‘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. So the Pope, presumably in Italy, makes a deal with these beings, isolating them in a basement in Rhode Island in exchange for children’s teeth? It’s a good thing they speak English or we’d never know what they wanted.

  2. I actually walked out of this movie…that’s how much it sucked. I’m all for turning my head to unrealistic settings in a movie, but this was just ridiculous. There was actually one time when the little girl squished one of the little creatures, and then the next scene, she’s up in the bed by herself. Why would you leave you kid alone in the bed by herself when she was just attacked in a library by a bunch of little creatures. This movie was seriously the biggest waste of money…ever.

    • agreed!!!!! this movie was stupid. I waisted a hr and a hlf of my life to watch this movie, a hr and a half that i cant get back over this dumb movie. And seriously!? whats with the whole teeth thing? are they the toothfairy? and How/Why did Kim turn into one of the creatures? Like seriously this movie was a waist of time and money! Next time they decide to make a movie like this, dont leave so many damn holes and questions for the audience!

      • I had the same question about the ending, here is the answer, Yes, she did become one of the Faerie Fold at the end, although unexplained it appears to be the fate of “The life taken.” It can be assumed that all of the creatures were once children themselves that were taken.

        If one pays close attention, the bigger of the creatures, first seeing an appearance in the bathroom scene, later yelling at sally behind a bookcase in the library and eventually smashed by sally’s camera is supposed to be Blackwood himself. That is why its little distorted features reflected him, it is also why he is bigger than the rest (presuming all the others were children instead of adults drug away).

        Hope that helps to enlighten.

        Oh, They had to take a life every time they returned to the surface, which by their stated rules is passing the threshold of the grate that now has twenty bolts on it. Kim is now their leader and is just waiting patiently for the next victim.

  3. This movie is really good…i liked it…i was just a little confused at the end…but it’s 5 stars for me

    • Me too! At the end when you heard the little creatures i thought i heard Kim’s voice talking to them saying they have all the time in the world to find more kids’ teeth but was it even her? cuz that would be a really stupid way to end that movie..

      • I too, walked out of this movie.. it was confusing.. after reading the plot supposedly they drag kids in just to transform them into one of them?
        And yes it was kim at the end.

      • “i thought i heard Kim’s voice talking to them saying they have all the time in the world”

        This movie wasn’t hard to figure out; obviously she’s turned into one of them. How does one enjoy a movie one doesn’t understand?

      • yeah it was her…at the end she turned into one of those creatures although i dnt understand how…but she did.

  4. crap movie, was just watched grave encounters, scary as feck!! :)

  5. Only released the previous friday here in the UK and was so disappointed that GDT didn’t direct this instead. Troy Nixey just can’t stage any good scares and the ones that were, were shown in the trailer.

  6. So I don’t understand why there is so much hate on this movie, there was actually a decent story and great acting. Don’t be Afraid of the Dark was actually one of the better horror movies of 2011. Although the ending left me wanting more, this movie had me creeped out and for most entriged. For the bad reputation this movie has it was very decent. I mean what’s freakier then a bunch of little creature hungry for a little girls teeth and bones. The ending will leave you shocked because for a while there, you would have expected them to make it out and have a happy ending like other movie, but no they left the movie with a cliff-hanging ending. This was defently one of the best movies I have watched in 2011, and before others make assumptions before watching this movie because of the bad reviews, Watch it!!!, It is a very decent movie.

    • No doubt the acting from the little girl was phenomenal, she was great!

    • I know the movie’s been out awhile, but I’m still all against this movie so much I came back to see what people said about it months ago. This review sticks out in that I can’t let a paragraph like this go if people are still curious about whether or not they should watch it.

      1. Cliff-hanging endings imply that there is some sort of ending that leaves you “hanging.” This movie doesn’t do that. We’re left to believe that a little girl was able to kill TWO of these things in the movie (by the way the little girl is the ONLY one to kill any of these things that are about the size of a softball). A full grown man is attacked by these things and instead of defending himself from these tiny softballs, the director tries to convince the audience that he’s helpless against these half a pound cartoon gremlins. Admittedly, the movie had some creepy sense to it when the fairies were running around in the dark and not able to be seen. Once you see them, however, the entire tone of the movie is changed. It no longer is a horror and becomes a comedy. “WE WANT YOU!” My God, I’m not sure I ever laughed so hard at a horror movie in my life.

