Sunday, March 10, 2013

Re-Imagining A 1970s Terror Tale

The original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark aired on the ABC Movie of the Week in 1973, and concerned a young married couple who move into a new house, only to find it inhabited by mysterious creatures that seem to be focused on terrifying the wife, played by Kim Darby. It was a creepy & memorable tale, well directed by John Newland. One of the people who was scared & impressed by the film was Guillermo Del Toro, writer-director of Blade 2 (2002)Hellboy (2004) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). He was so taken with the movie he produced & co-wrote a remake, also titled Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which was directed by Troy Nixey and released in 2011. This new version of the story stars Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison as Sally, a young girl who discovers that there are some terrifying creatures living in the old house her father (played by Pearce) is restoring. Of course, initially, no one else realizes there's a supernatural threat looming, until it's almost too late. What do these creatures want, and why does their attention center on Sally?

The film has some effective scares and good performances, though it doesn’t quite have the sense of creepy fun or the slow build up tension provided by the original. Since this is a modern horror film, there are a couple of "jump scare" scenes along the way, and some of the character development feels a bit lacking. It’s much darker in tone (as you’d expect from a project involving Del Toro) and gives the creatures a more fleshed out & detailed backstory. The movie is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original version, or of the talented Del Toro’s films in the horror genre. It does have some effective twists on & interesting updates to the story, but in some ways it feels like a variation on the original idea more than a remake. The original movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video, and the remake is available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download. Here’s a link to the trailer for the the new version:

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