So I was feeling like we were off to a good start.

I was actually quite looking forward to Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011), because I'd not seen the original and therefore was looking forward to seeing the story for the first time. That didn’t turn out quite as I had imagined, because I figured out the story pretty early. I know I watch a lot of horror & supernatural films, and lots of film, but it felt too clear to me. Perhaps mystery wasn't the goal. A lot of the scares come across in tone and ideas so there is still that, but even then at times when for really visceral look-away-from-the-screen moments, which wasn’t quite the kind of surprize I was hoping for.

On the flip side, the film definitely had things that I enjoyed. The mansion it is set in is beautiful, it feels so rare to see something of that scale and it has great art direction showing the house in different states of repair and distress. I also loved that it had a young girl as the protagonist and Bailee Madison does a great job at being the sullen Sally. I was also impressed by Katie Holmes, who did a fair amount with a role that wasn't that meaty. I could really feel that her character had a full and complete history and I wanted to know more about it. I also really liked the relationship between their two characters, it felt unique and I really enjoyed that. I’ll look forward to seeing both of their work in the future.

Sadly, the film has more than a few conveniences that are jammed into the story to make later things work, and you can feel they are devices. Horror is a challenge that way, you really need to be able to establish that with subtly because it certainly needs to be there, but it also needs the logic for us to believe it at all times. It also like it wanted to be set in the past not the present but it ...was in the present. Why not just set it in the past? It's already got the nostalgia of the dilapidated house; I could have seen it in the past. Perhaps that would be too much given that it’s a remake. Overall, I liked the idea of the story and the tone that it set, but I didn’t always believe what was happening. From the conveniences to the characters moments, there were too many things that didn’t quite work which is really too bad. A few tweaks here and there would have had us twitching in our seats.

Warnings: Disturbing imagery & ideas and some gore

See also: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) DVD Review

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but wanted to enjoy it more
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it for people that like drama-centric creepy films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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