‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ Review

Published 4 years ago by

Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Review Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

When seeing a scary movie in a theater, you always run the risk of encountering that obnoxious audience member – the one who loudly criticizes the characters onscreen as if they can hear him, or laughs at every scary moment, or generally complains how stupid the movie is. Typically, encountering such a person makes for a frustrating viewing experience; in the case of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, however, you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with him.

It’s a shame: Guillermo del Toro has earned a strong reputation as a creative visionary in the genres of fantasy and horror, but even his guiding hand as a co-writer and producer can’t protect this film from the mistakes of an untested director, lackluster performances, and a story filled with glaring logical flaws.

The plot involves an old house that has some nasty little creatures running around its bowels. When the former owners of the house met a grisly end, the creatures were locked in their hole in the basement, waiting for another chance to be set loose in search of their favorite delicacy: children’s teeth.

Enter little Sally (Bailee Madison), a precocious and despondent child of divorce whose mother has shipped her off to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce), and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). Alex and Kim are architects/designers who are working to restore the old haunted house to greatness, so that they can sell it off and make a fortune. Sally instantly rebels against daddy and daddy’s girlfriend, so when she hears whispers coming from the vents in the house, well, she’s just happy to have friends to talk to. And when Sally makes the questionable decision to grab a wrench and unbolt a heavily-bolted hatch in the scary basement, well, she just wants somebody to play with.

Sally releases the evil creatures from imprisonment and quickly finds out that they’re not the ideal playmates she thought they were – since they want to eat her teeth and all. Daddy doesn’t believe Sally about the monsters (despite some glaring evidence) and wants to up her meds – but Kim slowly comes around to believing the girl (thanks to some glaring evidence) and tries to aid her. But of course, by the time everybody is on the same page it’s too late, and the monsters are out for blood.

Bailee Madison as Sally in Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Review

Bailee Madison as Sally in 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is like watching a cable TV movie that has delusions of big screen grandeur. That’s certainly the way first-time feature director Troy Nixey has constructed the film, which is a perfect storm of mediocre camerawork, mediocre cinematography, mediocre acting, a script full of holes and logical flaws, and an overall audio and visual experience that feels like a mismatched patchwork cobbled together by unsure hands. I could go on at length – how the classic monster movie music contrasts with the crisp, modern digital photography, or how poor the camera work is – but by far it’s the script by del Toro and Matthew Robbins that is the most distracting thing about this movie: the number of logical flaws in the film is staggering.

For instance: one scene features a supporting character suffering a brutal attack by the creatures (which Sally witnesses, by the way), and neither Alex or Kim ever pauses long enough to find out who assaulted the guy, or why. It’s just off to the hospital for the victim, while our main characters continue going about their business, seemingly unaffected by the ramifications of what has just occurred. This is just one example of unrealistic logic the film throws at us – it also offers the added bonuses of unexplained plot points and an ending which will likely leave you with many unanswered questions.

If there is one thing to be said for the cast, it’s that they certainly succeed in portraying the most illogical human beings I’ve seen in a movie, and this is on top of some generally bad acting. Even the most polite viewer will have trouble warding off judgement for the lengthy duration of Alex’s denial – although Guy Pearce does a good enough job playing a pompous father who is more concerned with his work than his daughter’s happiness. Madison and Holmes… pretty much have the same range of ability as far as acting goes, which makes the secondary subplot about their relationship grueling to watch (or hilarious, depending on how you look at it). Just try not to groan and/or laugh during the coy pond “bonding” scene.

Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison in Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Review

A 'dramatic moment' in 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'

The monsters (labeled as gnomes or evil fairy things, or something…) are well conceived – smart, agile, ruthless and scary-looking – although they are pathetically bad at their job. We basically watch them try and fail time after time to dispatch a child who has nowhere to run or hide, is often alone and heavily medicated, and who doesn’t exactly excel in the brains department. The filmmakers do manage to construct some tense moments and sequences (the bathtub scene), but since these ultimately have little to no pay off, they are little more than wasted opportunities.

