Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

by  |  August 26th, 2011  |  Horror

Perhaps you’re wondering what to watch this weekend? Good question. Last week Nathan Strack and I made a field trip to my favorite little movie house in Los Angeles The New Beverly Cinema, thanks to our friends from the Grindhouse Film Festival, to catch an advance screening of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

When we got there, there was the tightest of security measures, no cameras, no phones – you get the idea. One of my great tragedies is that I didn’t get a marquee shot, I always grab one as a keepsake for all the movies I see. Regardless, the New Bev was like Fort Knox with an army of merc’s for hire. I kid, a little.

So we catch our seats, a nice long line, a few celebs attending the event (didn’t have my camera), rather exciting for an event movie.

Speaking of which, I am often perplexed by the notion that Studio’s rarely release their horror films on or around Halloween? I mean, why release The Texas Chainsaw re-makes around Christmas? Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense. Is it just me? I would think it’s more fun for people to go out for a scare around Halloween. I digress.

Katie Holmes as Kim, in Miramax's new horror film Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

Okay so the movie starts, we are treated to a nice Tim Burton-esque intro, minus the Danny Elfman score. So far so good. The opening scene was pretty heavy for me. I literally had to look away with in the first 5 minutes. So did the security girl from Bravo Company. I’ve found that, the older I get and now that I’m a parent, I’ve become more sensitized to violence and gore. But, this is a good thing. Been to long since a movie made me look away, though there’s a few youtube video’s I wished I haven’t watched.

Opening scene, movie starts, we’re cruising now. Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes heading to the airport to grab Sally (Bailee Madison). Sally has been sent to live with her father, Alex (Pearce) from her mother. Alex is in the middle of refurbishing his new to him house with his new girl Kim (Holmes).

Along with the other workers, is the Handyman, who is probably scarier and meaner than any creature lurking below. In fact he makes it his personal mission to be creepy and freak out Sally every chance he gets. Of course, the Handyman is there to protect the secret, because only he knows what lurks below. Blah, blah, blah… he’s mean. I think that protector’s of children could get further with kindness and friendship, but in movies…?

10 minutes after Sally arrives, Kim is ready to pack it in because Sally just won’t give her a chance. Alex beg’s Kim to be more patient. I was thinking Kim should have at least given Sally 20 minutes before she couldn’t take it.

Sally (Bailee Madison) is trying to get evidence of the creatures to prove she's in trouble.

Before long, the family discovers a mysterious sealed door that has been walled over and hidden. It leads to the basement and more importantly, the ash pit. The ash pit is where the creatures dwell. Note to families moving into a new house – if you find a mysterious door hidden behind a wall, it’s like that for a reason, leave it alone. Better yet, move!

Before long the creatures start to seduce Sally with friendship and old silver coins. Sally wants friends. Yes, the creatures are CGI, but it’s not as bad as you may think.

First time feature film director Troy Nixey very effectively uses the creatures to tease his audience. Something lacking in a lot of today’s horror films. We need more of that.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a re-make of an old made for TV movie from 1973. Now I remember that version and it was pretty fun. Writer and producer Guillermo Del Toro has said that the 1973 version terrified him when he was a kid, so it goes without saying, this should be exciting.

Guy Pearce as Alex, trying to protect his family in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

I was expecting this to be more suspenseful, let me explain. Today’s audience, “The Re-make Audience”, likes their movies to be generic. You see, the athstetic that is lacking in film these days is the heart and soul. The John Landis’ and Francis Ford Coppala’s. Where are they? Every generation has them.

Now a days, making movies is so factory assembly line, that it is the equivalent to the guy who paints all the bathroom’s at the Marriott. He will paint each one efficiently and they will all generically look alike. But now if you paint your own bathroom, you take the time, put your heart in it. You want it to last, after all you have to live with it every day.

I’m not dissing Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, it suits todays audience very nicely. In  fact, it is the very movie that “Todays Audience” pays their good money to see, which is why they keep making them just like this. Don’t be Afraid of the Dark is a well made little “Creature Feature”, another thing that is lacking these days. It’s exciting to think that today’s generation could get turned on by such thing’s and possibly even discover the classic’s too. Yes even in the middle of August.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, is at it’s core a “Fairy Tale”. Or better yet, a child’s bedtime story. Bailee Madison deliver’s the goods. She’s very convincing as Sally. The creatures, who like to eat children’s teeth, are pretty fun. I mentioned the CGI because, I am at heart a fan of the old Ray Harryhausen claymation or the animatronics from Gremlins (1984). Sadly, those days are gone.

My last thought is, I would have liked Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark to be longer. More atmosphere, more character, more teasing the audience please! More shadows, more noises… because the one thing that Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark proves is, that we should be. After all, the creatures are afraid of the light.


Here’s the VHS trailer for the original 1973 version too!




Matthew Dowling, a native Philadelphian, now residing in Los Angeles, is an actor, writer and film maker. Matt's training with 2nd City, and numerous appearances in TV shows, movies, theater, infomercials, and most importantly... B movies, has prepared him for making B Movie recommendations.

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