Sunday, January 8, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

The other day I reviewed "Gargoyles," a film that has a certain place in the hearts of all fans of fantasy of a certain age. The original "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" holds a similar if slightly higher spot. It was one of the first true freak outs I had. For a week I had to have a flashlight by my bed after seeing that as a kid. It takes a brave man like Guilermo del Toro to want to remake it. The results were fine and scary.

The first change in this version is the addition of a character and a shift in who the main protagonist is. In this version we have a pair of yuppie house flippers who are given the father's daughter for the time being. No one is happy with this specially the young girl Sally. Del Toro must have looked hard cause I don't think there's a girl that looks sadder or angrier than Bailee Madison. This is actually a smart move in that it solves many of plot problems of the original. It's easier to ignore a little girl's "crazy talk," and it's much harder for a little girl to get away from a house no matter how evil it is.

What a house it is! The original house was a big southern gothic looking place. The new house is like an English Country Manor with a touch of LSD. It was nearly overkill and its about as close to a criticism I'm going to give about this film. I remember how they completely screwed over the design of Hill House in the remake of the Haunting and this film came within THIS CLOSE of doing the same. Luckily things like old fashioned bathrooms ground the house back into reality.

Anyway Sally discovers a secret basement (while stepping in a fairy ring!) and of course down there is the curiously bolted hole where strange voices come from. Of course Sally opens it up and of course ugly little critters come out to play. Most times I moan the over use of CGI, but this was done just right. The critters are spooky, scary and FAST!

So, overall this film really does improve over the source material. It's intelligent and frightening. It also interestingly enough makes a perfect bookend to Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth." Definitely worth watching!!

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