JANUARY 13, 2010
I think it should be a rule that if your movie shares a name with an Iron Maiden song, then that song should be played over the opening and end credits, and maybe during a few other scenes at random for good measure. Especially in a movie like Fear Of The Dark, where nothing much is happening and you know for sure that the only two people in the movie won’t ever actually get hurt. A little Maiden goes a long way.
Anyway, the movie isn’t all that bad, but I had to keep reminding myself that it was intended for children. I’m sure if I was 12, when I was more susceptible to fear (and not knowing what the word “susceptible” meant), I would have been pretty scared and telling my friends at school how awesome it was. But now that I’m damn near 30, I had to settle for merely admiring certain aspects of it, giving it the benefit of the doubt for its cheesy ending, and promptly forgetting everything about it as soon as it ended.
One admirable aspect is the acting. Both Jesse James and Kevin Zegers have impressed me in other films, and they do so here. Even with the thin plot and occasionally awkward writing (James and his mom have a relationship that borders on flirtatious), they create real characters, so that by the 3rd act, when the 16-ish Zegers is hiding under the sheets with his brother because he’s afraid of the monsters in the closet, you actually believe that he’s scared, and like him enough to almost hope that the filmmakers never grow a pair and actually hurt/kill him.
And even with the thin plot and the fact that the whole movie takes place in a not-very big house, it feels shorter than it is. It gets a bit repetitious at times (lot of “why did that light go out?” “OK I’ll check it out.... (2 min later) It was nothing!” type stuff), but I was never really bored, and was surprised to see that 50 minutes had gone by when I thought it was more like 30. In fact, it reminds me of the movie Clownhouse, except without the actual threat of murdering clowns. In fact, Clownhouse itself only “works” on me as an adult due to the horrible backstory causing the creepiness; the actual movie, I now realize, is just as repetitive and back-loaded as this one.
By back-loaded, I mean yes, there are actual monsters in this movie, oddly enough. I legit thought it was all building toward an “it’s all in his head” (or worse, a dream) thing, but nope. For whatever reason, his house is being plagued by some legit monsters that can be killed with the light (this movie pre-dates Darkness Falls, for what it’s worth). I just wish that they did more, and did it sooner. It’s almost built like a surprise for the ending that there IS indeed something to be afraid of in this movie. You look at a movie like Halloween, where it’s similarly playing on childhood fears (the boogeyman) but there it was never any question that there was a real threat. I think the reveal should have been moved up and allowed for a more exciting third act.
I also think one of the monsters should have gone RRAAAAAAAARGHHHH! and beheaded the annoying girlfriend character who shows up in the second half. She’s played by that one non-superhero girl from Birds Of Prey (if you remember that show), and her appearance slows the movie down considerably. I figured she was fodder, so I was willing to accept the diversion. But sadly, she survives, so that’s some major BS right there.
Mostly though, I just like the idea that they made a horror movie for kids and more or less deliver the message that there ARE monsters in the closet and under the bed. Enjoy the added therapy bills, parents!
What say you?