Monday, August 15, 2011
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
The buzz surrounding "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has been growing since its festival appearance in 2010 and building from his previous films. There are several similarities between this film and others that Guillermo del Toro has written (ie "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006) and "The Devil's Backbone" (2001). In an interview he confirms that the 1973 original was an influence for much of his prior work.
The story is about creatures in a home who according to their mythology want to claim one of them as one of their own. Keeping the story simple allows for the Guillermo del Toro to explore the fears of the characters and provide a visual that will remain with the audience much like the original stuck with him since his childhood. While the original focused on a young couple (Sally and Alex Farnham), the modern version is about a young girl named Sally (Bailee Madison) sent to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce), and his new girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). While exploring the house, Sally starts to hear voices coming from creatures in the basement whose hidden agenda is to claim her as one of their own.
I have never been a huge fan of horror films where blood and guts take the focus away from the story or acting. Frequently, the lack of a story or quality acting is the sign of a horror film, but Guillermo del Toro shows restraint and only shows what is necessary to make the audience remain afraid. Similar to "Insidious" I would call this a smart horror film, and even though it is based on prior work and you might be able to predict where it is going, you will never-the-less be frightened without being grossed out by gore.
The performances from Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes are annoying in how the father shows his love for his daughter, but then doesn't believe her when she tells the truth. Katie Holmes tries to show that she has matured and can play the motherly character, but it still isn't believable for me. The strongest performance comes again from Bailee Madison who was most recently seen stealing the spotlight in "Just Go With It". For fun, try to listen to the voices of the creatures and you will find Guillermo del Toro and one at the end that will make you beg for a sequel (even though I don't think it will happen).
Not often does a remake surpass the original, but I think that by switching the attention from the wife in the original to the child in the remake works better. Additionally, the camera work and pacing of the film was about right without taking things too far. Overall, this is a solid 3 Quack film.
(screening date 8/15/11, release date 8/26/11, location Regal Gallery Place)