      Also, a surprise ending a good ending does not make. You hope that the main characters all make it out alive because that would be the only redeeming quality of the movie. Then, they give you the martyr. The martyr is then taken and becomes one of the bad guys in a not-at-all-surprising-nor-innovative-nor-even-remotely-interesting fashion.

      However, despite this being a terrible horror movie. Atrocious. Laughably bad in the horror department. I will say that if you go to watch this movie as a comedy. You’ll have a rip-roaring good time. I saw several comedies in 2011, and this one is near the top along with Paranormal Activity 3, which was so terrible at being a horror movie it MUST have been intended as a comedy.

  7. what traleirs were shown before this movie??

  8. ı love trailer!

  9. Wow! What’s wrong with everyone? Yes, this movie had a few flaws, but overall it was awesome. The parents weren’t concerned with the hurt employee because the guy said it was an accident, and the parents never even seen how beat up he was because the police hauled him off before they arrived. So for all they knew, he just fell down the stairs and got hurt. Nothing weird there.
    And the little girl squished one of the creatures in the library. But NO ONE seen the creatures arm. It’s a very dark room and the creatures arm is very small. And everyone was distracted by the historical little girl. And the very end of the movie wasn’t confusing at all. It’s obvious that the creatures transformed Kim into one of them. Actually, it is probably safe to say that every single creature was once a human, that had since been transformed.

    Everyone talks about plot holes or illogical scenes. But apparently everyone has holes in their thinking process. And anyone who walked out of this movie, I hope you didn’t get a refund. Because it’s pathetic you walked out of a movie you paid for, especially a movie that was pretty damn good!!!

    • Your right the movie was pretty good, but the scene when the little girl was in the room with the creatures she took an abundant of pictures and killed one, she could have sad there was one in between the sliding book shelf’s and that could of as well been a cool scene for them to find something like that, you know im not say it was to bad but there stuff missing that’s all i expected more..

      • I agree to an extent. People (especially children) don’t tend to think logically when they are extremely frightened or emotional. This could be the reason she didn’t say anything. I thought it was still a great movie, and I agree it had some flaws. But I guess a alot of people are hard to please these days :)

        • To all of you above:

          All of us aren’t hard to please. We just expect directors and Hollywood to give the audience more credit than they’ve been giving us.

          The man said it was an accident. Right. Seems legit. So your groundskeeper ends up in the hospital with several stab wounds and severe lacerations. “Oh man, it was an accident.” You don’t get suspicious? I want directors to have more respect for the audience’s intelligence than to think that I would like at a man who’d been through an “accident” like that, and who clearly appeared as if he were lying, to just simply believe it. Honestly, I’ll give that man the best actor award for this movie. He played the “bad liar trying to cover something up but doing a poor job” character extremely well.

  10. So I just saw this movie on DVD. Meh, it was ok. It has some scary moments not in fear but in anxiety from anticipating what’s going to happen. The little fairies or whatever aren’t really scary and I found myself wanting to see them get hit with a reasonable weapon, like a tennis racket. But no, they decide to fight these little guys with nothing. I found this site, because at the end of the movie **SPOILER ALERT*** you hear Katie Holmes voice as if to elude that she’s been turned into one of them. So I ran to the web, because that confused me. I read the WIKI and **SPOILER ALERT** she was turned. And Blackwood (at least according to wiki) was the imp that got smashed by the flashlight. So he was turned. So backtrack to the library scene where the eager librarian said, “they feed on the bones and teeth, and take a person to replenish their ranks.” I took this as they took a person as food to help them stay alive. But in retrospect, I guess he meant they take a person and turn them into one of them to replenish their ranks. That point was poorly written and glossed over, and it wouldve made the ending a little better. It also would’ve been a little tidier if it was a little more apparent that Blackwood was turned. Then the groundskeeper’s accident in which he had scissors in his back and punctured legs and so many wounds that he couldn’t have possibly done them himself, yet it was just passed off as an accident. Another odd part of that puzzle was he seemed to hide this valuable information. What was the point of him trying to cover up everything? I also thought there couldve been a better understanding about what the imps actually were. I kept waiting for the “Ah-ha” moment and it when it came during the library scene it was a little short on info. A scene regarding the lost son would’ve been cool. Because of the gremlin-ish nature of these creatures, I really wanted to see them all get roasted somehow. They were really annoying. I thought something would’ve been tossed down the pit and blown up or a light dropped to the bottom to kill them all.
    All in all, it was ok. Decent at best. It seemed like he tried to make this movie have this big reveal at the end, but didn’t lay the groundwork enough to make the ending a little less foggy. It was a good idea, but not so good execution.

