x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: first-rate cast, second-rate script

The wiry little CGI creatures are ultimately not scary enough, while the action never quite rises above genre clichés.

Katie Holmes as Kim in Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Courtesy Miramax
Katie Holmes as Kim in Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Courtesy Miramax

Director: Troy Nixey
Starring: Bailie Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce
**

Proudly boasting the cult director Guillermo del Toro as the co-writer and producer, this glossy horror remake is based on a 1973 TV movie about a creepy old manor house infested with sinister fairy-tale creatures who feed on human teeth. The cult Mexican director rewrites and expands the original story, adding a historical prologue and a child heroine, played by the exceptional young screen novice Madison. Sent to live with her divorced architect father and his new girlfriend - Pearce and Homes - Madison's preteen protagonist initially struggles to persuade these aloof adults that she is not imagining these malevolent, gremlin-like monsters.

Del Toro claims the original TV movie left a deep impression on his younger self, and there are certainly plot parallels here with his own 2005 masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. Despite its overly familiar ingredients, the debutant director Nixey's remake does contain a few well-judged frights, excellent performances, and a marvellously atmospheric Australian mansion setting. However, the wiry little CGI creatures are ultimately not scary enough, while the action never quite rises above genre clichés. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is an efficient little shocker, but it relies too much on a first-rate cast to carry a second-rate script.