Combustible Celluloid
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With: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Bruce Gleeson, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, James Mackay, Garry McDonald
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins, based on a teleplay by Nigel McKeand
Directed by: Troy Nixey
MPAA Rating: R for violence and terror
Running Time: 99
Date: 11/06/2010

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Little Monsters

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The original 1973 TV movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was low on gore and used some half-hidden, inexpensive visual effects to suggest the little monsters; the rest was left up to the imagination. Now, writer/producer Guillermo Del Toro, teaming with first time director Troy Nixey, more or less stays true to that concept, except that they have thrown in two or three extra-gory sequences for today's horror hounds, as well as state-of-the-art digital creatures and strong characters.

Ten year-old Sally (Bailee Madison), a child of divorce, is sent to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce). Alex is busy renovating a humongous old house and living there with his interior designer girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). Both Alex and Kim have a difficult time relating to the sad, withdrawn girl. But things get worse when Sally accidentally discovers a hidden room, and unwittingly unleashes an army of tiny creatures that are capable of great destruction and are very hungry. Unfortunately, Sally can't get any grownups to believe that the creatures actually exist. Can Sally find a way to stop the little beasts before it's too late?

Aside from that, the bulk of the movie generates a serious amount of suspense and dread, in anticipation of the terrors that might -- or might not -- come. The movie also adds a little girl to the mix, giving the movie a new fairy-tale dimension, similar to Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, although this movie seems more based in reality than in fantasy. The design is key here. The huge house, as well as some haunting artwork, adds some character and a slightly otherworldly mood.

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