By Dagney Palmer and Lili Samios
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark was directed by Troy Nixey and written by Guillermo del Toro. It begins with young Sally (Bailee Madison) reluctantly moving in with her father Alex (Guy Pearce), an architect who is restoring an old mansion for the cover of “Architecture Digest,” and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes).
Sally feels lonely and confused living with her clueless father, and she often seeks refuge in the beautiful gardens that surround the old mansion. Soon, whilst exploring the old-fashioned house, Sally begins to hear voices beckoning to her from the shadows. Alone and betrayed, Sally is easily lured by the voices’ promises of friendship. However, as she learns more and more about the raspy voices, Sally realizes these are no friends of hers. She becomes terrified of the dark and tries to alert her dad, but to no avail. Kim, however, senses that Sally might be telling the truth and frantically starts researching the history of the old mansion.
Kim tries to convince Alex of the danger residing in their home as the whispering creatures encroach ever nearer to Sally, but he’s too worried about having the mansion look nice for the magazine cover. Only coming face to face with the mansion’s secret will make him realize what a fool he’s been.
Bailee Madison, though a satisfactory child actress, distracts from the terror by constantly reminding you of her past acting experiences, mainly as a guest star in the popular Drake and Josh Christmas special on Nickelodeon. Katie Holmes makes her comeback to acting and (not surprisingly) falls short of any low expectations we might have had. Guy Pearce, though his character was annoyingly oblivious, played his part well.
This movie really tries to be scary, but it just isn’t. There were a few moments that made you jump or flinch in pain, but other than that, all the “scary” parts were actually hilarious. Most of the beginning of the movie is so weird or uncomfortable that you can’t help but laugh, and the second half is just plain humorous.
The movie is rated R for no apparent reason; there was little to no cussing, it was anything but terrifying, and the few gory parts that did make you flinch were barely PG-13 worthy. For instance, Harris (Jack Thompson), a guy whose grandfather was involved in the mansion’s dark past, attempts to help Sally by angering the monsters, and they then maul him with scissors, screwdrivers, knives, and other such tools and weapons. Though one would assume all that stabbing would be fatal, Harris emerges from this encounter quite alive.
While we wouldn’t want you to waste your money seeing Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark in theaters (especially if you’re under 17 and have to drag your parents along), we would recommend renting this movie when it comes out on DVD, because everyone can use a good laugh.