Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
A decent attempt at recapturing an archaic horror tale but it fails to deliver.


18 March 2012

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Plot summary

Something ancient and evil is alive in the darkness beneath the Blackwood Mansion.

This old-school haunted house fare is co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, telling the story of Sally (newcomer Bailee Madison), a young girl sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in an old mansion the couple are restoring.

Feeling lonely and dejected, Sally is drawn to the basement of the house by mysterious voices that whisper secretly to her (anyone who has seen horror classic Poltergeist knows where this is going) and soon finds herself blamed for a series of untoward incidents, from shredded clothes to destroyed toys. As Kim starts to realise that Sally might be telling the truth, she uncovers the disturbing past of the house and the forces that dwell underneath it.

Madison is fantastic and puts in a strong performance, although it is unclear why Pearce and Holmes have settled for relatively one-dimensional characters. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a decent attempt at recapturing an archaic horror tale but fails to deliver. The reveal comes too soon and, although creepy, never really chills. The film is reminiscent of ‘The General’ section in Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye but with little of the bite that a story of this type could put across. A valiant attempt but ultimately disappointing.