Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. C+

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark seemed like such a spooky, special horror movie for a while, but then as it wound down, I realized that it was going nowhere. The director, Troy Nixey, is really interested in mood and atmosphere, and from the beginning he infuses the movie with a creepy, haunting tone and look. The pace is slow, and Nixey's camera lingers on various images to slowly build suspense. It feels like authentic horror filmmaking, which has been lacking in the genre of late. Unfortunately, whatever he seems to building towards never arrives. The movie, while always maintaing a spooky aura, never actually gets scary. But that's not the real problem. What bothered me was that the film lacks anything that gets the audience talking afterward. Leaving the film, there's really nothing to talk about, no key scene or awesome moment that stands out. I wouldn't blame Nixey. Making his debut, he seems to have a good handle of how to present the material. What disappointed me was that with Guillermo del Toro's involvement the movie isn't better. Del Toro is really the man behind the film, producing, co-writing, and also selecting Nixey as the director. The movie clearly has his mark, most clearly seen in the small, fairy-like creatures that live under the massive house being redesigned by a couple, played by Guy Pierce and Katie Holmes. The man's daughter from a previous marriage arrives to stay with them, and makes a discovery that unleashes the creatures. It sounds interesting, and we expect Del Toro to do something really cool with them, but he never does. And besides them, the story and characters are like cardboard. Pierce is the typical horror movie dad who doesn't listen to his daughter, while the daughter is given little to do but cry and scream (by the way, horror movies in which it's the kids doing the screaming never work-remember Poltergeist?). There's even a scene in which Holmes' character goes to a library to do research about the creatures. If you're following tradition, that scene is requisite. So with so much familiarity, the monsters under the house really need to propel this film to something better than it is. Doesn't happen. With a good look and feel, Don't be Afraid of the Dark is a pleasurably low key horror movie. I only wish it had been a little something more. 

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