‘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 wanna see the original , but , its so hard to find

  2. uh. oh. I hope Guillermo is not another M. Night. No one wants a one hit wonder director.

    • Guillermo del Toro didn’t direct this.


      • oops. you’re right.

    • I don’t know what people see in Guillermo. I really don’t. He is a good illustrator. All fantasy/sci-fi illustrators have vivid imagination.

      But like English literature or short story, just one good story does not make an icon. Of course we all think that because media has trained us to follow them like lemmings. But this film did not surprise me. In fact, I don’t think most understand how the film business works.

      You can read a script and easily discover all these problems. So why make it when so many good scripts are not being made? Ask yourself these questions.

      This movie was made for one reason. Guillermo’s flavor-of-the-month buzz and Katie Holmes. That’s it. Tom Cruise’s wife is more important than what any audience member thinks. All the money was made before the movie was shot, so everyone made money. Even the investors could care less about their money on something like this. Everyone in Hollywood wants a piece of Katie Holmes, and with that kind of mentality at the film markets, this is what we get.

      Welcome to a liberal Hollywood, where Substance is gauche and Entertainment is manipulation.

  3. and honestly, though I do believe that this movie could have been so much more scarier and well … better, it really is not as bad as you claim.

    pretty harsh review.
    - the character that gets attacked does claim it was an accident and refused to tell what actually happened. the character was supposed to keep it all a secret.
    - the acting was not horrible at all, why do you think otherwise? The little girl did an excellent job. I see another Isabelle or Dakota in her.
    - The movie offers some frights.
    - the cinematography was beautiful in my opinion. Very well done.

    I feel the only thing that kept this film from being great is that it did not live up to it’s hype as being “Oh So Scary”. It became more of a fantasy to me. The creatures failed to excite any true horror.

    Def. not a 2 star movie though.

    So i agree that the movie could have been so much better.

    • I agree with you. There was a general creepiness to the film until they actually started showing the creatures, and I wouldn’t say it was a scarefest, but it was a decent dark fairy tale. I’d say 3 stars, and probably wait for video.

      • I loved this movie! I wanted to see a fun, scary movie for my birthday, and it was both. The sets were gorgeous, the acting was pretty good, the litte creatures were fun (I call them “Scuttlies). The plot was silly, but all scary movie plots are silly.

        It was just what I expected – not too gory or brutal, but scary-fun.

    • No knock, knock,… the review was spot on. The camera work and directing is not that bad as the reviewer says, which I think is confusing people. Camera work is professional. But it’s one-dimensional– meaning all the scenes are lit the same way.

      It’s the writing and concept that is bad. Guillermo probably drew a picture of one of the monsters, they dropped Katie’s name and viola…. you have yourself $25 million to make a movie.

      Yes, $25million was spent on this. Most of that went to Katie though. Suffice it to say , marrying a celebrity in the film business has its advantages.

  4. I wasn’t really looking forward to this, not a fan of katie holmes.

    Are you guys going to review our idiot brother?

    • Danny,

      I don’t know if we will. Kofi was going to review that one but he’s in the hurricane Irene zone and is making preparations.


  5. All I’ve seen from reviews so far, here and elsewhere, is a lot of wanna be directors turned critic giving lottery winning director Nixey a rough ride. Yes it’s his first film, yes some doors opened as if by magic for the guy, but sheesh try a little objectivity once in a while.

    • Have you seen the film? Or are you just bashing our review (and others – “wannabe directors”) out of general principle?


      • Yes I saw it. Perhaps it is not the straight up horror flick many expect from the genre. Instead it is one that makes you think. Much of the scariness of this film grows out of the relationships. Are we so desensitized to suffering that when a child is overmedicated, dismissed, under attack by forces those she should be able to rely upon for protection refuse to acknowledge, we cannot feel the horror in this? Yes there were some schlocky bits but movies should be able to be enjoyed on more than one level. The filmmakers may have given their audience too much credit when it comes to knowing the history of fairies and other nasty creatures… but is that a reason to say the movie is confusing? Just because a horror movie is challenging does not mean it is a bad film.

        So I appologize for the off the cuff and slightly ad hominem assessment of where many reviewers are at when it comes to the horror genre. On the otherhand when reading a review by someone who walked out at the 20 minute mark — hey I wanted to the first time I saw 28 Days Later, glad I didn’t — or another who was too busy on his iphone to give the film the attention it required, yeah it makes me a bit testy. On the other hand, reading the review here and having seen the film I was wondering if the reviewer got all the names and situations correct but was actually next door at Conan.

