Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
dir Troy Nixey
scr Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
prd Mark Johnson, Guillermo del Toro
with Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, Alan Dale, Trudy Hellier, Garry McDonald, James Mackay, Terry Kenwrick, Libby Gott, Nicholas Bell
release Aus 12.Aug.11, US 26.Aug.11,
UK 7.Oct.11
11/Australia Miramax 1h39
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
There's something under the covers: Madison

holmes pearce thompson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark This inventive horror film plays to our deepest childhood fears. It's like a demented variation on The Borrowers, and first-rate acting and effects work combine to thoroughly creep us out.

Shy, artistic 8-year-old Sally (Madison) moves across the country to live with her architect dad Alex (Pearce) and his designer girlfriend Kim (Holmes) in a massive old Rhode Island mansion. But she soon starts hearing strange noises, and after discovering a boarded-up basement studio, things start getting a bit freaky. But how can she convince her sceptical father and the stepmum she doesn't trust that there's something in the house that wants to tear the family apart? Even after the handyman (Thompson) is attacked, Alex continues his renovations so he can lure a buyer (Dale).

Essentially, this is a suspense-film formula with a claustrophobic point of view, as we identify with the increasingly isolated Sally. She sees what's going on, but Dad dismisses her warnings, and it's only the interloper Kim who slowly starts listening to her. Then Kim's dawning understanding allows us to get the full back-story, which we glimpsed in a brief gothic prologue.

In other words, this is masterful screenwriting, and Nixey directs the film with a sure hand. This enormous house is terrifying even full of people in broad daylight, so when it's empty at night the intensity is almost unbearable. Especially since the menace only emerges in the dark. And the effects work is excellent, realistically woven into the fabric of the scenes as the filmmakers gradually let us see what the threat is.

The cast makes it even more authentic, with throwaway moments of humour, witty nods to scary movies and a quietly realistic exploration of the tensions between these three people as they try to form a family. The story is told in an economic way that never wastes a moment on screen or tries to shock us with a cheap jolt. Each set piece is part of the plot, so each jarring moment of terror gets deeply under our skin. And it'll make you pause for a second when you switch your lights off to go to sleep.

cert 15 themes, violence 16.Aug.11

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall