Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

I can't believe it!  A good horror movie?  And more than that, a good horror remake!  I thought I hated horror remakes?  I went out of my way in my hugely positive review for "The Guard" to moan for a full paragraph.  Then, just to prove how much of an idiot I really am, a wonderful remake of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is released, produced by none other than Guillermo Del Toro.  And I feast ravenously on humble pie.  Mmmm... I can feel my pride as an Internet Guy melting away.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a remake of the 1973 TV also known as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark".  If it were a remake and they changed the name, it would be really confusing, right?  To remove some confusion, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the Nickelodeon TV show, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" - though its a shame nobody ever made a movie about that!  Now the 70s TV movie is something of an obscure classic of the horror genre... which really confuses me because not only have I not seen that movie, I've never even heard of it!  I'm a man who watched "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein", and I never heard of this one.  Clearly my movie knowledge isn't as extensive as I thought either.  And I do so well at games of "Seen It".  Well, I guess there are true movie masters and people who can only dream, like myself.

Guillermo Del Toro is one of those true masters.  The guy has had a rough patch of years since "Pan's Labrador".  Wikipedia is completely confused by what movies he may or may not be making, his article is a total mess of failed projects and submerged films.  First he's directing "The Hobbit".  Not any more, that movie turned into a huge legal mess and Del Toro just couldn't take the Development Hell any longer.  Now Peter Jackson is taking over.  Then Guillermo is making movies for Universal, all five planned films are in limbo.  Then he's doing a second "Haunted Mansion" for Disney.  Then he's doing "At the Mountains of Madness" (which was flat-canceled*), then its "Beauty and the Beast", and then its some Godzilla movie.  How many of these things are going to become movies?  I have no idea.  Honestly I want to watch all of them, but fate doesn't seem to be on my side here.  Still we can all thank the God of Films in the sky that "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" actually got made.

Still, the universe hates Del Toro so much that "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" sat on a studio's shelf for nearly a year because Disney bought Miramax.

I can start by noting that there are no kills in this movie, only a few scenes of violence, and no nudity, sexual themes, or cursing in this movie.  But it got an R-rating anyway.  Do you know why?  Because this movie was scary as balls.  Actually no, balls are not nearly as scary as this movie is.  As a matter of fact, even the hairiest pair of nuts will look cute next to this film.  (I may be exaggerating just a tad.)  The horror formula is pretty classic:  "little girl moves into old house, scary happens, adults don't believe her, more scary happens, finally monsters attack."  As a matter of fact, if you cut the details down to a half hour and added Gilbert Gottfied, this movie could easily have been an episode of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"  Ultimately the plot is more or less the same as "Coraline", only with little gremlin monsters that eat TEETH instead of button-people.  "Coraline" might as well be "Winnie the Pooh" compared to "Afraid of the Dark".

Now every horror movie needs a monster, this is essential, obviously.  Otherwise you have some kind of lame family drama movie, and who wants to watch that?  (Somebody, probably, but certainly not me.)  The monsters here are grey hairy CG Gremlins, essentially miniature Trolls.  The effects on these creatures are very good, and when you first get a good look at them they are pure concentrated nightmare fuel.  But Del Toro and his director, Troy Nixey** do a brilliant thing - they don't show the monsters until halfway through the film.  Until they they're just shadows on the floor, and hideous laughing voices of true evil.  Then, just as in the original movie they place a little girl in harm's way of these things.  Nothing makes a monster movie better than putting somebody you actually care about in danger.  If its just a bunch of stupid teenagers or annoying idiots like in SciFi Channel's weekly creature features, you don't care at all.  By the way, if you think this girl is guaranteed to survive, you need to watch Del Toro's masterpiece, "Pan's Labyrinth" again.

Of course, this wouldn't be a good movie if it didn't have a good cast.  Since it stars Katie Holmes, you'd immediately assume that the cast would be terrible.  But luckily Katie Holmes is serviceable in this movie at least, she does her job well-enough, but never hits any home runs.  The little girl, Bailee Madison, is the true star, and she makes the fear real more than any other competent.  The Gremlins could be laughing and joking party-animals like in the movie, "Gremlins" and if Bailee were the star, it still would have been scary.  Guy Pierce is the father, and oddly enough, I liked him the least in this movie.  That's not because Guy Pierce isn't any good, its because his character is a dick.  He plays that penis role well, what can I say?  I mean, the cast isn't great, neither is the dialog, but it all works.  Plus Bailee Madison is a dead-ringer for Katie Holmes, and I could honestly believe they were mother and daughter.

