“Don’t be Afraid of the Dark,” a reimagining scary 1973 TV movie of the same name, is a modern day gothic horror produced by shock maestro Guillermo del Toro. Set in Rhode Island it features things that go bump in the night, lots of shadows, mysterious voices, a creepy kid and even creepier little creatures.
Blackwood Manor, a stately old house where years earlier a famous painter had lost his son and mysteriously disappeared, is now it is the property of an ambitious designer (Guy Pearce) who is restoring the home in hopes of landing the cover of Architectural Digest. Instead his young daughter awakens some mysterious creepy-crawlies with a taste for little girls.
“Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” has a slow build to an exciting climax. The opening hour is chock-a-block with atmosphere and the hallmarks of gothic horror—like a groundskeeper who knows more than he is letting on, mysterious voices and hidden chambers—but is light on action. It plays like a family drama—the youngster is collateral damage in a nasty breakup between Pearce and his ex-wife—as seen through the lens of a genre filmmaker.
Mostly the first hour is Bailee Madison, as the young girl the little beasties find so appealing, alternatively acting out, whimpering or staring blankly in the age old creepy-kid horror film tradition.
It all leads to a satisfying climax, however, featuring swarms of cool creatures and enough ferocious fun to make the slow start worthwhile.