Sunday, September 4, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Movie Review

Since tomorrow is Labor Day, this is my last official summer movie and I almost didn’t see it! It was getting such horrible reviews, I was afraid I’d be wasting my time. I’m glad I snuck this one in. While this isn’t going to win any awards, I had a creepy good time. This is the kind of horror film I’m looking for. I did read some reviews that talked about how troubling the opening was. I find this confusing since I didn’t hear those types of comments when Final Destination 5 came out a few weeks back. As a lover of classic horror comics, the opening sequence gave a very gritty, authentic feel of a story that could have been lifted from an issue of Vault of Horror, or Black Magic. I seriously don’t see why anyone would find the opening more disturbing than any other current horror offering. This comic book feel is not by chance. Director, Troy Nixey is a former comic book artist and collaborated with Del Torro on the creation of the creatures.

Although Guillermo Del Torro is not in the director’s chair this time, he did co-write the screenplay and his signature look is all over the place. If you are not a fan of his films, I don’t expect you would like this.

Most of you are probably unfamiliar with the source materiel. Since I have the benefit of being old, I’m a fan of the original 1973 TV movie of the same name. Also, because I have a brother-in-law who is obsessed with the same crap as me, I was able to borrow his video cassette for a re-watch. I’m sorry, if you are truly a connoisseur of film, I would think you still own a VCR. There are simply some things that are still unavailable in newer formats.

If you have never seen the original, it’s a scant 76 minutes long, but if you saw it as a kid, it stuck with you forever. The creatures are not very scary by today’s standards, but they sure worked in 1973! What viewers always remembered about the original was the creepy whispering and the creatures dragging the defenseless Kim Darby across the living room. Watching this in modern times and as an adult, I was more bothered by the way Alex (Jim Hutton) was treating his wife (Kim Darby). This could be why Del Torro chose to make Sally a child in the big screen adaptation. The way the wife is being treated in the original makes you feel she’d be better off with the creatures than her asshole husband.

In the newly big budget flick, Del Torro took a little story and ran with it. He gives the house and the creature lurking beneath an elaborate backstory. So much so that he made an entire graphic novel entitled, Blackwood's Guide to Dangerous Fairies. I have not read this, but I’m digging the idea and I might have to check it out.

The update gives us a much larger, much creepier house. I mean this house looks like it would have creatures lurking in its basement! Guy Pearce, (whose character is named Alex as in the original) plays a designer renovating the mansion with his girlfriend played by Katie Holmes (she’s a new character not in the original and she is named Kim, which I can only believe is a nod to Kim Darby, but I haven’t found proof of this). While undergoing this major renovation, Alex is asked by his ex-wife to take his troubled daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison) full time. The job pressure of the male character remains intact in both films. The Sally character has not only has been changed to a little girl, she also is withdrawn and does not fit in with kids her own age. Although these are common character traits for kids in horror films, it’s especially important here because it makes Sally’s claims of creatures much easier to believe they would be passed off as something else then the adult character in the original.

Although she’s playing a clichéd movie character, Bailee Madison is very convincing as a terrified child. You almost want to start yelling at the screen because you want someone to help her. As bland as Katie Holmes was in Batman Begins, I liked her in this role. She was the only one taking Sally’s claims as possibly something more and that was a much needed addition to the storyline. The original did have Kim Darby’s friend believing her, but it came off more as patronizing.

Now to the creatures. The creepy whispering is kept intact and once again, I was glad to pay attention to the end credits because I found out Del Torro lent his voice in what must have been a blast! The audience gets good shots of these gruesome little guys and they will make you cringe!

This is a film I thoroughly enjoyed and I don’t see why it isn’t getting better reviews or doing better at the box office. There’s no blood and no one gets hacked up, yet it garnered an R rating for its overall terror inducing feel. Unfortunately, for us older folks, there were no warnings or ratings for TV in 1973. We innocently plopped ourselves in front of this and were forever scarred. I don’t know though, we are a pretty cool generation and some us grew up to make good films like Guillermo Del Torro did. Maybe it’s a character builder to “safely” have the crap scared out of you when you’re young.

Last year I unveiled Colleenie Ghoulie for Halloween. Since I was talking about the scariest stuff ever, of course I mentioned the original.

Check it out here: Colleenie Ghoulie Week #2

Also, there's only a few weeks before there will be all new installments of Colleenie Ghoulie! I'm working hard to unearth some nice scary stuff for you!


Lin said...

I was really excited about this film when it first came out. I had my husband take me opening day, early and I gotta say it had a lot more potential. I think I was expecting it to be somewhat gory, which it wasn't. I liked the way it gave you a lot of background story but it just wasnt worth my $12. Also, Katie Holmes isn't the best actress & she sort of killed it for me...well her & the little girl. She was sort of cheesy.

Thank goodness for the little monsters being cool & the dad being a good actor otherwise it would have completely sucked for me, haha.

Great review Colleen!

Colleen said...

Thanks Lin! I think more people agree with you because it's not doing well. It's funny because I expected Katie Holmes to annoy me, but she didn't!