Film Review: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

With the intention of increasing night light sales, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark offers the traits of a vintage horror. In terms of creepiness, the film is pretty effective.

Sally is a young girl who is sent to live with her father and his partner in New England. Architect Alex and interior designer Kim intend to renovate the house they are working on. The property gives Sally ample opportunity to explore. However, it appears that Sally is not alone when she hears voices calling her name…

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is effective on a creepy level, rather than being all out terrifying. There are some jumpy moments in Troy Nixey’s film, but less so than a film such as Insidious. Instead, Don’t Be Afraid takes a different tact, opting for a more subtle, unsettled feel.

Loosely based on the 1973 television movie of the same name, Don’t Be Afraid features a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins. The film treads a rather familiar narrative path; featuring a child who sees supernatural things while the adults think it is all in her mind. Nevertheless, the film does not head entirely in the direction one may think; there are a few small surprises.

Much of the film is concerned with Sally; the audience is often made to identify with her with the choice of camera angles. In this way Don’t Be Afraid is most effective. Viewers should be able to empathise with the fear felt by the little girl, as well as her frustration when no one believes her. The sequences that take place in Sally’s bedroom are particularly persuasive in conveying the childlike terror that the film preys upon.

Despite some scares, Don’t Be Afraid does not tap into childhood fears and anxieties quite as Joe Dante’s The Hole. Dante’s film had a power and effectiveness that is missing from Nixey’s production. However, the special effects in Don’t Be Afraid are excellent, and the location, set and lighting combine well to create an atmospheric film.

Bailee Madison is excellent as Sally. Her performance is integral to the success of the film, and she does a fantastic job. Katie Holmes is also good as Kim. Guy Pearce, meanwhile, does not get to show much range as Alex, which is a shame as he is such a talented actor.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark may disappoint those looking to be petrified, but it works well on a more subtle level.

Film Review: Just Go With It

A rom-com starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston sounds appealing to only the sickest members of society. Just Go With It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t highly recommended either.

Plastic surgeon Danny wears a fake wedding ring in order to bed women without the complication of relationships. When he meets the beautiful Palmer, Danny decides he wants to date her. As Palmer has seen the ring, Danny persuades his assistant Katherine to pose as his ex-wife…

Just Go With It is typical of many of the films that both Sandler and Aniston appear in. It is a predictable rom-com that shows no ingenuity. There are however a few amusing moments, although Just Go With It is never downright hilarious.

All the genre’s archetypes are present in Dennis Dugan’s film. Just Go With It features the friendship that develops into love narrative, the kooky best friend, the ditzy but beautiful girl, the cheeky kids that manipulate the situation, to name but a few of these. Although the situations present the requisite humour, there is little spark to the film. It is passable, but never elevates itself above this station.

Some audience members might take exception to the depictions of some of the characters. Just Go With It requires viewers to suspend disbelief enough to accept that beautiful young Palmer (played by Brooklyn Decker) might fall the significantly older Danny.  What might be harder to stomach, however, is that both Palmer and Katherine would parade around in their bikinis for his pleasure. Brooklyn Decker, Jennifer Aniston and indeed Nicole Kidman all don skimpy attire in what appears to be a slow-motion swimwear competition. Danny and Eddie (frequent Sandler co-star Nick Swardson) meanwhile lap it all up, thankfully staying fully clothed. More concerning are the overtones of homophobia in a supposedly humorous moment at the end of the film. Rather than coming off as amusing, the attempted joke leaves a sour taste.

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler have surprisingly good chemistry. Their roles are not much of a stretch for either of them, however. Nicole Kidman has an interesting little role than sees her playing against type, while Brooklyn Decker is effective eye candy. Griffin Gluck and Bailee Madison are quite annoying as Katherine’s two children, but this has more to do with the writing and directing than their acting skills.

Just Go With It will satisfy fans of Sandler and Aniston, but is unlikely to exceed expectations. Entertaining enough, but problematic in areas.