Emphasis. Don’t. That’s “don’t” as in Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.
This movie won’t leave you afraid of the dark or much else. No leaving the lights on for the night when you get home. No checking rooms and closets or peeking under the bed worried that something creepy might be there.
Nope. In the 99 very slow minutes of Don’t be Afraid of the Dark an expected jump or two is about all you get. And they’re not even that good.
Here’s the set-up. Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech) and Katie Holmes — in career-revival mode — are Alex and Kim, a boyfriend and girlfriend restoring a huge, previously abandoned historic home. It’s a horror movie. So you know it has been abandoned for a good reason.
Alex is in a hurry to get the job done and sell the house. All of his assets are tied up in the project and the bank is pressuring him. So when weird things start happening, he’s too tied up in work and himself to pay attention.
His estranged daughter, Sally joins them. She’s a dark child. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark personality. Dark, dark, dark. She’s not likable. She’s not happy. She hates the girlfriend. And palatial elegance means next to nothing to a 10-year old.
The girl finally starts to thaw when she finds a long hidden basement. Sally is fascinated by something that looks like a vent with a big iron grate. Then the whispering starts. It draws her. Sally senses the little creatures trapped inside and lets them out.
The creatures scuttle about and swarm her room. They’re an ancient evil. They want the child.
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark is co-written by Guillermo del Toro who teams with Mimic writer Matthew Robbins to rework of TV writer and producer Nigel McDeand’s 74-minute, 1973 teleplay for a TV movie.
It starred Kim Darby of 1969’s True Grit so how good could it be?
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark is done by first time director Troy Nixey who mimics — no pun intended — the lush cinematography and set-heavy directorial style of del Toro whose works include the Hellboy flicks and Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the best horror stories ever.
It’s a del Toro production and his style is stamped all over the picture. Admittedly the film is creepy. But creepy can only carry a movie so far. A so-so idea with almost nowhere to go is slowed down even more by the additional 25 minutes.
Style — in this case — overwhelms substance and an underwhelming plot.
Rated R for violence and mature themes. It opens Friday, August 26 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
5 stars/4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars / 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars / 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars / 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself