Don't be Afraid of the Dark
There are some strong names in there that should be sold more than the producer and co-writer. Oh I know some will be raising their eyebrows at the thought that Holmes is leading the film but I have to say she does a great job and holds well alongside her co-star of Guy Pearce.
So what of the film itself? Does it live up to the del Toro tag? Should it have been marketed on the other names in the film and allowed to go on its own? The answers are here.
For me the film was on a losing streak from the beginning as the creatures behind the whole film are far from scary and came across as funny and quite childish than anything truly frightening, the creatures remind me of the baddies in Small Soldiers than some hauntingly evil monster. The unfortunate thing for the film is that this feeling pervades through the core of the film and the whole film suffers for it from as soon as we see the creatures. There's no real feeling of threat from them either, and it does seem as though anyone could easily escape them if they just got off their feet, or even better, leave the house.
So with the core of the film lacking any strength of fear it does struggle from early on however there are a lot of things that do build the film back up, the main one worth mentioning are the leads themselves. While Bailee Madison plays the young girl well she isn't the best in the line-up, and you might then think that it could fall to either of the other big names in the line-up with Alan Dale or Guy Pearce, but neither are in the film enough to build their character into something.
No, the surprise is that Katie Holmes seems to be the star of the film with a strong performance that did a good, although not complete job of distancing herself from the infamous Dawson's Creek and stepping out from the shadow of her incredibly famous acting husband. She's convincing and I found I did connect with her character through her performance.
All through the leading cast the performances are good and it was the story of the dysfunctional family that caught my imagination more than the horror story and really I'd have happily watched more of that story. This is the most natural part of the whole story and does most of the work of capturing your attention and building the film up. Yet there is something to be had from the horror story and you do get the feel of an old school gothic horror.
The film does look good as the sets and the lighting give the film a real life inside the house. Troy Nixey has done a great job and delivered a stylishly strong and rich looking film, it's just a shame that the horror factor of the film fails to deliver.
Dolby Digital 5.1; 2.0
The audio makes good use of multiple speakers and holds well from the small hiss of the creature's voices to the louder moments of the score and artificial scares.
The picture offers warm and strong colours inside the main location contrasting with cold colours outside the house; it looks great when inside and the set design, lighting, filming and effects all add to the depth. These are perhaps the most inviting parts of the film.
The Story; The Build; The Creatures; Character Profiles - Alex; Kim; Sally
These are short featurettes which are snippets of interviews that just scratch the surface of what you want to hear. It does include Guillermo del Toro, Troy Nixey and the stars talking about the film, however it is just the usual marketing material.
Don't be Afraid of the Dark could have been a much better film but it suffers from a weak horror core with childish creatures that offer little if no scares or fear. The atmosphere and strength of the story all come through the other aspects, writing, cinematography, direction and the performances from the leads. It just isn't enough though and remains a childish horror that doesn't deliver on the key aspects of the creatures or any sense of fear. Disappointingly the extras on the DVD are rather weak as well.