Release Date: 7th October
Director: Troy Nixey
Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Baliee Madison and Jack Thompson
Running Time: 99 mins
During our own early years as human beings, we’re all afraid of one thing: the dark. We all thought there was some evil, hideous monster lurking in the darkness waiting to attack us at every opportunity. Thankfully that wasn’t the case but our imagination still wouldn’t stop horrifying us.
In a modern day world of horror full of torture, blood and guts it’s incredibly refreshing to see a horror, (or should I say, a haunted house movie) going for atmosphere and character development and not a full-on gory assault. After all, staring into a black abyss is far more chilling than watching a dumb adolscent’s arm being hacked off with a chainsaw. It’s certainly gratifying to see both Insidious and Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark trying to show there’s a certain craft to making a horror; the subtle, bone chilling scares, the use of sound and production design and creating sympathetic characters.
After a very sinister opening, Sally (Baliee Madison) is being forced to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at a 19th century mansion, which Alex is renovating. However, it doesn’t take long for Sally to realise something isn’t right as she begins to hear noises down in the basement. Something is lurking in the dark, waiting to cause havoc.
Obviously, as with every haunted house movie – a suspension of disbelief has to be carried out in order to enjoy the film. If anyone was told to live in an eerie looking 19th century mansion with a disheveled looking groundskeeper, they’d run a mile. The film does contain the normal haunted house clichés, but it’s the execution that makes it different from everything else. It’s a wonderfully, dark fairy tale.
Even though it’s his first feature, Troy Nixey handles Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark with assurance, keeping the audience on their toes as the darkness begins to surround the mansion. The tension escalates with precision and elation as Nixey creates a 99 minute long immersive theme park ride, full of dark comedy and solid chills; full marks should also go to Roger Ford (Production Designer) and Robert Mackenzie (Sound Designer) for help creating the ominous atmosphere.
Another obstacle for Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark overcomes is the character. Yes, their characters are from other haunted house movies, but they’re brilliantly played. Katie Holmes gives a career best performance as Kim; caring, understanding yet strong and independent – she’s not a scream queen. Her scenes with Baliee Madison strike a fantastic chord as you genuinely believe in their mother/daughter style relationship. Baliee Madison is the equivalent, her role could’ve crumbled the entire film, but this is a very mature performance from a 10-year-old girl. Expect to see more of her in the years to come. Guy Pearce, unfortunately, gets the duff role out of the three but because Mr. Pearce is a fantastic actor he turns the role into an integral part of the movie.
However, the film trips over itself during the last act. The creatures are very sinister, and more menace is created when they’re hidden in the shadows. Despite this, the filmmakers couldn’t resist displaying more of them during the finale, which slowly destabilizes the tension and turns into Gremlins as home utilities begin to feature – the expectation of one of the little critters to be dispatched in a microwave was very high. At least the ending isn’t a cop out.
Despite the familiarity of the subject matter, Nixey and his cast create a memorable fairly tale boast great performances and spine chilling scares. If Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is anything to go by, then Mr. Del Toro’s produced reboot of The Haunted Mansion is going to be one helluva ride.