There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. A lot of that stems from the fact that the film is rated R for being pervasively scary and not because of language or gore (though there is some bloody violence). So is it as truly terrifying as the rating would have you believe? No, it isn’t.. not for me anyway. Despite that, I had a really good time watching the movie and I think it is definitely worth checking out.
I’m a big fan of the movie Gremlins. I love the idea of small creatures terrifying people as a horror movie concept. Gremlins, however, is an anarchic creature movie made up of mostly comedy with some brief hints of terror. While I wouldn’t change any part of Gremlins, I’ve always wanted to see a movie take small creatures and make them sinister and scary. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is definitely more in that direction. I may have said that the film doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding it, but don’t mistake that as me saying that it isn’t scary. There were many moments in the film that I found genuinely creepy and I have no doubt that if you see this film, you will be scared by it, or at the very least, pretty creeped out.
The creature design here is really sweet. They are small and almost frail looking, but when you see their faces and eyes, they look demonic and threatening. It’s probably some of my favorite creature design in recent memory. Their personalities are mean-spirited and violent. They don’t give up and will find a way to get at you by any means necessary. Their unrelentingness definitely helps create a sense of danger at every turn and their proclivity for darkness makes every dark corner or bedroom a haven for them, keeping you on your toes.
The score for the film is pretty good as well. It’s extremely effective at accentuating the tone of the film and adds a lot to the atmospheric tension. The film doesn’t really rely on cheap jump scares and definitely builds the foreboding atmosphere through the combination of the score, cinematography and set design.
Overall, I think Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins and first time director, Troy Nixey, did a really wonderful job. They may not have made the scariest film of all time, but it’s definitely the scariest of 2011, so far. I may not have walked away in love with the film but I really liked it a lot. I get the sense that after another viewing or two, this is going to grow into a film I love. I really do have an affection for the small creature sub-genre in horror, especially when the little bastard creatures are truly evil; so it makes me very happy to have this added to the mix. I can easily see this being a great movie to pop into the blu-ray player at home by myself, or with an easily frightened friend, and turn off all the lights, then sit in the dark afterwards imagining tiny evil creatures scattering across the floor. That sounds like fun, right? So go out to the theater and support good horror! You may just find yourself at home afterwards turning on all the lights.