    • LMAO, your so right about this movie there was a lot of things that were brushed off as if it was like a fairy tail, i would have felt better if it was more realistic!

  11. The movie was alright, of course I’m going to give you my honest opinion.. the ending sucked, it was horrible! What you should have done was save the step mom, yes granted it’s sounds as if she’s one of them in the last scene, but you could have had the father call police, they bring firemen, ambulances, to break the pit down and get her, and as they go down on line ropes, she comes dragging herself at them looking all creepy. and that would have been,(i believe) a good and scary ending. just saying, other than that i give you guys 2 1/2 starts!

  12. What made me mad was the fact that this movie had soooo much potential, the characters were realistic and intrigueing, the acting was good, but the actors scenes were so cut and chopped and restitched together that their performances suffered for the director’s horrible mistakes. The storyline was utterly brilliant, but things that should have had more weight and time to them, i.e. Kim and the Librarian’s discussion should have been more enlightening and more straightforward, these small things were too rushed to truly do the story justice. *sigh* i guess I’ll hold out for another decade or two and hope someone comes along with the give-a-damn to do this incredible story some justice.

  13. HOW……. !?!?!?!?!?! this movie makes no sense. after the scene when she squishes one in the library, why doesnt she show them the hand or the squished body. ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? my guess is they had a good idea just got lazy -.-

  14. I’ve been reading some of these reviews and it’s obvious to me that these people who actually enjoyed the movie DONT BE AFRAID OF THE DARK do not know a good horror film at all! This movie was a complete disappointment as a horror film. I completely agree with the main critical summary of this movie that it was filled with bad acting, unrealistic reactions, and the “monsters” weren’t even slightly convincing as a real threat. At the end of the movie when the father and daughter return to the house I was only excited because I thought the father was going to drop a bomb down the endless pit in the basement. That would have been the only thing that gave this movie some good excitement and closure because it was a complete waste of good film.

  15. i honestly enjoyed this movie i enjoyed the whole tooth fairy thing nice dark twist on something everybody believed in as a kid but seriously whats with all the bashing on this movie think about all the horror films youve seen and you’ll realize that all of them could be over in ten minutes or less some films just do a better job of hiding that then others all in all good movie not the best but still good in my opinion

  16. I thought it was ok, and I was creeped out during some bits, but I ,ean c’mon, there was so much evidence. Also when SPOILER kim gets dragged into the grate why doesn,t he try to save her? If some one i loved got taken i would try to get themback. All he does is say oh well and leaves. Wtf if my girlfriend did that i’d be pissed

  17. Im watching the movie now with my husband and we both think so far it’s the worst movie ever.. Also the little girls dad is a loser and treats his daughter like crap.. I mean I’m half way through the movie and I am on my iPad ragging on it.. Also when the girl was in the tub taking a bubble bath and the little freaky things showed up she step out of the tub full to the top with water all wet and soapy then a few seconds later fell into a empty tub dry.. This movie BLOWS……

  18. The only thing good about this movie is the bad ass house it took place in… .. This movie should have never made it to the big screen.. What the hell is up with the big ass flash lights they seem to always have… I think i need to go buy some now. Then she squishes one of the freaky little things and his arm falls off. Wtf but no one see it. Then she is sleeping in bed… The ending was a joke so now Kim is one of those little freaky ass things … Please tell me there will not be a 2nd movie… If I went to the movies I would have left in demanded my money back.. I would punch the person that sold me the tickets & smashed my full drink in his or hers face.. I’m already BS I spent $5.99 on Comcast,. My next move is a call to them and tell them to chock on it………

    • This movie was the worst. I kept expecting some things to be explained because of some of the foreshadowing they did, like:

      1) Why did Sally make the comment that Kim was old?

