I'll only mention director Troy Nixey while referencing "Don't be Afraid of the Dark", but it is only out of courtesy. This is a film that has Guillermo del Toro's fingerprints all over it. He was the writer and producer of this remake, but you can assume he acted as directorial puppetmaster as well.


Del Toro once said that as a child, the original, starring Jim Hutton and Kim Darby, terrified him. The original 1973 was a made-for-TV movie, if I recall. I think it was part of ABC Monday Night Movies which offered some pretty good stuff.


Darby played Sally, the loony tunes wife of an executive (Jim Hutton). They move into an old mansion and voila! she discovers little creatures long since buried who are now trying to grab her. No one believes her...yada, yada, yada. The end.

Guess what this version is about?


As is Guillermo del Toro's still, he loves to place children in horrifying situations as he did with his acclaimed "Pan's Labyrinth". So he, I mean Troy Nixey, replaced the object of terror with a little girl (Bailee Madison) named [drum roll please]...Sally.


To bring it up to date, she has been shipped off by her unseen mother to her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes).


Sally is not a happy camper. Sally has some emotional issues that gave cause for her mother to get her put on psychotic meds making Sally even that much more of a pill.

Alex, is in the middle of restoring a long abandoned old mansion which he hopes will make the cover of Architecture Digest; Kim is his interior decorator/lover whom Sally immediately doesn't like.


So you have a combination of a creepy little girl, a creepy old house, a creepy old groundskeeper who runs around saying "Children shouldn't be here", and a business crazed parental unit. You already know what's going to happen, even if you didn't see the original.


To his credit Guillermo del Toro, I mean Troy Nixey, does manage to keep the dark scenes creepy. There is the forbidden door with voices seeping through. Moreover, there is that down-the-dark-hole quality we remember from "Pan's Labyrinth".


However, there are really bad unexplained problems. The main one is the choice of using an old Polaroid One-Step with the flash bar was totally illogical. 1) Sally's flash bar seems to have an endless number of flashes [I recall they only had 10 flashes per bar] and 2) even a 10-year old today would have a digital camera. Come on, this is a guy driving a BMW, a cell phone, multi-million dollar mansion and... a Polaroid One Step?


At least we aren't insulted with a 3D version. Holmes and Pearce where pretty decent and Bailee plays a suitable creepy little girl. The creatures were, well, creatures. Nothing outstanding there.


"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a remake that Hollywood could easily get away with making; the original made-for-TV version isn't available on DVD. It's just creepy enough to pass but still lags well behind De Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth".   -- GEOFF BURTON