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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Sally, a young girl, moves to Rhode Island to live with her father and his new girlfriend in the 19th-century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the house, Sally starts to hear voices coming from creatures in the basement whose hidden agenda is to claim her as one of their own.

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Fondly remembered for scaring the Tab out of impressionable viewers, 1973's television movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark stands today as a minor classic of irrational dream-logic horror, with an ending that goes straight for the worst-case scenario. Despite (or perhaps because of) its wonky effects, minimalist character development, and snicker-worthy Freudisms, it knows how to linger into the wee small hours. Cowriter-producer Guillermo del Toro's mash note of a remake is a superior movie in virtually all aspects, really, yet it somehow fails to ping the same whimpering neurons. Director Troy Nixey's film follows the same basic blueprint as the source material--a fractured family (Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, and Bailee Madison) moves into a dark old house, only to be tormented by a gaggle of tiny chatterbox demons--but with a much greater emphasis on the mythology and back story of the creatures. Del Toro has long proclaimed his love for the original movie, and it's rather fascinating to see the filmmaker attempt to shoehorn his own trademark obsessions (grim fairy-tale origins, spooky little girls, odd Lovecraftian angles, etc.) into the existing material. Still, such Gothic curlicues, however nifty, ultimately end up diluting the solid-state nightmare fuel of the premise. Aside from a few solid shocks and a strong performance by Holmes, this heartfelt redo is unlikely to have the same lasting effect on audiences as the much cruder original. Instead of focusing on the hows and whys, that one just wanted to freak the viewer out. --Andrew Wright

Special Features

The Story
Blackwood's Mansion
The Creatures

Product Details

  • Actors: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 3, 2012
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005TK23PQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,526 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Slasher Studios on November 16, 2011
Format: DVD
As I start my review for "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" I must confess one thing: I'm not a fan of supernatural horror movies. While I admire haunted house films like "Poltergeist", I've always found this sub-genre of horror to be painfully dull and its characters to be agonizingly stupid ("The Amityville Horror", I'm looking at you). They usually have the same formula: a stupid, yuppie couple (occasionally with children) buy a house, move in, hear strange noises, and bad things happen. Rinse and repeat. So, going into "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark", my expectations were pretty low. After reading some not so positive reviews online, they sank even further. So is "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" worth screaming for? Well..more on that in a bit.

The film begins with a gruesome prologue shows the home's deranged first owner, Emerson Blackwood, luring his maid into the dungeon-like basement and performing medieval dentistry on the terrified young woman. As he carries out the atrocity, he explains to the young maid that they, the goblin-like creatures known as Homunculi, have taken his son and will only give him back with teeth. As the young woman screams, whispering can be heard all around the room from the sealed up fireplace. Blackwood makes his way over to the fireplace and offers the teeth in exchange for the return of his son, only to be told his offering wasn't acceptable and he is pulled into the fireplace. The basement is sealed and forgotten over the generations.

The movie then opens with a young girl, Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison), moving into Blackwood Manor, the Gothic mansion being restored by her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes), an interior decorator.
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Format: DVD
"This place isn't safe here, especially for kids." Sally is sent by her mother to live with her father (Pearce) and his girlfriend (Holmes) in an old house that they are trying to fix up. Sally is not happy there and while she is out running around she finds a hidden door. The older grounds keeper tries to warn to stay away. When Sally unknowingly unlocks a hidden evil the house and the family is in severe danger. This movie was much better then I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting much. This has a definite "Pan's Laberynth" feel to it, and that is enough to keep you watching. I wouldn't call this a scary movie as much as a disturbing movie. There are a few little stomach jumpers in this, but most of the time you are on the edge of your seat and waiting for what you know is coming to come. While the movie is tense and keeps you watching it's nothing really amazing. The ending of the movie really makes it better because the movie has the guts to end the way it does and that really changes the way you feel about it. Overall, a very OK movie that is made better because of the ending. Worth a watch though. I give it a B.
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Format: DVD
A rule to live by: If you find yourself in a house that's haunted, get out of the house. But people will persist in dismissing those ominous signposts, those telltale clues. In horror pictures, children tend to be more savvy than the grown-ups, and they normally heed those twitches of primordial unease. But I guess little Sally, sullen and desolate and unbelievably unhappy, is the one exception. I think that Bailee Madison, who plays Sally, manages to construct an intriguing character. Madison isn't cutesy-ootsy in that obvious Hollywood kid actor way, and this makes her refreshing. It's not her fault the screenplay has her reacting unbelievably to what unfolds in the spooky mansion.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is based on the original 1973 teleplay which starred Kim Darby, and it supposedly had a lasting impact on a young Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro co-produces and co-writes this 2011 reimagining, except that one wishes he'd directed it as well. Because while you have to credit this retelling for its moody cinematography and its creepy gothic vibe and its stab at psychological horror, you also condemn some of its choices and its lapses in logic.

How would you feel if you were a little kid and one neglectful parent passes you to the other? Sally, relocating from the warmth of Los Angeles to the depressing climate of the east coast, scorns her father's welcome, ignores his girlfriend Kim's (Katie Holmes) friendly overtures. Sally retreats into her own little world.

There are whispers of the horror lying dormant in the Blackwood manor (also called Fallen Mill), disquieting rumors surrounding the mad artist who had lived in it decades and decades ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Randal Rauser on January 7, 2014
Format: DVD
What was Gulliermo Del Toro thinking? The director who gave us “Devil’s Backbone” and ”Pan’s Labyrinth” came up with this? (Del Toro is writer and producer while Troy Nixey directed.) The film has received some positive reviews from a few critics, most notably from Roger Ebert. Pay no attention to that. Pay attention to the C- grade from Cinemascore. (Cinemascore is a market research firm that does immediate exit polling of average movie goers. Thus it provides a summary of a real audience’s reaction to a film. Sometimes cinemascore grades are unreliable because the audience is skewed: case in point the high grades given to the Transformers series. But in this case where you have a diverse, relatively educated audience, they’re bang on. And a C- is very low as a CinemaScore.)

Now before I continue, let me address the big issue: why not listen to Ebert rather than me? After all, he won a Pulitzer Prize. That definitely trumps the teaching award I received in 2005. If I may, let me respond by pointing to C.S. Lewis’s comments in his Reflections on the Psalms. Lewis addressed the question of why you should read a literary critic who doesn’t know Hebrew on the Psalms. His answer was that sometimes a lack of specialist knowledge allows one to get at the essentials of a passage, unencumbered by the endless qualifications and clarifications that can come with specialist knowledge. I submit the same is true for my review. Ebert has more knowledge of cinema in his toenail shavings than I have in my cranium. But that fact actually helps me get to the nub of the issue for the average movie goer.

And what is that nub?

Here it is: the film is meant to be scary. It isn’t. It’s boring. And endlessly silly. And a little bit funny.
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