        • I saw it, and was completely underwhelmed. I think, as Kofi said, there were too many plot holes and the director could’ve been a better pick, someone who has feature experience. I’m happy he had the opportunity, but… it also didn’t help that the theater I saw it at either kept the brightness on the bulb down (maybe), or they’ve been to cheap to change out a dim, dying bulb (likely), so things were darker than they needed to be.

    • That’s presumptuous. Did you consider the possibility that people could have an opinion different from your own?

      • XD. No, that never occured to me. But now that you mention it, that may be what the problem is ;)

        But come on, surely you can tell when critics are going out of their way to slag a film? Something about the language they use. Same goes when they are praising a film without merit. As you know genre films hardly ever get a fair shake. Some critics always pan and/or do not “get” horror. Others go hard on films featuring hot button actors (ie Katie Holmes). Still others have high expectations for anything with Del Toro’s name on it and go harder on the film than they might otherwise (DBAotD was made for a modest $25m afterall).

        • “But come on, surely you can tell when critics are going out of their way to slag a film? Something about the language they use.”
          Well, though I don’t feel that way about this particular review, I agree. :)

  6. I agree with this review on several points, although I actually enjoyed the film. I think the reason I enjoyed it was because it was something I hadn’t seen before and the creatures were interesting. However, there DEFINITELY were some plot problems along with additional problems that Kofi brought up.
    I found the actions of the old guy who had the “accident” in the basement to be odd. At first, he’s like “oh I just had an accident…(fell on several sharp tools then rolled around in them)” then later he tells Kim “Here, I’ve changed my mind, go to the public library and you’ll have all your answers and everything I’m not telling you will be discovered slowly; but get the little girl outta the house” so naturally, Kim goes to find the answers BEFORE getting the little girl out of the house as advised by the guy who barely escaped with his own life. By the way, what exactly were the creatures gonna do if he told people about them? Not give him any more coins for his teeth? Travel to the hospital to kill him? Ah well, I suppose these aren’t the worst plot holes I’ve seen recently. But I totally see where Kofi is coming from. I was a bit disappointed with the ending. What exactly was up with that?? Maybe I didn’t understand it right…

    • I read the Wikipedia (SPOILERS!!) entry, and they reminded me that the creatures have to (SPOILER ALERT!!!) replenish their ranks. Which makes no sense… do they eat teeth AND replenish their ranks? What about the “feasting on the bones”?? Too many plot holes.

      • I think the idea is they somehow leech the calcium (or whatever) out of the skeleton and teeth, without killing the host, while at the same time granting them unnatural longevity. This leads to their shrivelled appearance. Sort of like doing a shrunken head treatment to the whole body without killing the person. It is a fantasy/horror film.

        If a viewer refuses to suspend disbelief, is that the same as a plot hole? Lots of things don’t make sense in fantasy/horror. It comes with the territory that some things require some explanation beyond what is shown in the film. Is that the same as a plot hole?

  7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” was originally a 74 minute made for tv movie, which came out in the early 1970s. Is it dramatically different from the original?

  8. “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark,” but be afraid of this film. That was one of the worst pieces of crap that I’ve ever seen. If I were holding a blow torch, I would have set the screen ablaze during the closing credits. The characters in this movie are not in the least bit interesting, and the monsters aren’t scary at all. They’re these little imp like creatures that are about the size of a rat. If the characters wanted to get rid of them, they should have just called an exterminator or better yet, gotten a few house cats and the movie could have been over in like 3 minutes.

    • -no one is going to believe “oh we have a fairy problem lol come take care of it”
      -they’re faries who live in holes and vents, how big were you expecting them to be?

      I’ve seen MUCH worse horror/fantasies ex: darkness falls (anybody else remember the hilarious part where the tooth fairy just pushes her off the bike and runs off?I laugh every time I watch it)
      I think with some tweaking and additional scenes it kind of reminded me of Pan’s Labrynth(which I honestly was expecting to see more fantastical monsters in)and the orphan(which also has some bad plot holes. interesting story though). I get the feeling there were scenes that they cut out for whatever reason, so I might rent the movie when it’s out just to see

  9. I was really wanting to see this movie, but I think I’ll pass on it now.

  10. It sounds like it came from the bowels of the George Lucas style of scripting and directing… where, as the prequels so aptly show us, things happen because the scripts dictate that they happen. Don’t ask whether they make sense or not, or if they’re completely unrealistic.

  11. The last scary movie Ive seen was “The Others” and before that was ‘Sixth Sense.

  12. YOU SAID: 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. -THE MAN SAID TO THEM THAT HE HAD AN ACCIDENT. He TOLD them it was an accident. Sally knew what happened. Sally knew it was the tooth faries that did it. The old woman took he long time work partner’s word that it was an accident. period. There was nobody else there.

