Some films fail because they only go halfway. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” succeeds, but it goes too far.
As a horror film should be, it’s gruesome, tension-filled and you can’t tear your eyes from the screen. But it’s also cruel, quite depressing and utterly sad.
Written and produced by the masterful Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”), this is a technically top-quality production. But for all its proficient shocks, “Don’t Be Afraid” is emotionally unsatisfying.
The film follows young Sally (Bailee Madison) to Blackwood Manor, the gothic mansion being restored by her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). This is a bad idea.
A gruesome prologue showed us the home’s deranged first owner luring his maid to the dungeon-like cellar and performing medieval dentistry on her. Worse yet, he carried out the atrocity to appease unseen, whispering creatures lurking in the basement, which has since been sealed and forgotten over the generations. Or has it?
Del Toro’s script is a perplexing mix of intelligence and patchy, cliched plotting.
And the climax takes a cliffhanger that would have worked in mid-story and makes it an unwieldy, unresolved finale.
‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’
Rating: R (violence and terror)
Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Directed by: Troy Nixey
Showing at: Chisholm Trail 8 (Newton), Derby Plaza, Northrock 14,
Warren Theatre (east and west)