A while back, I made a post with my 2011-2012 Horror Movie Bucket List. And I’ve now begun making my way through it, starting with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
My expectations for this movie were pretty high: it’s a Guillermo del Toro movie, it looked pretty creepy, and had a traditional haunted house story vibe in the previews. And I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
The movie begins with a dark scene from the 1800s. The painter, Emerson Blackwood, seems to be slowly going crazy in his basement… but of course, there’s something else down there with him, and not only has it taken his son, but it’s still hungry.
After discovering that whatever’s in the house feeds on teeth, we move into the present day where an unhappy but precocious young girl (Bailee Madison) is getting passed around by her divorced parents, and is now going to live with her father and his girlfriend in an old house that he’s renovating. Blackwood’s house, of course.
From here, we get a feast of eerie scenes, creepy sounds, and some serious CGI. I would have preferred not seeing so much of the creatures, since what you don’t see tends to be scarier, but the creatures themselves are pretty well done so I’ll let that slide. They sort of made me laugh, since they look sort of like deformed rats, but their faces are actually pretty freaky looking.
The plot itself is quite simple (there are malicious otherworldly creatures in an old mansion), but this actually serves the movie well. Rather than getting bogged down in a complex and incomprehensible mythology, this movie seamlessly incorporates the basic background information as we go along.
What stands out to me, though, is the production itself. The cinematography is beautiful as we are swept through this rustic old mansion. The score is filled with excellent atmospheric music, the kind you might hear in a classic scary movie with sweeping violins and melancholy cellos. And on top of this score, we hear the laughing, scampering, and devilish whispering of the creatures.
Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce are adequate in their roles. The real standout is Bailee Madison, who portrays Sally with a surprising amount of sincerity from a child actor. It wasn’t the best movie in the world; sometimes the action started to feel repetitive. But there is much to appreciate here. And, after the eye-roller that is Darkness Falls, we now have a successful scary movie about the light-fearing evil tooth fairy!
Something else that impressed me was the companion book I came across at Barnes and Noble: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood’s Guide to Dangerous Fairies. Written by the movie’s creators, it intersperses entries from Blackwood’s diary, chronicling his discovery and interaction with the creatures, with a veritable catalog of mythological fairy-creatures from around the world. One of them is the bone gnawers from the movie, which feast on children’s teeth. Yummy.
Story: 6 out of 10 bloody baby teeth
Acting: 7.5 out of 10 bloody baby teeth
Cinematography and visuals: 9 out of 10 bloody baby teeth (point off for overuse of CGI instead of imagination)
Music and atmospheric sound effects: 10 out of 10 bloody baby teeth
Scare factor: 6.5 out of 10 bloody baby teeth
Overall: 7.5 out of 10 bloody baby teeth