18 October 2012

Ally's Cinema Review: Don't be Afraid of the Dark

We all went to the cinema last week to watch this because myself and Fin were invited to be guest reviewers on the wonderful Those Movie Guys weekly podcast. When I was told this was going to be the film we reviewed I was pretty disappointed, and after watching the trailer my expectations were incredibly low. Other than Kate Winslet, Katie Holmes might be my least favourite actress, so the chances of this movie being any good seemed slim to none. Yet the one silver lining was the involvement of Guillermo del Toro, who has of course produced some of the finest horror/fantasy movies this side of 2000.

My original scepticism turned out to be well founded. There was a consensus between myself, Clarky, Fin and Ryan that this was a poor movie, with each one of us scoring the film around 4/5 out of 10. Yet I was actually surprised to find some elements to this film that I enjoyed, and plenty of potential for a better film to exist. The barebones of the story is actually quite interesting, and well told, even if it feels a little too familiar. I liked the idea of little mythological creatures being released in a renovated mansion, hellbent on collecting children's teeth. It's a creepy premise. The creep factor is upped during the opening scene of the movie which shows a pretty horrific flashback.

Unfortunately, the film is just poorly made after this promising beginning. The acting is truly substandard. Katie Holmes is Katie Holmes, so I don't need to say much more than that. But Guy Pearce absolutely phones this one in, as he has done way too often since the glory days of Memento and L.A Confidential. The main protagonist is a little girl played by Bailee Madison. Although her acting is probably the best on display, she is a largely unsympathetic character, devoid of any real warmth or charisma. This is a major issue with the film on the whole, as it lacks any humour or heart. The other flaws of the film (chief among them, the formulaic narrative, and the poor use of the creatures) could probably be overcome if the film had a bit more warmth to it, but it feels as cold as the renovated house.

The creatures themselves are not used to maximum effect. We see them too much, and they soon lose their ability to scare or shock the viewer at all. Fin made a good point during the podcast; this film would have been far better if they had aimed it at a younger audience. With more humour, warmer characters and a bit less violence, it would have made for a great children's scary fairytale film. Instead, it feels like it isn't really for anyone. The script, acting and effects are too sloppy to engage with this film as an adult cinemagoer, much less a fan of horror.

It's not the least entertaining movie I've ever seen, but I couldn't recommend it to anyone.

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