Which is weird because they aren't supposed to be mother and daughter in this movie.  Katie Holmes is the step-mom.  Huh.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a good horror movie.  And as I said before, that's an achievement these days.  I never thought I'd like a new horror movie again (which is why I gave "Devil" so much slack last year), but when Del Toro is producing, all kinds of magic can occur.  Yeah, it isn't as good as "Coraline" or "Pan's Labyrinth", but who cares?  Its a properly good movie, that's all that matters! I strongly advise you find a hurricane to watch this movie in, because that only increases the tension and mood.  Hurricanes just make all horror movies better, I think.

* Universal Studios canceled an H.P. Lovecraft movie made by Guillermo Del Toro, a match so perfect that I'm surprised it isn't ordained to occur in some ancient occult manuscript someplace.  But they did make "The Wolfman", the worst movie of 2010.  Congrats, morons.  Yeah, I know I'm just a guy and they're a major million-dollar business.  But know this:  they only canceled "Mountains of Madness" because "The Wolfman" flopped so badly.  Maybe "Wolfman" failed not because it was a weird horror movie, but instead because it SUCKED!  Did they think of that?  They might be bigger than me, but only one of us is run by morons.

** I have no idea who Troy Nixey is.  But he must know his stuff if he made this movie.  I feel bad not mentioning him because he's... you know, the director!  I like you Troy Nixey.  Do more movies.


  1. How do the gremlins in this movie compare to the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who?
    On a completely unrelated note, have you had a chance to watch "Noein" yet? It's got Crispin Freeman in it.

  2. I ordinarily hate horror, but this sounds promising, demon tooth fairy gremlins.

    Incidentally, have you seen My Little Pony Frienship is Magic? any Bronies in the comments?

  3. It's hard to find a good director whos not going to sit around the set demanding more triple shot lattes, watch horrible acting being conducted in right in front of him, and wonder if he can find a way to pull a George Lucas in his contract to get more money off the movie.


  4. Wow, a lot of requests as to what I've seen. I haven't seen Noein, the only anime I've been watching other than Adult Swim stuff is Angel Beats!

    And as for the question of whether I've seen "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic"... Wow. I've seen "Retro Puppet Master" and even I think that's weird.

  5. This just in from Japan:

    Evangelion Q (the third rebuild movie) is tentatively dialled in for Autumn next year

  6. TEASER!!!!!!

    Get it quick!

  7. A lot of people like MLPFIM(too lazy to try and spell)for some stupid reason, Its really retarded that 30 year old people watch and enjoy it, its actually more creepy and pedophile like then stupid. But if you want to see a good horror anime, I suggest Higurashi, its almost as confusing as NGE, and its only on the possibly illegal free anime sites. Its manly about high school and elementary kids killing each other with baseball bats/ hatchets/ hammer+nail.

  8. No, don't watch Higurashi. It appears at first to be a dark anime about paranoia, suspicion, and brutal violence, but in the end turns out to be a sappy bullshit anime about the power of friendship.


  9. I'm sorry that you believe that. There are some really great people in this fandom, extremely tolerant, decent people. They're not a bunch of creepy guys who beat off to ponies or something, they're just regular people who like a good cartoon that happens to be way outside their target audience. You should really look more into things you want to talk shit about. This fandom's not full of creepy peophiles and the fact that you think being a guy who likes a show makes you a pedophile shows ignorance.

  10. @Tequila: Sweet Troll Jegus, Asuka is in space. In retrospect, I'm surprised it took this long.

  11. @Puppy: Well, Gainax doens't really have a good record for keeping its shit together lol. I've heard that at some points the production work had ground to an aboslute standstill, so Anno actually went off and did other things while he waited!

    I've also heard speculatoin that the 3rd and 4th movies will be released at the same time, so that might also explain why it's taking a while.

    Then again, they were originally slated to be released one year after another, and we can see how well that turned out lol

  12. @Tequila: I meant the idea of sending the Eva franchise to space. And I heard the same thing about 3 and 4 being released simultaneously.

  13. @XYZ-
    If you watch the first 12 episodes, its not, but it later turn out to be at the end of the first season and pretty much the entire second season where it got duller. Blue if you want something creepy, play the Silent Hill games, the movie sucks compared to the games, which have been scaring children forever, heck even teenagers have been scared the shit out of them when Pyramid head rapes a mannequin to death.

  14. If you want something creepy, play the Fatal Frame game series... ~shiver~