Saturday, August 27, 2011

Creep Out

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
Directed by TROY NIXEY
Starring KATIE HOLMES, GUY PEARCE, and BAILEE MADISON

I had high hopes for this film and don't get me wrong it's still a good film, but it's not nearly as good as it could have been. Pan's Labyrinth was far more daring. The one great thing about Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is that it reminds me of how horror movies used to be--old Gothic manors; beautiful art direction; gray-haired caretakers; local librarians who know a little too much about one particular house; and of course, supernatural creatures.  
Bailee Madison and Katie Holmes
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark joins the ranks of classic haunted house films like The HauntingHouse on a Haunted Hill, and Gremlins, yes Gremlins. Unfortunately, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is more like Gremlins, without the campiness, which is what made Gremlins great.  I say this and I liked the original Gremlins.  I even had a Gizmo doll. 
Bailee Madison
Considering the talent of the filmmakers, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark falls slightly flat. Directed by first-time feature-film director, Troy NixeyDon't Be Afraid of the Dark, is visually striking, but predictable.  Troy Nixey got his start as a comic book artist and it's evident.  The art direction, including the opening credits, is creepily beautiful. Another theme throughout the film is Guillermo Del Toro.  Del Toro, who directed Pan's Labyrinth, which was another film full of grotesque creatures, produced and co-wrote the screenplay for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.  Del Toro's influence can be felt throughout the film, but not enough to save it from averageness. 


Bailee Madison terrified during tub time
The basic premise is simple and it's been done...to death.  A divorced father, his daughter from a previous marriage, and his sensitive new girlfriend movie into a haunted manor.  Guy Pearce plays papa bear Alex HirstKatie Holmes plays Kim, his interior designer girlfriend, and twelve-year old Bailee Madison plays his precocious daughter Sally.  Despite the A-list talent, it's Bailee who steals the show as the curious little girl.  Against her will, Sally moves into Blackwood Manor with them, which is an estate that they're restoring.  Blackwood Manor was previously owned by a wildlife painter whom—"wait for it"—disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  Note to self, when you move into a house called 'Blackwood Manor' you're in trouble.
  
Guy Pearce
As children are known to do, Sally explores the eerie mansion, the garden hedge mazes, and the creepy dark basement.  She soon discovers hidden creatures who beckon and whisper to her throughout the film.  The adults of course pay little attention to her, they don't believe her, and they seemingly allow her to roam the sprawling estate unsupervised.  These are all prerequisites for a standard haunted house formula.  Once you add a pinch of character-driven stupidity, then you're cooking with gas.  Now your haunted house recipe is ready for the oven.  
Katie Holmes
The film is a remake of the 1973 television movie of the same name, and 'oh-boy' have the visuals come a long way.  The cgi was exceptional, but showing too much of the creatures diminished the tension.  Sometimes "less is more."  The tension buildup is lost when we see the creatures so abundantly.  Had the creatures been shown sparingly, it would have improved the film.  This is a mistake that so many movies make.  



Katie Holmes comforts Bailee Madison
Perhaps with a more seasoned director this film could have been so much better.  But despite the over-worked formula, it's still terrifyingly fun to watch.  In the wrong hands, it could have been so much worse, i.e. Cold Creek Manor, but in the right hands, this film could have been spectacular.

The first part of the film was exceptional--lots of low whispers, sudden gushes of wind, hollowed voices, and unexplained screeching sounds.  The latter part of the film is full of cheap thrills, and shock sequences, most of which have been seen in trailer.  Still as haunted house films go, this is a good one.  There were plenty of gasps of air coming out of jumpy theater patrons.  At the same time, there were some gasps of frustration and laughter during scenes that were not meant to be funny.  

THREE OUT OF FIVE STARS

22 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about checking this out. Looks creepy. I love Del Toro's stuff.

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  2. Not expecting much but i will definitely check it out cos it's del toro.

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  3. Definitely a rental. Cold Creek Manor was a huge disappointment. I love a good creep show, but they're rare these days. i loved Gremlins too. ANd we had an ugly plastic life size gremlin doll my bros and I used to hide in each others beds beneath the sheets for the ultimate creep out. That thing could scare the snot out of us! lol
    Anyway, loved your review. Very well thought out! :)

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  4. It's really hard to find horror/thriller movies that are above average. I think so many have been done and so few are willing to push the bounds of the genre for fear of losing ticket sales (and it's hard to blame them there).

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  5. I was debating between this movie and Fright Night this weekend. Think I'll see the latter. Maybe. Stupid hurricane.