      2) Why did Kim make the comment that she had a tough time getting through her own childhood?

      I thought maybe we would see that Kim had some kind of weird connection to the house after those 2 comments, like maybe she was really dead already and that’s why Sally made the comment about her being old.

      3) The koi pond. It was like it was thrown in there or maybe they originally had a longer scene at the pond but they had to cut it and it showed. Totally stupid exchange between Kim and Sally.

      I swear we didn’t see the movie as it was intended to be because this was HORRIBLE!

  19. I enjoyed this movie even with some flaws that are typical of this kind of movies.. you can’t use too much logic
    in a fantasy movie..
    anyway movie was good great creatures, scary as hell the acting was outstanding my biggest complain is that
    I wanted more

    reason why some people didn’t like this movie is because they didn’t understand it

  20. The movie was good. There were a LOT of parts where I was like WTF??? Why are they not keeping the little girl with them? and if I were the little girl I would definitely NOT sleep in my room alone!! I too also think that if I were the bf I would have immediately went and rented some huge powerful lights and equipment and went in after the damn things!! Especially after someone I love just got dragged down there. Once i realized she’s gone, I would just blow the hole up!! There were too many scenes that were questionable like why in the HELL are they doing that?!!? but overall, I really enjoyed the movie.

  21. I kinda liked it, don’t get me wrong it’s not brilliant, won’t leave a lasting impression and there are holes but for the best part it entertains if u don’t take it too seriously. I did like the fairies though, kinda creepy and reminded me of childhood nightmares which adds a little more!

  22. This film was truly pathetic and dreadful. Horror films scare me but this film was comical worst horror film of all time, it’s about as scary as ” the spider wick chronicles”. A children’s movie

  23. just signedup for this site after watching this movie because of how BAD it was! I normally dont even review movies but I was so frustrated in how dumb everyone in this movie is and how many holes it had ! anyone who reviewed this as good (as someone else said in another review) doesn’t know the first thing about a good horror movie.

  24. This movie is horrible. ALL the characters are completely stupid, including the monsters. How hard is it to take down a little girl when she’s alone half the time. Also toward the end of the movie when both adults are KO for a short moment, wouldn’t it make sense to killed them when they’re unconscious.

  25. All I have to say is the most memorable part from watching this movie last night is KATIE HOLMES & HER LEG SNAPPING IN HALF!

  26. I’m no film critic, just a regular guy that likes movies. One thing I’ve been missing for a long time is “creature horror”. Aka, the good old days where we got films such as “The Gate”, “Gremlins”, “Critters”, and “Tremors”. Were they cheesy? Maybe a little. Were they the scariest stories ever conceived? Nope, but they were certainly fun!

    No offense to the majority but I’m not big into “the torture porn” that passes as horror movies today. Y’know what is illogical? How the same serial killer can survive through up to 5 or 6 movies without getting caught! In my opinion we all have to have a suspension of disbelief when watching horror flicks. It’s a given people act dumb when they’re scared and that the murderer is going to have some sort of magic act that allows him,her,or it to either come back from the grave or evade the long arm of the law.

    At least with this movie there was a reason for denial. Do YOU believe in tiny fey-folk who live in basement cellars? It’s certainly far fetched for me and even if I had concrete evidence my rational mind would wonder if photos had been doctored and if I was apart of some elaborate prank.

    Alex and Kim actually opted to get away with Sally but they got sabotaged during their escape attempt. Granted, they should have packed their bags much sooner. Yet with a career hanging in the balance many families try to “rough it out” for financial security.

    The only bummer for me was the climax. These “unhappy morose endings” are a new fad and as such they’ve become bland and predictable in and of themselves.

    Regardless, I was happy there were no hill billy cannibals indulging in rape orgies, mutilation, face wearing, and whatever else constitutes as a “good horror film” these days!

    Don’t worry. I’m well aware I’m a dinosaur behind the times!

  27. 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.