Sunday, September 4, 2011

You Might Not Be Afraid of the Dark

I saw the long-awaited (I attended a teaser panel on it at Comic-Con in 2010) remake of Don’t be Afraid of the Dark this weekend. It was directed by Troy Nixey (the artist on Dark Horse’s Jenny Finn) but bears the obvious stamp of script-writer and producer Guillermo del Toro.

In brief, both versions involve a couple moving into an old house where a basement fireplace ash-pit door is opened and tiny, malevolent creatures are released (these are, as Roger points out, the obvious inspiration for Fiend Folio’s meenlocks). The creatures set their sights on the one who freed them--a young housewife in the original, a little girl in the remake--and cajole then terrorize before making their move.

The remake has better special effects and more atmosphere, but doesn’t have the same sort of unsettling, ruthless economy of the original. Of course, I saw the original when I was much younger, so it might not evoke the same dread in someone seeing it as an adult for the first time. The remake seems like Nixey and del Toro set out to make a film that could scar the psyches of a new generation of kids, but the MPAA stymied that a bit with an R-rating.

Many of the changes are del Toro’s usual preoccupations. The creatures of the film are explicitly fairies and they have a taste for teeth (recalling the “tooth fairies” of Hellboy II). The grounds of the Blackwood Manor recall Pan’s Labyrinth. These additions at once lessen the horror but add some depth by explicitly connecting it to the traditions of horror fiction and authors like Machen (who gets namechecked in the film).

If you like the work of del Toro or have fond memories of the original TV movie you probably should check this one out.  It just probably won't deliver the chills you remember back in the '70s.


christian said...

That movie really scared me when I was a kid. I wonder what I'd think of it now? I will be sure to watch the remake when it makes its way to Netflix, but I wonder how much of the subtlety will be gone, replaced by more overt terror?

Needles said...

Very Cool Trey & a nice review man! Love the way you tied all of this together but I have to wonder where they're goin' with the remake. Adds this to the rental que!

Jenny said...

Actually, while I'm not afraid of the dark I am afraid of scary movies. Even my grandchildren now caution me, "Grandma...close your eyes now!"

Yeah. I'm a wuss.

Trey said...

@Christian - I think you'll be surprised in that regard. It's more "actiony" in places and more tense, but only in the last act does it move into urgency.

@Needles - Like I say, if you like Del Toro's stuff, I think you'll like it.

@Jenny - At least you've got them there looking out for you. ;)

Padre said...

Thanks for the review, I remember seeing the original on a lark and it spooked the crap out of me. It took me be complete surprise when I was in grade school and saw it on TV. The ending was the most chilling to me. I still get the creeps from her voice at the end.

Anonymous said...

I like both versions. The original having a certain "we are trying the best we can" charm and using implication to its best effect. While the new version is very polished and creepy in an entirely different way, using modern FX very well.

The Angry Lurker said...

It's been a while since I've seen the original but it brings back fond memories, will have to check the new one out aswell. Thanks.

Greg Gorgonmilk said...

Never seen the original but it sounds like I have to!