    • @Eddie:

      And what makes no sense is the fact that he merely called it an accident and didn’t tell everyone to get out of the house. What were the tooth fairies gonna do?? Sue him for telling the world about them?? And it also makes no sense that he keep it a secret then tells Kim to go to the library where all of what he could simply tell her is uncovered slowly while Sally is still in danger at the house. Inexcusable hole/logical flaw. Period.

      • I don’t think anyone would believe him if he told. Maybe he thought they couldn’t do anything if he just sealed the hole and things would be fine. Maybe he figured if he told they would open it to prove there was nothing and they would fire him/get angry etc for increasing the daughters “delusions”. Maybe he told because he was “heavily sedated” and a bit cooky from the pain meds like the nurse said. People tend to say/admit crazy stuff when they’re on meds. I would know.
        No one is going to believe a story about “OMG FARIES THEY’RE EVERYWHERE” from an old guy if they haven’t seen them, they would think he’s crazy and fire him or ignore him.
        The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why he would work there in the first place if he knew, other than maybe “he was trusted to keep them locked away” or something

  13. Why does Del Toro have such interest in these toothfairy type creatures.He was involved with a hellboy book (odder jobs) a few years ago and thats what one of the stories was about then in Hellboy 2 the same type of creatures make an appearence now this.

  14. Guillermo meant for this to happen because now people won’t have high expactations for his next huge budget film Pacific Rim then he will either blow us away or let us down on that one.

  15. I knew this was a Kofi review before I even checked the name lol,I always can. Somewhat dramatic, inflammatory writing style, that’s a bit more personal than professional. He puts the “rant” in Screenrant. He did make some good points, but it really wasn’t that bad a flick. Maybe I’m a half glass full kinda guy when it comes to horror movies, but I would’ve given it a 3 1/2.

  16. I’m still crying for the waste of time and money of seeing this film. It is so bad and gruesome that if I could go back in time I would tell my yesterday self too keep the money and not go watch it. Please give me my money back… !!!

  17. Can someone please explain the ending to me? I really did NOT understand it.

    • I guess holmes’s character became one of them….which really isn’t much of a shocking twist but more of a “hmmmm…..well how about that….”

      • Maybe Tom Cruise and John Travolta and the rest of the entire Church of Scientology was down there and converted her. Again, the little creatures all live inside this old stove heater that leads down to some giant pit. All they had to do was throw a few hand grenades down there and shout “Fire in tte Hole!” and ran out. This movie was awful. I figured Del Toro knew better, but I guess I was wrong.

  18. I haven’t seent his movie, and have no plans to since the trailer showed a crappy wannabe horror movie. HOWEVER, I wanted to point out to the reviewer that thouroughly editing a review before posting it is probably a good idea. COY means “flirtatiously shy”, and KOI is a type of fish that swims in KOI PONDS. Glaring errors like that just take away from the message and makes an appropriately harsh review read more like a childish rant.

    • Like I said.

  19. If you’ve seen the original you would understand the ending and why the creatures are silly and small. It’s a REMAKE that means they r going to redo it just like the old one. It’s not meant to be scary but creepy and dark just like the old film. SPOILER!!!!!!the creatures take Katie holmes at the end just like they took the girlfriend in the old film. I liked it cus it was different not like the movies nowadays that have stupid teens and characters just like in any horror film getting hacked up. Also stupid characters is important because then it won’t be a horror film. They have to go towards danger just for the audiences pleasure

  20. Ugh! I can’t even think of the last time I saw a film this terrible…oh, wait! Yes I can. Try “The Last Airbender.” EVERYONE IN THE THEATER STARTED LAUGHING AND MAKING (well-deserved) OFF-HANDED COMMENTS THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE and as a theater audience we all shared the same sentiment! The plot really made very little sense, the acting was horrid, the creatures were not even scary, so much as they were just…well, goofy, and the worst part was the fact this was advertised as a horror film, when it quickly turned into little more than a poorly written comedy. If you’re considering seeing this movie: PLEASE DON’T! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T SEE THIS MOVIE! If you really want to see a truly scary flick, rent “Insidious.” Now that is a horror masterpiece.

    • Thank you Kim – you and I had the same experience.

  21. Thats too bad Kofi, I was hoping this would be good, but I can save $12 now so, again, thank you.

  22. A significant and huge waste of money, time, film, paper, meetings, phone calls, and rehearsing. This movie was a -1.

  23. I like the movie, I had seen the original in 1980′s and about 2 times just recently bought the original from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002WJHBD6. It was a Made to Order from WB so it is not remastered. Anyway, if you have seen the original then you will understand the ending of this movie. The original has a lot of plot holes but the creatures and ending is what made the original unique and creepy and it is a good thing they didn’t change the ending. I really liked the movie, it is a good thing they remade it I am just a little doubtful with the fairytale-like twist because the original purely supernatural.

