Don't Be Afraid of the Dark ((unedited))
Directed by: Troy Nixey
Written by: Matthew Robbins & Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, & Bailee Madison
Del Toro has given us some pretty scary and still beautiful imagery within the cinema world before, but there appears to be a stifling of his creativity when his work is no longer in its original Spanish. Not to say that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was not scary or bombastic with terrifying camera angles and chilling music. It has the usual Horror clichés as well as some of the perks of a Del Toro written piece. But if Troy Nixey did not translate the movie correctly then perhaps it was the acting, because there was a definite apathy-filled-void throughout a better part of this film.
Bringing to life (once again) this horror-story of fairies who consume children's teeth was probably a great idea at the time, especially with a craftsman as talented as Del Toro (who has brought us Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage (El Orfanato) penning the story. Unfortunately, something went awry and somewhere between Katie's stagnant delivery (up until the final scene -- why is it she's never believable until she's in peril?) and Troy Nixey's decision to reveal the little, bitty, tooth-chomping fairies way too early into the film, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark lands firmly in the "miss" pile. There is a definite attempt to scare the audience though as well as a tremendous genuine effort to create a creepy tale. The better part of the movie will have you leaping out of your seat at surprising moments, but what horror movie does not do that?
To be honest, the story itself is not the most far fetched, but it is poorly fleshed out to the audience (let alone the characters, who seem to be fighting blindly in the third act),. If the vague explanation was intentional then that would be fine, but trying to have a half-way in the movie visit to a library to get background on the haunted house you bought usually explains everything to the audience about what was going on the whole time. In this case, it leaves us with many more questions. (The last scene especially will leave the audience still in their seats, perhaps turning to each other to ask "… What?")
Nixey, who before this is really only know for doing artwork for Neil Gaiman graphic novels and Matrix series comic books, shows off his "style", which to the producers must have seemed close enough to Del Toro's that they thought the two creative-minds would mesh well. They did not. Del Toro has a flash of gothic in his style, undoubtedly, but he also has a very non-american idea of what gothic is. His touch is very european and buried in his fascination for mythology and folklore. Nixey on the other hand is much more similar to Shane Acker's or more popularly known, Tim Burton. His style of gothic/horror is much more americanized. (Probably from all that work with the Wachowski Brothers). The project of Don't Be… was given to Nixey after he sent his 2007 short film Latchkey's Lament to Del Toro's studio. If you have not seen this short, it is good, and it is a great idea of what you are walking into when you go to see the 2011 remake of the classic ABC-Made-For-TV-Movie.
The story kicks off with Emmerson Balckwood luring his maid to the basement where he begins to chisel out her teeth and add them to a small platter of some of his own. As a sacrifice he gives them to the voices in his furnace as an offering and is instead pulled in as they cackle and scream for children's teeth instead. Right from the get-go the audience is immediately interested to know what was going on. At this point, sit back, because it won't be for quite some time until that is explained to you and almost as soon as the explanation comes, the movie wraps itself up with a severely lame-duck ending point. As with most Del Toro works though, the story focuses on a small child, the soon-to-be-Edward Scissorhands-Fan, Sally Hirst, who is dumped by her West-Coast mother into the ugly, old, mansion somewhere in Non-Existant, Rhode Island with her Father (who she appears to barely know). Her father, Alex (Pearce), has recently renovated the mansion (as is his job) with his partner and girlfriend Kim (Holmes). Together they hope to make the cover of Architecture Digest (or some other lame-name, made up magazine). Somehow, it seemed like a good idea to live in the house of an old man who went missing a week after his son back in 1910. Of course, with such a good idea, the follow-up example of brilliance is to let his daughter freely walk around the mansion to explore. This leads her to the secret room, which leads them to the basement, and the fun begins.
Once the little voices, tiny gnomes if you will, get out -- boy do they get out. They cause massive, mayhem and carnage, but honestly these little fairy/gnome things are so frequently shown that their ability to frighten the audience quickly fades. By the movies end, the little monsters pretty much have run-of-the-house. When the lights are off, of course. Abused camera time does not do them justice, but be prepared to endure some freaky "I'm-Being-Watched" scenes.
Symbolism and messages aside, this movie is an easy hit or miss. Some audiences are going to get a blast, most will be upset if they spent more than 6$ on it after a Tuesday afternoon class. Is it the perfect end to a summer? Far from it. Is a good scare? Most likely will the scare the pants off a few students. Is the movie Del Toro's soon-to-be-sleeper-hit? Absolutely not. If you do enjoy the movie though, as mentioned before check out Nixey's short film and then look up Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage, and of course Hellboy for a flash of genius from famous Spanish-Horror director: Guillermo Del Toro. And don't forget to turn out the light.
[Edited on 12/9/11 by Ult_Sm86]