Steele’s Reels: ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark leaves viewers afraid of dialogue — and the dark.


Architect Alex Hurst (Guy Pearce) and his new squeeze Kim (Katie Holmes) have their eyes set on getting their partially restored Gothic mansion on the cover of a prestigious architecture magazine. In hopes of kick-starting Hurst’s currently sluggish career, the two put everything they’ve got into bringing the mansion back to its former glory.

Then a bump in the road arrives in the form of an emotionally compromised daughter sent away by an ex—wife. Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) feels as if she doesn’t belong and becomes quite a pain for the overwhelmed and overworked Alex and Kim. Desperate for companionship, Sally is lured to a previously undiscovered basement by eerie whispers that promise friendship and acceptance.

Overcome by curiosity, Sally opens a gateway into an underworld infested with cunning, beady-eyed and sharp-clawed creatures with one single burning motivation — hunger. Blindsided by the horror she has unleashed, Sally desperately attempts to warn Alex and Kim of the impending doom. But there is one small problem, no one believes her.

When the trailer ended for this film, seasoned horror flicksters were delighted to learn that the upcoming “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark,” a remake, was directed by none other than Mexican film prodigy Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Devil’s Backbone”). Del Toro is famous for his use of mythology and creatures to extract chills from viewers, as opposed to the cliché and often overused pop out and scare tactic. While this film certainly displays del Toros’ forte with exceptionally bone-chilling scenery and a unique approach to the monsters-in-the-closet routine, it completely falls on its face when it comes to dialogue. This almost always translates into subpar acting and delivery of emotion. It’s hard to blame the talents of Pearce (“Memento,” “L.A. Confidential”) and Holmes (“Batman Begins,” “Phone Booth”) for the lack of substance, because they weren’t really given much to work with.

However, the plot itself was a bit of a coin toss. As soon as audiences began rolling their eyes during the last five minutes at what appears to be an indolent ending, del Toro pulls a rabbit out of the hat with a fascinating twist that makes all the puzzle pieces fit together, thus saving the film. It would have been nice to experience this feeling of excitement and intrigue a bit more during the film rather than in its final minutes, but overall it was an enjoyable movie.

Steele’s Reels: 3/5 Stars