The other issue with the creatures is that, since they are ostensibly small CGI animals, the actors (who are not exactly convincing to begin with) don’t react in ways that coincide with the movements and actions of the creatures. This often involves characters glancing the wrong way, or appearing deaf to sounds the creatures are making – especially young Bailee Madison, who spends the most time alone onscreen and just isn’t equipped to make something convincing out of so much fantasy.

All in all, it’s impossible to recommend Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark to anyone but those who enjoy laughing at horror films which are totally stupid and cheesy. Anyone who wants an actual scary movie experience, or even just some mindless escapism, won’t find either of those things in this house.

Don’t Be Aftraid of the Dark is now playing in theaters everywhere. If you’re still on the fence about seeing the film, watch the trailer – and be sure to rate the movie for yourself by voting in our poll below:


[poll id="182"]

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. I really dislike the kid in this movie. I know I should be sympathetic for her just because her parent is divorce but i can’t. She came into their house, she’s hateful, she tear the love apart, cause problem for the couple, and got Kim kill. Omg, I hate how kids cause problem that they can’t solve or understand and then when it all blown up in their face they scream, cry and expect other people to clean up their mess. Then the Alex, what the crap Alex? When Blackwood son died he grieved and try all the ways to get him back, but when Alex GF died he turned his back and didn’t even shed a tear. He could have safe her, she was right f****** there, but he didn’t. He’s a bad bad bad boyfriend, and she even safe his daughter. I hate cold guys like that, JERK!

    • This Movies was so stupid. For two grown-ups lose to small,stupid and weak creatures? From my opinion this movies seems lack of intelligence .. but i still can accept that the Father do not believed her daughter stories.. that what grown-ups did . I hated when Alex(Father) .. got dozed off when only falled from an slipped? .. Sorry if my Grammar bad .. but still if i can give rate from 1 to 5 for this movies i will give 1 ..

      Sorry if my words too harsh!..

  2. This Movies was beyond confusing. For one the creatures were not smart what so ever. They had many opportunities to get Sally the tube,her room, which could of been easy being that there were vents in her room the whole time but, watever. I never understood why they wanted teeth or how they change the mind of people and the looks. It was a very confusing movie glad it was watch on netflix in i didn’t waste my time going to the movies.

  3. I enjoyed the movie. But that’s because I enjoy most monster/fantasy things. I liked the design of the creatures, agile and sneaky things. What confused me? Why was that tall creature (the one smashed to death at the end) so important and who was that voice at the end? HELP ME!?

    • i think that was Kim or Kate Voice that they(The Weird Creatures).. Takes from her …

  4. I think there are more creatures than those down there? That’s what is confusing me cause when the creatures talked to the girl at the very beginning they said we like you and they hate you, we want you and not them?

  5. I suppose none of you have seen the original TV movie from 1973? Anyway this remake was just annoying to sit through. The creatures in the original are not scary but are weird and some what creepy. The creatures in this film though I think look a lot better and are weird, scary, and creepy as hell. As much as I like the design I don’t really care for the cgi and well I feel that the original is much better and I of course love it(the 1973 original). I never really cared for Del Toro or most films that come out now anyway. By the way if anyone reads this I am not even that old, I was born in the mid 1990s. The creatures in this film are a little memorable but the creatures in the original are extremely memorable. In the 1973 film the protagonist is an adult woman and the creatures want her soul. The original does not have any blood but makes up for it in suspense, characters, and atmosphere. Both endings are similar but in the original when the creatures (SPOILER ALERT) consume the protagonist’s soul she becomes one of them and we hear her voice talking to the other creatures in the dark. In my opinion the original is awesome and I love it where as this new film/remake is simply okay but cliched with an annoying protagonist. The original for me is a 4.3/5 stars flick while the remake is a 2.9/5 stars flick.

  6. This film was really pathetic!
    What a waste of cash!
    It would be better to see the little girl get more revenge than just flatten 1 with with the blunt end of the failing torch. And what about the old housekeeper? WTF did she go?? (Down the hole hopefully for the fat lot of good she did)!
    There’s a couple of hours of my life I will never get back.