Wednesday, October 26, 2011

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK - Creepy Kids' Stuff

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (supernatural thriller)
Cast: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Alan Dale, Julia Blake, Eliza Taylor-Cotter, Emelia Burns and Garry McDonald
Director: Troy Nixey
Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Matthew Robbins, based on the teleplay by Nigel McKeand
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce at 'Blackwood Manor'

PREAMBLE: If you are looking for a scary thriller to go with your Halloween fun, this one should fit the bill. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark was a 1973 made-for-TV movie (starring Kim Darby and Jim Hutton). Story has it that the movie scared a young Guillermo del Toro so much that he decided to rewrite the story (by Nigel McKeand) for modern viewers.

Unlike the currently showing Paranormal Activity 3, this is an old-fashioned haunted house tale, so if you are used to faux documentaries and CGI-rendered blood and gore, this one is going to seem tame to you. Still, the atmosphere is pervasive and creepy...

Bailee Madison in Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: A prologue set in the 1800s gives us a backgrounder to a Gothic-styled Rhode Island mansion own by an Emerson Blackwood. Next, in a fast-forward to modern day, we find eight-year-old Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison) flying from LA to stay with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the newly renovated Blackwood manor.

Of course, Sally is upset at being 'dumped' by her mother and as she mopes around the sprawling estate, she comes across 'things that go bump in the night'. The trouble is, no one would believe her when she claims that those little monsters made all that mischief.

HITS & MISSES: It is a credit to director Troy Nixey that he has resisted the temptation to use cinematic cliches like creaking doors and loud sudden noises to jolt the audience. However, there are still many holes in the plot that mar the movie - like the incredulous behaviour of Sally when she ventures into the dark basement at night despite warnings that it is dangerous. In the 1973 movie, Sally was an adult (played by Darby) but here, she is a young girl, raising the emotional stakes and controversy.

Indeed, much of the movie is seen through the eyes of the child, and young Madison is credible enough to pull it off. Pearce and Holmes (above) are largely relegated to supporting roles of which they are more than capable. Holmes is especially appealing as a caring adult who goes all out to befriend Sally. As usual, there is a 'mysterious' caretaker (played by Jack Thompson) who warns of evil behind bolted grilles but could do nothing to stop it. The suspense is thick as long as the scares remain unseen, but when they are revealed, the supernatural thriller turns into a monster show.

THE LOWDOWN: Creepy enough for the kids at Halloween.


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