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.