Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - DVD Review

'it is difficult to shake the feeling that Nixey has ill-advisedly tried to ape the made-for-TV feel'

It is very difficult to look upon Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark, with its large abandoned mansion, plot following a child and 'Guillermo Del Toro presents...' credit, and view it as anything more than a tame, lame, attempt to ride on the coattails of The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth. Post-viewing, it is even harder to do so.

Troy Nixey's feature debut is a remake of a 1973 made-for-TV movie of the same name and throughout, it is difficult to shake the feeling that Nixey has ill-advisedly tried to ape the made-for-TV feel. The colours are over-saturated. The plot is simplistic. The effects sparsely used and only of so-so quality. The cast, fairly cheap. Imagine if you took the previously mentioned Del Toro films and stripped out all of the beautiful production design; the underground nightmare of Pan's, the dull realism of The Orphange. This is exactly what you'd end up with.

Nixey's shooting style doesn't help his case either. There's one nice shot from a child's eye view as star Bailee Madison explores the world beneath her bed sheets in search of the creatures who whisper to her in the night, but other than that we get huge amount of crane pans over wrought iron gates, looping follow shots through the gardens; basically views that have been recycled in every haunted house film, from Casper: The Friendly Ghost onwards.

Del Toro's script too is unusually lazy and un-involving, though it does feature the tell-tale preoccupation with the neglect of the young as restoration expert Alex (Guy Pearce) and girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) struggle to connect with his daughter Sally (Madison). There's too much exposition along the lines of Alex explaining to Kim that he 'has everything invested in this house', like she - living with him and working on the project herself - wouldn't know this already.

The location - again, perhaps with Nixey drawing too much from the TV version - doesn't have much to give either; there's a grand total of zero set pieces and the large house is used ultimately for a bedroom, a cellar and a hallway. The DVD release date seems designed to try to hitch on to The Woman In Black's publicity but the Emily The Strange style marketing hints at a major cock-up somewhere; how can you fail to sell this as anything but a dark haunted house film, when its influences, poorly nodded to as they may be, are so incredibly clear?

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark is released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on Monday 20th February 2012.

Look further...

Hot Dogs In The Dark have side-by-side comparison reviews of both the 1973 version and Nixey's remake.


  1. Replies
    1. Used to love in Dawson's Creek times. Then I saw The Gift and it was all downhill from there...