Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) is based on the 1973 telefilm (made-for-television) horror of the same name that still has quite a cult following, if you can go by the comments found on Youtube. Although the 2010 remake is written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbinis, it bears theme similarities of the 1973 film.
Blackwood Manor is the massive home of nature artist Lord Blackwood (Garry McDonald). However, Blackwood has been tasked by the little creatures that dwell in the old fireplace in the basement of the manor. They have hold of his son, and they promise to give him back–if he could provide them with the teeth of children. Since there were none to be found, he thought it was clever to utilize his own teeth and the teeth of his housekeeper (Eddie Ritchard) as payment. We all know it is near impossible to reason with the creatures who nest in the deepest, darkest parts of the shadows. Instead, Blackwood paid with his own life by being dragged into the fireplace, never to be seen again.
Years have passed, and now Blackwood manor has found new tenants: Alex (Guy Pearce), an architect who is set on making a name for himself again by restoring the manor; Kim (Katie Holmes), his interior designer girlfriend and partner; and Alex’s daughter, 8-year old Sally (Bailee Madison). Sally was forced to live with her father due to the wishes of her mother and was given generous amounts of Adderall. She told her father he left her mother because Kim was younger–Alex disagrees. Everyone seems “old” in the eyes of an 8-year old.
A house is not a home when there are monsters lurking about.
Sally is a curious child who is determined to explore her new surroundings. She wanders the Blackwood property with such naive fascination she does not yet realize the danger she is about to befall. One day while wondering the grounds she happens upon a basement skylight and Harris (Jack Thompson), one of the workmen hired to take care of the property. He warns Sally not to go looking into the basement of Blackwood manor. Some things are best left undiscovered.
However, this wouldn’t be a true horror film if everyone did what they were told, yes? So Alex and Kim find the opening of the sealed basement behind a wall in the foyer. With the blow of a sledgehammer, unwittingly, they released hell. Soon, Sally began hearing rasping whispers from the basement promising friendship; whispers that say they are so hungry; and whispers who wish to be set free.
She finds her way to the basement, and removes the bolts to the furnace and all hell breaks loose. She finds that her new little friends aren’t really her friends and now, her father and Kim, are locked in a battle to save her.
It’s best to leave well enough alone.
What is it about horror films these days that feel it has to reveal the underlying mystery of a film? This film works best as a quiet and subdued story; the creatures were exposed all too soon if you ask me. It is better to let a psychological thriller simmer in all its perplexity. As soon as I seen exactly what was calling to Sally from the basement, the film immediately lost its charm. On top of that, the motives of the creatures were revealed all too soon. When Kim visits the library to find out more about Blackwood and his house, the librarian discloses the macabre of Blackwoods paintings, as well as theories of the unknown and of alternate worlds. I was thinking “Dude we know this already now let’s get back in that damn house and see how Sally fairs with the little beasties!”
Yet the film fails to provide us the advantage of not allowing us to piece together the puzzle on our own. We were told the history of the house, and we were almost immediately told what the creatures wanted (Blackwood in the beginning of the film, along with the “tooth faeries” told us they wanted children’s teeth). Then again with Sally, the creatures told her that they wanted her, but they wound up with Kim. I just don’t like it when horrors tell too much of a tale.
Beyond the obvious spoilers present throughout the film, I have to say it is truly beautiful to view thanks to Del Toro’s cinematic influence. The visuals bought me back to The Orphanage where a similar theme could be found: missing child or children, a furnace or fireplace with a hidden secret; and a plastered up wall, where sealed behind a door, lies stairs leading to a long ago abandoned dark place.
Overall, this is a pretty decent horror movie. Getting a glimpse of those creatures was enough to make me want to check under my bed and peer into the vents to be sure a small pair of eyes wasn’t staring back at me.
Chills me to the bone to even think of it.
Source: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark