Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Troy Nixey
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Let me start this review by saying that few films are as near and dear to my heart as the original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (review here). It's a childhood favorite that has burned its way into both my heart and mind. When news of a remake hit, I was intrigued. Mainly because the great Guillermo del Toro was producing, and if anyone could create another spooky masterpiece based upon the source material, it was him. In fact, his fingerprints are over this retelling. Unfortunately they're the only thing good about it, too.
Unlike in the original film the story here centers upon a little girl named Sally (Madison), who moves into a spooky mansion with her dad (Pearce) and his girlfriend (Holmes). Their mission? Create a solid familial unit while restoring the sprawling and dilapidated home to its former glory. Once our family sorts out their relationship issues, everything should go smoothly. The only hitch? Demonic imps who live in the fireplace and are hellbent on tormenting, corrupting, kidnapping, and feasting on the teeth of humans. Sign us up! Right?
Wrong. The focus switch from awkward newlywed Sally (played in the original film by Kim Darby) to child Sally really takes a toll on the horrific qualities of the tale, replacing them with more of a Grimms' fairy tale kind of vibe. Sadly, that's just the start of the problems. In order for this film to work, it depends on its characters to do the stupidest things possible. The creatures, who have an aversion to light, are attacking? Why not open the blinds? Hell, how about hitting that light switch which is a foot away from you? These moments are infuriating and plentiful. Still, even they could be forgiven if we would have gotten a cool monster movie. The film's main fault lies in the fact that it's tonally all over the place. You'll find yourself thinking - "boring ... boring ... boring ... oh hey, that's cool, boring ... boring ... boring ... wow, that's awesome, boring ... boring ... boring" - over and over again for the duration of the film's runtime. It's like a roller-coaster that spends entirely too much time coasting along in between the thrills. You cannot help but wonder how this would have turned out should del Toro have been more involved.
In terms of the Blu-ray itself, the 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is nothing short of gorgeous. Colors are warm, skin tones are natural, and the darker scenes look amazing. The level of razor sharp detail presented here just doesn't get much better. Sony knocked the ball out of the park in terms of picture quality, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track which features crisp dialogue amongst its rich whisper-filled soundscape is the perfect complement. The DVD holds its own as well, but there's really no comparison.
In terms of special features both packages fall short. Way short. All we get is a quick three-part documentary and a conceptual art gallery on the Blu-ray only. We don't even get a commentary track. Really disappointing stuff.
All in all, Troy Nixey's take on Don't be Afraid of the Dark comes off more silly than it does spooky and is on the whole a pretty forgettable affair. It's not horrible by any means; it's just painfully middle of the road stuff that stumbled along the path to greatness. Oh, what could have been ...
o “The Story”
o “Blackwood’s Mansion”
o “The Creatures”
2 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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