DONT BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is produced and written by Guillermo Del Toro, the Mexican director famous for genre films such as Cronos (1993), The Devils Backbone (2001), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Pans Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013), Crimson Peak (2015) and The Shape of Water (2017). In the last few years, Guillermo Del Toro seems to have had his finger in every conceivable pie with dozens of projects on the go from being the original director of The Hobbit filmsto the dumped adaptation of H.P. Lovecrafts At the Mountains of Madness and other announced projects such as Pinocchio, The Ring 3D, an adaptation of Marvel Comics Dr Strange and new versions of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, among others. Even aside from that, Del Toro has lent his name in various capacities to numerous other works such as Chronicles (2002), The Orphanage (2007), While She Was Out (2008), Julias Eyes (2010), Megamind (2010), Splice (2010), Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Puss in Boots (2011), Rise of the Guardians (2012), Mama (2013), The Book of Life (2014) and the tv series The Strain (2014-7) . He co-writes Don't Be Afraid of the Dark with Matthew Robbins, the director of Dragonslayer (1981) and Batteries Not Included (1987) and co-writer of Warning Sign (1985) and Del Toros Mimic (1997) and Crimson Peak. Direction has been handed to newcomer Troy Nixey.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark 2011 generally follows the plot of the original tv movie. The principal difference here is in making Sally, the central point-of-view character, into a child (Bailee Madison) whereas in the original Sally was an adult woman (played by Kim Darby) who moved into a house she inherited from her grandmother. Neither she nor her husband had any children. Although such is still present in part here, the original played far more as a story where Kim Darby kept seeing things and hearing voices whispering but everybody around her could not and thought she was going mad. In the original, we only ever saw the goblin creatures (which were much more humanoid there) towards the end, whereas here they make regular appearances throughout. The ending of both films is the same, although the identity of the person who is snatched is different.
The original film was largely a haunted house film grafted onto a supernatural-vs-rationalism is she going mad? plot. The house and range of creatures that we have here is much more elaborate than in the original. The house here comes decked out with a maze of overgrown gardens, fountains filled with exotic fish and mist-covered lakes. It is now a film where the house seems to sit on the borderland with another world as we saw in Guillermo Del Toros Pans Labyrinth or perhaps even more so a less family-friendly version of The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008).
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark 2011 starts in well with a gut-squirming scene where the houses 19th Century owner Blackwood (Garry McDonald) has a maid (Edwina Ritchard) pinned down in the cellar and we see him chiselling out her teeth as sacrifice to the creatures. This hits in with a nastiness that presages well. Thereafter, Troy Nixey absorbs us in consistent mood and does a good job of constantly suggesting things scuttling through the shadows, creeping up on people, fleeing from the light or about to jab an iron spike through the grille into Guy Pearces ear before he turns away. Nixey gets off at least a couple of good jumps especially one when Bailee Madison goes searching under the blankets of her bed and abruptly shines her light directly into the face of one of the creatures.
On the other hand, what Don't Be Afraid of the Dark 2011 resembles is a well oiled and polished scare show, one that produces a good deal of creepiness and atmosphere, that wheels out all the expected moves perfectly capably, but in the end never pushes the material past a point where it rattles an audience in their seat and leaves them exiting the theatre buzzing. For that, it must come out as falling on the side of accomplished but ever so disappointing.