Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark paints a chillingly mythical portrait but commonly forgets to turn the lights off. Lord Blackwood. Wildlife painter, doting father and sacrificial murderer. His son kidnapped by miniature entities residing in the darkened ash pit of the manor’s basement, demanding for children’s teeth. Blackwood fails by chiseling the teeth of his housekeeper instead, ultimately leading to his untimely demise. Months later, a fragmented family consisting of an architectural father, interior designing girlfriend and depressingly introverted daughter move into the manor to restore it. Young Sally yearning to move back in with her mother whilst Kim attempts to form a parental bond with her. Alex on the other hand only concerned about his career. With Sally’s entrance awakening the mysterious creatures once more, she must confront her own fear and escape the manor before she herself is dragged into the depths of the ash pit. Locked away for eternity.
Nixey’s nightmarish adaptation of the ‘73 TV film, rarely alters the original’s plot. By only introducing the daughter and modifying the origins of the mischievous creatures, writer and producer Del Toro retains the core essence of Newland’s instance, allowing attentive detail to be applied on other elements. The ornate production design, from the manor’s gothic tapestries to the whimsical labyrinthian gardens, has Del Toro’s fingerprints plagued throughout. The verminous design of the creatures, described to be folklorish tooth fairies, derived from writer Machen’s work. A name Del Toro has mentioned before for his influence on ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Hellboy II’. With one eye close to the project, it’s ultimately surprising why he decided to hire another individual to cover directing duties instead of himself, as the final product clearly exudes an imitation of his previous endeavours. The increasingly slow atmospheric tension as the camera swoops through the tenebrous corridors whilst sinister whispers echo across the manor. Beltrami’s strengthened score granting the restored structure life.
Unfortunately, explicit modernisations within the story prevent the success of the inherent chills from creeping through. The inclusion of Sally, performed energetically by Madison whom practically held the feature together, applied an unoriginal gloss over the finished painting. A typical plot strand of adults not believing the child’s imaginative stories revolving around mystical creatures, so they send them off to a therapist etc. before they realise they were telling the truth all along. It undoubtedly makes for a predictable plot, diminishing the majority of characterised development in the process. Much of the runtime is expended on Kim’s natural motherly instinct wanting to bond with Sally, with Holmes delivering a decent performance. Sally’s hostile confrontations with the creatures representing the catalyst for their growing relationship. The ending however seems somewhat mean-spirited when the central bond is shifted onto the father whom has not cared in the slightest. Almost seemed like a waste of time. Especially when they decide to stay the night after Alex and Kim realise Sally has been terrorised by these unknown entities (fantastic parenting...).
The creatures themselves succumb to overexposure, with their contorted bodies being fully introduced too early, lessening the second half’s creep factor. And an expositional scene involving a librarian, attempting to tackle the similarities between Blackwood’s unpublished artwork and Sally’s tales, was derivatively redundant considering the introductory scene. Relinquishing the majority of the mystery.
Alas, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a fine folklorish fairy tale that offers just enough atmospheric chills and technical astuteness to be classed as watchable. Regrettably the plot and its fundamentally detached scares were surprisingly ineffective, which unequivocally should’ve been better executed given Del Toro’s involvement. You won’t be afraid of the dark after watching this, that’s for sure.