    Also, I read one person commenting about Holmes I think she is a decent actress I think some just don’t like her because of Tom Cruise. Maybe jealous?

  24. There is now a special edition available: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Afraid-Dark-Remastered-Special/dp/B005GPFZEK/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1314723456&sr=1-1

    I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them, but there should be better execution for me to do so.

    Lastly, I’m not “jealous” of Katie Holmes, I just think she’s only a fair-to-decent actress. I think she’s a one-note actress, good at some things, but not others. I don’t blame Nolan for replacing her with the much more talented Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Dark Knight, but Holmes wasn’t completely bad in Batman Begins, but it is noticeable, esp. with that cast. Also, during Batman Begins interviews, she kept talking about Cruise in the upcoming (at the time) War of the Worlds instead of Batman. Um… not a good idea.

    • I actually really enjoyed Holmes in Dark knight and the only reason she was replaced is because she had some pregnancy issue going on. I actually enjoyed her much more then Maggie, whom I find to be very talented but also very homely looking. She’s no eye candy on screen-No disrespect, but lets’ face it her face is distracting. Just kidding! no really, I found Katie a better fit for Nolan’s Batman and missed her in the sequel.

  25. Nothing worse than when someone takes a horror film way too seriously…. unless it’s a drama you can expect the characters to do and say things that most normal people wouldn’t… man, lighten up. Your all like Rex Reeding on us all. It’s not real life… now where is my ascot?

    • i agree !

  26. This movie will be up for debate for some time I believe. I personally did not feel that this movie was as bad as the reviewer for Screen Rant would lead many to believe. My advice would be to see the movie, based on your desire to see this movie and decide for yourself, as to wither or not the movie is any good. I liked the movie, I did not find the acting unbearable, but did think some of the story was a little disjointed in terms of logic.
    See the movie and make up “your own minds”. Think for yourself, don’t allow some reviewer to do it for you. There have been times I’ve listened to reviewers only to discover later, that our opinions didn’t mesh.

  27. I have never put a post on line about a movie before.When I left this movie,I wanted to ask for my money back.But I
    couldn’t do this since I double dipped at the movie theatre,something I haven’t done in years.The first movie Zi saw
    was the help which I absolutely loved.It made me uncomfortable many times and I cried several times at the treatment
    of these women.But I am glad I saw it,great acting all around.Now back to Don’t be afraid of the dark,I saw the original and was so looking forward to this movie.What a huge disappointment,I wanted to get up and leave several times but
    my husband convinced me to stay.So illogical and implausible!!!!!!!!I don’t want to give away too much of the original,
    but there is a reason why the caretaker does not give away what is going on.Also in the original the main character
    is isolated by everyone.You hardly ever see the creatures you just hear them.I saw this movie when I was 12 years
    old and it scared me more then any other movie.I saw it again recently and it seemed a little cheesey in parts,but
    is better then the re-make.One of the people who played a huge part in making this movie also made Pan’s Labrinith(What
    happened)In the re-make you understand pretty quickly that these creatures are only inside the house.The little girl runs away from the house,but her Father makes her go back!!!!!!!!!!!!!When Katie Holmes finally understands the danger she takes the time to pack an overnight bag!!!!!!!!!Get the hell out of the house!!!!!!!Sorry this is so long.Don’t take my word for it,go see the movie and decide for yourself.

    • This movie is garbage . Tom cruise makes good movies . Can’t believe he would let hiswife make him and herself look so stupid by doing this worst movie I’ve seen in a long time.

    • This movie is garbage . Tom cruise makes good movies . Can’t believe he would let hiswife make him and herself look so stupid by doing this worst movie I’ve seen

    • This movie is garbage . Tom cruise makes good movies . Can’t believe he would let his wife do thisand embarrass them both

    • This movie is awful. Tom cruise makes good movies . Can’t believe he would let his wife do thisand embarrass them both

  28. I think y’all are stupid. You post stuff about movies but don’t stop to think about other peoples preferences. Just because a movies is exactly your cup of tea doesn’t give you the right to completely bash it or the actors in it

  29. I just watched the movie Don’t be Afraid of the Dark at the theater, and I loved it ! It was scary enough for me. It reminded me a little of the Gremlins movie, but it was good nonetheless. I think people have been entertained so much in today’s world , nothing phases them . Not even gory as heck car wrecks. You people that didn’t like it, you spend too much time with video games. Lighten up a bit and learn to enjoy life. I look at it this way. I paid $7 to be entertained. I was entertained. I take life as it is. I have learned to appreciate books and movies.
    I don’t regret going to see the movie. I will probably go see it again.