Film Review: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dir. by Troy Nixey)

Since late last year, one trailer has managed to consistently scare me.  That trailer was advertising a horror film called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  Well, after a few delays, Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark has finally been released and I’ve finally seen it.  Unfortunately, the trailer is the only thing scariest thing about Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

The film starts out as a classic haunted house story.  Sally (well-played by Bailee Madison) is a young girl who is sent, by her neglectful mother, to live with her father.  Sally’s father (Guy Pearce, who seems to be bored by the whole movie) is restoring an old mansion in Rhode Island with his girlfriend (Katie Holmes).  In a plot development that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, It turns out that the mansion was previously owned by a crazy painter who disappeared over a 100 years ago.  Anyway, Sally isn’t all that happy with the situation to begin with and, once she starts to hear malevolent voices whispering threats at her, she’s even less happy with it.  However, her father refuses to take Sally’s fears seriously.  Why?  Because, simply based on his actions in this film, Sally’s dad is an idiot as well as being the worst father ever!  Seriously.

The main problem with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is that it’s simply not scary.  Director Nixey, making his film debut here, borrows a few effective images from other, better horror films but otherwise, he creates no sense of pace and no sense of tension.  The owners of the voices are revealed fairly early on in the film and as soon as they show up, the film pretty much loses whatever atmosphere of dread that it may have built up.  It’s as if nobody told Nixey that the unknown is always far scarier than obvious CGI. 

It really doesn’t bother me that all of the characters continually do stupid things.  We expect that.  That’s just part of the horror genre.  If the characters in a horror movie acted sensibly and just left the haunted house or didn’t wander off by themselves then there wouldn’t be any horror.  What does bother me in this film is that there’s no consistency in the way the characters act or any sort of continuity for scene to scene.  Sometimes, everybody in the house can hear Sally scream regardless of where they’re located and then other times, it appears that Sally could scream for hours without anyone noticing.  Sometimes, Katie Holmes seems determined to save Sally from the house’s evil forces and then other times, she seems fairly indifferent to whether she survives or not.  Horror films don’t require that characters act with any sort of logic but it does help if there’s at least a little consistency.

I mentioned Lucio Fulci earlier and I did that on purpose because, in many ways, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark reminded me of one of Fulci’s later, post-New York Ripper films.  Like most of Fulci’s later films, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is ultimately a disappointment but occasionally, a little glimmer of talent shines through and manages to keep the film from being a total loss.  In the case of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, most of those glimmers belong to Bailee Madison who is well-cast as Sally and who bring some much needed conviction to the film.  Also, towards the end of the film, there’s a lengthy dinner party sequence in which Sally attempts to ward off the evil creatures while her unaware father attempts to schmooze with his guests (one of whom was played by Alan Dale, the same actor who played Charles Widmore on Lost).  The dinner party sequence actually generates some tension (as well as some intentional laughs) and it hints at what the film could have been.

Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In September?

One month ago, we asked you which films you are most looking forward to seeing in August.  The results of that poll can be found here but, in short, it would appear that, for the majority of our readers, August is going to be all about The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Conan the Barbarian, and Fright Night

(Though for me personally, August is all about One Day.)

So, what’s September going to be all about?  Well, why not let us know by voting in our latest poll?  As always, you can vote for up to four films and write-in votes are always allowed.  Happy voting!

(Personally, I’ll be voting for 50/50, Drive, Contagion, and A Good, Old-Fashioned Orgy.)

2011: The Year In Film So Far

Greetings from the former home of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Crossville, Tennessee!  Yes, Jeff and I are on our way back to Texas.  It’s been a wonderful vacation but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to seeing a movie at the Plano (or Dallas) Angelika on Sunday.  I’m not sure which movie but, as long as it’s a movie, I’ll be a happy girl.

That’s because I love movies.  Movies are what I schedule my life around.  My birth certificate says I was born in 1985 but I know that I was born in the year of Brazil, Prizzi’s Honor, Blood Simple, and After Hours.  If each year can be judged by the quality of the films then how is 2011 looking now that we’ve reached (and passed) the halfway mark?

Right now, as I sit here in this hotel room in my panties and my beloved Pirates shirt, I’d say 2011 is shaping up to be an average year.  There’s been a few films that I loved and there’s been a few that I’ve absolutely despised but for the most part, this year is shaping up to be comfortable and rather bland. 

Much as I did last year at this time, I’m going to take a few minutes to mention a few high points (and low points) of 2011 so far.  Agree?  Disagree?  Make your opinion known.