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  6. Awww, you had a gizmo doll!!! ^_^

    Well, I wasn't expecting to be GREAT but I think I'll check this out tonight or tomorrow. It definitely sparks my interest with those little creatures. And RANDOM! But I thought that little girl was a like 7...not 12. Oops! x_x

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  7. I don't think I've ever even heard of this film but I'm sure it doesn't hold a candle to Pan's Labyrinth. One of the greatest films I've ever seen.

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  8. Yeah, pretty much mirrors every other review I've read about this movie.

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  9. Love this blog post! A really interesting read! Followed!

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  10. Bel Blog complimenti.
    I discovered your Blog on the Occhio Sulle Espressioni 's Blog.
    Ciao.

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  11. @FilmGeek-- It's pretty good. I think you should see it, but it's not great. It could have been so much better.

    @Ting Kubby-- Yep, it's good, but it could have been so much better. Perhaps rent it?

    @Pk-- Yep, I think a rental is a good idea. It's definitely a movie to see in the dark with lots of popcorn.

    @Libby-- I would normally agree if it weren't for all of those grotesque films like Saw or Piranha. In this film I think there was quite a bit of blood and guts, but they should have not shown the monsters as much. The effect of not showing the monsters as much would have been so much creepier.

    @Alex-- I think Fright Night is a good bet. That was a really good movie. Don't be afraid was good but it had some problems.

    @Sylar-- Thanks. It was definitely a creepy film.

    @Real Queen-- I was too. I was expecting so much. Perhaps that's why I was slightly disappointed. Seriously that little girl looks much younger. Perhaps she's aged since principal filming wrapped.

    @Elliot-- I agree. Pan's Labyrinth really pushed the envelope. Don't be afraid merely licked the envelope and forgot to stamp it.

    @DWei-- Yep, it was mixed. It was good but it could have been better.

    @Jason-- Thanks a bunch. I'll have to check out your blog. Hopefully I can find your blog in your profile.

    @Nick--Grazie mille! Lo apprezzo. Io controllare il tuo blog troppo. Ciao.

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  12. The original is a childhood memory of many here in Italy.
    This, i will go to the cinema to see it come soon, just as "tribute" to the original, but I'll go with awareness of what you wrote, including the fact that there is unintended humor in it.
    Tnx! ;)

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  13. def checking this out. thanks!

    +follow

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  14. I cant wait to see Dont be afraid of the dark.

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  15. Nice post. They're all very formulaic but I guess the formula works mostly! Will definitely keep an eye out for it.

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  16. I read some of this to my sister. She says the old one was great. She reminded me we watched it together. This one sounds good too.

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  17. I wouldn't move into a place named Blackwood Manor... that IS asking for trouble.

    (And The Haunting is my favorite scary movie of all time. I loved the book too.)

    But this plot: old gothic manors; gray-haired caretakers; local librarians who know a little too much about one particular house; and of course, supernatural creature -- sounds like my work in progress.... yikes! (well, it's questionable whether there are really supernatural creatures... so at least it's not completely formulaic.)

    Sad to see this didn't live up to its potential.

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  18. I love horror flicks, really. Just give me something that makes me scream and is not cheesy and I'll bite. :)

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  19. It's unfortunate to hear that it falls a bit flat, but I still want to see it, it hearkens back in many ways to many of the old horror films I used to love. Nice blog, followed.

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  20. @occhio sulle espressioni-- Spero non ti dispiaccia se parlo in italiano. Mi aiuta pratica. Penso che davvero godere il film. L'originale è un ricordo della mia infanzia come bene. Credo che l'originale mi ha spaventato molto di più di questa versione.

    @JunkBot-- Thanks. I'm following you now too. Great blog btw.

    @Rick-- Thanks. It was definitely formulaic, but still good.

    @Belle-- I remember watching that movie when I was really little. It scared me so badly.

    @Doralynn-- Ha, I actually liked that part of the film-- the old manor, caretaker, etc. You can never go wrong with that. I just think they showed the monsters way too much and the story kind of fell apart towards the end. It started well though.

    @Laila-- I'm the same way!

    @A-- Hi, thanks. I really enjoy those old horror movies. That's what I liked about this film it reminded me of what horror films used to be...to a certain extent. What's your blog? I can't see your blog in your profile. I'd like to follow you back.

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  21. I thought this one is quite entertaining and fairly creepy in some parts but yes it also quite cliche and offer few of new stuff to the genre.

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