DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2011)

TMG Scale 3.0
Starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson

You need not be afraid of the dark. Be afraid of wasting ten bucks. This movie may put an end to the tooth fairy practice for awhile.

The classic spook movie tone is set early while we watch an old horse carriage drive up to a spooky mansion on a dark, stormy night. It all goes down hill from there. The problem was the audience was laughing at the campiness of it all rather than dealing with any fear.

The basic plot is painfully familiar.  An old mansion where people disappeared and sat in disrepair is now restored by a young couple with a weird child, little Sally (Madison).  Add the element that Alex, the Dad (Pearce)  is divorced and is frustrated his young daughter will not bond with his new trophy wife, Kim (Holmes).  No surprise as Alex is a jerk and does not even kiss or tuck his little girl in bed at night. Holmes, as step-mom Kim,  is just a clueless babe in this film.

All the goblins return, starting of course with the child’s bedroom,  and no one believes the child.  I was often thinking they were trying to make a comedy rather than a horror or a spook film. In one early scene, the caretaker named Harris (Thompson) is brutalized and stabbed repeatedly by the goblins but survives.  The police arrive and declare his condition to be “an unfortunate accident.” Everyone laughed. The goblin creatures are not scary mainly because they look like ugly, talking rats. We see them constantly. The writers forgot Hitchcockian Rule Numero Uno of scary filmmaking—people fear the unknown.  This film is loaded with laughable tracks of whispering voices (“get out , get out”…or “we want the girl”) –the kind of joke stuff we all do to parody bad Halloween films. Throw in a stuffed animal that talks when unexpected and the script writers fail to offer anything new at all.

Madison as Sally was pretty much a caricature of a spooky, precocious girl we expected to see in a film like this. Rather than act normal, the girl is attracted to ghosts, dark dusty basements and hidden passages few adults would ever care to tread. We just don’t buy it.

Another little gem is when Kim visits Harris in the hospital after his “accident.” Harris looks like he was just bludgeoned in the hospital and getting a full dose of Obama care. Another is why Sally’s rich, BMW driving  parents who can spend millions restoring an old mansion provide her with a 40 year old Polaroid camera. The goblins finally kill Kim (no spoiler here) and the story moves on without even a call to the police. I started to wonder who was the real creep in this film—the little goblins or Pearce as the Dad.

Don’t be afraid of the dark for sure. But, if your Dad acts like Guy Pearce in this film, you might at least be concerned and consider running away. (I am sure Pearce is a terrific guy in real life!)

 

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