Best Film (So Far): Hanna, without a doubt.  Joe Wright’s stylish thriller hasn’t gotten half the acclaim that it deserves.  Runners-ups: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Incendies, Jane Eyre, Kill The Irishman, Of Gods and Men, Red Riding Hood, Sucker Punch, The Source Code, Super, 13 Assassins, The Tree of Life, Win Win, X-Men: First Class

Best Male Performance of the Year (so far): Paul Giamatti in Win Win.  Runners up: Bobby Cannavale in Win Win, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Hesher, Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, and Rainn Wilson in Super.

Best Female Performance Of The Year (so far): Sairose Ronan in Hanna. Runners up: Lubna Azabal for Incendies, Ellen Page for Super, Amy Ryan for Win Win, and Mia Wasikowska for Jane Eyre.

Best Ending (so far): The charmingly low budget zombie film that runs over the end credits of Super 8.

Best Horror Film (so far): Insidious.

Most Underrated Film Of The Year (so far): A tie, between Sucker Punch and Red Riding HoodRed Riding Hood, as a matter of fact, was so underrated that I had to see it a second time before I really appreciated it.

Best Bad Film: Beastly.  Silly but kinda fun in a really, really odd sort of way.

Worst Film of The Year (so far): The Conspirator, a bore of a movie that was apparently filmed through a filter of grime.  Runners up: Priest, The Beaver, Battle L.A. (sorry Arleigh, Leonard, and Erin), Season of the Witch, Your Highness, and The Green Lantern.

Biggest Example of A Missed Opportunity This Year (So Far): The Adjustment Bureau, which could have been a great Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind-type of film but instead, turned out to be just another predictable and shallow example of new age triteness.

The Get-Over-It Award For The First Half Of 2011: The Conspirator, a film that attempts to be relavent by using the 19th Century to comment on political issues from 2006.

My Prediction For Which Film Will Be The Most Overrated Of 2011: Last year, I predicted The Social Network and, surprise surprise, I was right.  In fact, the folks at are still bitching about how The Social Network lost best picture to The King’s Speech.  (By the way, a few other choice pieces of wisdom from Awards Daily: The Beaver is Jodie Foster’s best film ever and only elitists should be allowed to comment on film.)  This year, I’m going to predict that the most overrated film of 2011 will be the unnecessary remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

My Prediction For What Will Be The Worst Film Of 2011: The winner here is another remake — Rod Lurie is remaking Straw Dogs and this time, he’s setting it in the South.  You know what?  Go back to Vermont and fuck yourself ragged, you dumbass, blue state elitist.  

So, that’s 2011 so far.  There’s still quite a few films that I’m looking forward to seeing: Another Earth, The Debt, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Hugo, and most of all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Poll: Which Films Are You Looking Forward To Seeing in August?

Last month, we did a poll asking which film you were most looking forward to seeing in June and July.  The results can be viewed here.

Below, you’ll find the poll for August.  Once again, you can vote for up to four films and write-ins are accepted.  This poll will remain open until August 1st.  Happy voting!

Trailer: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

I love films, all films, in general but if there’s one particular film genre that really floats my boat then it would be in the horror category. This summer will see the release of a title that I’ve been anticipating since I heard about it at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The film I speak of is the remake of the 1973 tv horror film of the same name: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

While Troy Nixey takes the director’s chair for this film he’s working on a story written by Guillermo Del Toro who’s been known to dabble in the horror genre (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone). Del Toro promised a horror film that would bring back horror the way it’s meant to be and that’s with genuine scares and not horror predicated on torture and extreme use of gore. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark will be a throwback to the atmospheric, almost gothic horror, that reached it’s peak during the late 70’s before the slasher boom hit.

The film has been delayed several times as Miramax Films was sold by Disney and the restructuring of the studio after it’s owners finalized it’s purchase put the film on the backburner. It now has an official August 26, 2011 release and it looks like the film got an R-rating from the MPAA for “pervasive scariness”. While Del Toro, Nixey and the rest of the film crew were hoping for a PG-13 rating the one given by the MPAA who seemed to really enjoy said “pervasive scariness” recommended it go out as an R-rated horror (one with little to no gore).

So, we have an upcoming horror film by an upcoming filmmaker handpicked by Del Toro. A film written by Del Toro himself and one which just got an R-rating which made Del Toro as happy as a clam. Plus, it’s a horror film that relies on genuine scares and not gore. My answer to that is August 26, 2011 cannot come sooner.