DECEMBER 20, 2011
When I saw Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark at the LA Film Fest this past June (two months before its release), I was scorned for not liking it very much. All of my peers - in NO WAY influenced by the fact that Guillermo was nearby and might have some info on his new projects - claimed that it was great and really scary and blah blah (I should point out that many of their eventual reviews were far less enthusiastic, almost as if they realized looking back that the movie was a mess). So it's a good thing I hadn't already seen Inhabited, because then I'd be standing there joking (?) that their beloved movie was a ripoff of some DTV thing with Malcolm McDowell.
Now, I’m not saying that their movie definitely stole from this one, but I do find it interesting that one of the remake's few new ideas was to change the main character to a little girl, and thus the subplot with the handyman who tried to warn her off after discovering that she was drawn to the strange creatures that were living on the grounds of their new home plays out exactly the same (whereas in the original it's two adults having a conversation). And thus, the whole dynamic shifts as well - a little girl claiming she sees monsters is not the same as a grown woman, with regards to how the other characters react to it. Since this sort of stuff was the only part of the remake I somewhat enjoyed, I’m glad I didn’t see this movie first, or else I wouldn’t have even had that much going for me.
Otherwise this is as forgettable a flick as they come. The PG-13 rating is practically a joke; they could have gotten a PG if they asked nicely, considering that the minimal violence occurs off-screen, and they can’t even bring themselves to kill off the obligatory human villain, a self-serving shrink played by McDowell, seemingly practicing just in case he got to play a similarly jerkish Dr. Loomis a few years later. In the film’s final 10 minutes (the only time the movie gets remotely exciting), he is attacked in his car by some of the “fairies”, and seemingly killed even though we don’t see anything, but yet there he is at the end, now confined to a nuthouse himself (and displaying not as much as a single scar from his attack – another odd parallel with his Halloween role, where Loomis got his head crushed in part 1 but was perfectly fine in part 2).
So apart from the handyman, who DOES get it in this movie? I’ll tell you – a poor innocent cat named Simon, who the fairies trick into his death by exploiting a cat’s biggest weakness: a thing on a string. They basically go fishing with the thing, so when the cat grabs onto it the fairy pulls it and kills him in the bushes. That he was an orange cat not unlike my own beloved Butters, whom I had just been away from for a week, didn’t help me like this movie any more. It’s one thing when a movie just has a mean-spirited streak, but when it’s pretty much the only thing that happens until the final ten minutes or so, it’s sort of appalling. “Oh, we can’t kill any of the humans… here, just off this cat.” (so The Roommate might have ripped this off too?).
To be fair, the death of poor Simon does have a silver lining of sorts – the movie can’t have any more cat scares. I got suspicious when they had one a mere 90 seconds into the movie, but then they do it again less than 20 minutes later. That’s twice as many that should be legally allowed in a horror movie’s entirety, and in its first goddamn reel! But that actually ties into the movie’s other main problem, which is that it’s seemingly on overdrive. Our hero mom (Millennium’s Megan Gallagher) gets suspicious about her new home way too early, and the daughter becomes attached to the fairies practically the second she moves in. It’s as if the movie’s first act had been excised and then they just dragged the 2nd and 3rd out into a feature length film.
They also curiously botch the possibility that the little girl is making shit up and is actually doing these bland things. For starters, we see the goblin-looking “fairies” pretty early on, leaving little doubt as to who the real culprit is. Yet, they hired Patty McCormack – aka THE BAD SEED – to play a character who went through a similar thing 50 years before, who is now confined to the institution on suspicion of arson and such. Why make an obvious casting homage to one of the all-time classic killer kid movies when you seemingly have no interest in delivering on the concept?
Also, why not kill off the brother, given that the actor has the most obnoxious voice this side of Charlie Day? The kid is actually a fairly prominent voice actor (he’s even playing Michelangelo in the new TMNT), but his voice is so high pitched and girlish, it’s like nails on a chalkboard every time he speaks, and really ruins the scenes where he’s supposed to be threatening toward the handyman. It’s also just a poor casting decision, given the minor subplot about how he joins choir because he wants to get close to a girl on the team. Since it’s played for laughs and his parents find it confusing, wouldn’t it make more sense to hire an actor with a fairly rough voice, rather than one that sounds like he should have already been a star choir singer anyway? It’d be like hiring The Rock or Vin Diesel to play a normal guy who decides he’s gonna try out for the wrestling squad or something.
Well, I hope my review of an 8 year old DTV movie has swayed you from seeing it. If just one person decides not to click on it while they’re scrolling through Netflix Instant at 2 am for something to fall asleep to, I’ll know it was totally worth watching and writing up a review instead of playing Xbox or reading a book or making cookies or whatever the hell else it is normal people do with their leisure time.
What say you?
P.S. The only trailer on Youtube was uploaded by the actress who plays the little girl, and she has disabled embedding. Brat.