Thursday, May 31, 2012

Movie Review: Don't be afraid of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Warning: There are a few mild spoilers in this review such as a description of the creatures, but nothing that I feel ruins the movie.

Despite the command issued in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark's title, I actually am a little afraid of the dark. I don't quiver in fear every time I turn the lights out, but I do occasionally leave the television on as I go to sleep. In fact, I'm kind of a scaredy cat in general. I've literally jumped at my own shadow (on multiple occasions). If I spot something flying around during the summer, I assume it's a wasp or bee and go running. There's a certain completely ridiculous and implausible urban legend that shall remain unnamed (here's a hint: it deals with mirrors) that genuinely terrifies me and haunts my mind every time I start thinking about it. Worse than any of that, the Nancy Drew computer games scare me (as in, I run from the computer if something freaky starts happening). I enjoyed the games when I was younger (despite my terror), and during a bout of nostalgia, I recently replayed one thinking that I was long past my days of fearing a video game made for kids. Nope, but I did do a little less running away.

I'm telling you all of this not to completely wreck your opinion of me but so that you'll believe me when I tell you that, other than a couple of jump scenes, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark really isn't that scary of a movie.

I actually really liked the style of the opening credits.

As I type Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, I keep wanting to type Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I find the similarity between the two titles interesting because I could almost see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark as a children's horror movie. The opening scene is kind of gruesome, there's another scene that's probably a little bloody for kids, and overall, the movie might give kids nightmares. Still, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark captures the tone of silliness tinged with slight scariness that's present in the scary movies and shows geared towards children. While the rat-like monsters would be nothing to laugh at if they were to appear in real life, they're just not that scary in the world of movies and seem like a higher-budget version of something that would appear on Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Frankly, the drawings of them shown in the movie are much scarier than the actual creatures. The unveiling of these lackluster monsters comes early in the movie (although they're not really that scary when they're just voices in the vent repeating everything) and really takes away from the scare factor.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark also suffers from the "girl please" phenomenon that's common to horror films. The "girl please" phenomenon means that I was "girl pleasing" the characters of the movie for their decisions and had a hard time understanding their decision making processes. Why is the little girl cool with creepy voices coming from her vent? Why is the groundskeeper so closed-mouthed? Why do the little creatures wait so long to attack? I'm sure you could come up with explanations for these things, but everyone in the movie just seemed a little bit dense.

After watching the trailer for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, I was under the impression that Katie Holmes was the main hauntee and character of the movie. In actuality, her character's boyfriend's daughter Sally takes both of those roles (yet another reason why I feel like this is almost a kid's movie). Bailee Madison (who's been in several projects you might recognize, most recently Once Upon a Time as the young Snow White) portrays the sullen child Sally. Sally was the subject of the majority of my "girl pleases" because I believe that even a child should know not to respond to creepy voices in their vent. Perhaps my expectations are too high. Still, Madison does a pretty good job, and I warmed to Sally once she realized that the creatures were not her friends.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was far from the movie I expected it to be, but it's not completely terrible. I found it pretty entertaining, and there's a couple of moderate thrills towards the beginning of the movie (in particular, there's a monster-under-the-covers scene that really did creep me out). Still, it's the kind of movie that I didn't mind talking during, and I didn't pause it when I walked out the room for minute. And thrillwise? I still find Nancy Drew games much scarier.

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