Producer/co-writer Guillermo del Toro performs the neat trick of adapting the original 1973 television horror shocker Don't Be Afraid of the Dark into a tastefully suspenseful work of kid-friendly art, directed by newcomer Troy Nixey. In spite of some glaring plot inconsistencies regarding such matters as regional location and creature voices, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is sure to scare the heebeejeebies out of willing 12-year-old audiences.
Bailee Madison plays Sally, the 10-year-old daughter of hotshot architect Alex Hurst (Guy Pearce). Alex invites Sally away from his ex-wife to come stay with him and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at Blackwood Manor, a run-down Gothic Victorian New England mansion he's busy restoring. The spooky old house holds secrets from its original owner, an artist whose son's death drove him homicidally insane. Things go bump in the night (and in the day) after Sally goes poking around where she shouldn't, namely the basement where a sealed fireplace serves as a kind of Gothic Pandora's box.
Madison's compulsive knowing smirk of approval slyly admits her character's playful attitude toward the ominous danger that threatens her. Naturally no one believes her stories about whispering monsters that haunt her and commit acts of vandalism. It’s Sally’s teeth that the beasts hunger for.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is not without its problems, but the movie excels at building feathered layers of suspense. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a nuanced horror movie modulated to incur just the right quality of nightmare. You might want to sleep with the light on for a few nights after seeing it. Grade: B-
Opens Aug. 26. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.