Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Telling the story of a young girl going to a new home, a new parent and coming into contact with mythological beings, featuring a maze and with the name Guillermo del Toro attached, you might be forgiven for thinking 'Don't Be Afraid if the Dark' is a remake of 'Pan's Labyrinth'. It's not. It's a remake of a 70's TV movie that had me sleepless for months after I saw it (right up there with 'Salem's Lot'). Though that earlier film scared the Cadbury's Creme Eggs out of me, no one could accuse it of a high budget or lofty aspirations, both of which this version has. I mean use the hallowed name of Arthur Machen, give your beasties a persuasive history, model them on the drawings of Arthur Rackham, and stick them in a wonderful old, dark house, and you must have a winner, right?
Sadly, no. I appreciate what the movie was striving for, but the back story involving tooth fairies(!) and the netherworld adds nothing to an otherwise run-of-the-mill, not to mention mechanical, horror. The direction tries to be fancy, but forgets to build tension, and very little is made of the classic 'they won't believe me' dynamic that the original made so much of. Clich├ęs like the knowledgeable old retainer, the boarded up cellar, and the dark history gradually discovered, are trotted out like disinterred ancestors caught rolling in their graves. And for all they look like creatures from Faerie, the CGI monsters are too obviously 'animated' to really terrify. The original had guys in furry suits wearing Doomlord masks. They would hide behind out-sized furniture and set wicked little traps. But hell, did they terrify me! All the budget and knowledge of the genre has done is blunt that crude, but sharp blade.
Nothing about this unfortunate movie can hold a flickering candle to the original. Don't be afraid of the dark, but don't go to it either.

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