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Saturday 3 September 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Director: Troy Nixey Run Time: 99 mins

Review by Dan Collacott

We all remember how vulnerable we were growing up and how vivid and
 intense our imaginations were right? The boogie man is still with us all even now... just takes a different form! The deconstruction of childhood fears has been a classic stable mate of horror writers for decades, film makers love bringing those fears to life and forcing us to confront them. Guillermo del Toro also delights in taking familiar fairytales, myths and fables and playfully twisting them beyond recognition, wringing out every drop of potential darkness from them.

Director - comic book artist Troy Nixey has combined his creative aesthetics with del Toro's mastery of old school vintage horror to create '
Don't be Afraid of the Dark' a film moulded in the classic gothic horror of the past. The film borrows heavily from the filmic pallete of Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy and Chronos.

With Nixey directing del Toro writes and produces this 1973 TV movie adaptaion only this time round Sally (the neurotic housewife character of the original) is replaced by a small girl of the same name (Bailee Madison). Sally has been unwillingly forced to leave her mother and stay with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) in a gothic mansion
that he and his girlfriend are refurbishing. Girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) plays virtually the same role as the housewife did in the original but her nerousis is replaced by a tragic childhood back story which is only hinted at.

Whilst Alex toils to get funding to complete the house's transformation, Kim is left to try and become a reluctant step mother to an even more reluctant little girl, both thrust into a sitiuation neither chose to be part of. Sally is the archetype sullen overprotected modern youth who has fallen between the cracks of a broken family and harbors a deep seated longing to belong and be wanted. In the wretched depths of the house, whispering creatures beckon her, telling her they want to brefriend her and that she should go with them.

I won't layer on the full back story to the house but needless to say the basement and caverns below have been blocked off after previous occupants met with an unexplained dentist inspired end. Drawn to the spiney goblin folk (think mutated Borrowers on acid) Sally removes a grill that covers their layer and unwittingly lets the madness of the sinister occupants loose. The fabled boogey men then play havoc by committing acts that Sally is blamed for by her distracted disbelieving guardians. Of course as you would expect only she can hear or see them (at first) and as their whispers become taunts - their evil intentions soon unravel at a tense suspense filled pace.

Their are some vivid and heart stopping scares but it is the tension and supense that builds and drip feeds into your consciousness slowly throughout which dominates proceedings. Granted the acting is a bit wooden at times and their are a few plot holes here and there. Both Holmes and Ritchie are given little opportunity to really stretch themselves, but this doesn't detract too much from the narrative. The film scratches and slashes through numerous horror house cliches, but del toro and Nixey ensure that their visceral reworking of the traditional fairytale still feels suprisingly fresh and relevant.

I did personally feel that the 'little people' were on screen a little too often - with the creators going a bit 'George Lucas' CG crazy at points. This was however offset by the fact the goblins are so repulsive and evil that they never fail to make your flesh crawl whenever you cast a quivering half closed eye on their boney teeth
filled forms.

A PG-13 rating would hamstring most horror films, but Nixey and del Toro proves that gore, sex and extreme violence are not needed to create a chilling modern reworking of a classic old school gothic horror! This should be and deserves to be a hit!