Here we meet again on another fine Friday, my wicked little watchers! With teases of At the mountains of Madness possibly still in the works, and Crimson Peak on the way, I have the works of Guillermo Del Toro on my maddened little mind. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for dark fairy tales, and Del Toro is quickly becoming the king of that genre. Pan’s Labyrinth obviously shines the brightest in his filmography, but tonight I want to look at another of his tales, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
First exploring the idea of tooth fairies gone awry in Hellboy 2, he managed to create the creepy, cute, and humorous all rolled into one, then he followed it up with this little flick, giving the nasty little biters a full length film to frighten all teeth bearing fans, young and old alike. Starring Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce, and Katie Holmes (because being married to Tom Cruz wasn’t scary enough for the girl), the story is an age old trope, little girl tries to warn adults of a danger, and of course they ignore her pleas until it’s far too late. Guillermo Del Toro loves to combine children and horror, (the proof in Pan’s Labyrinth, this flick, and Mama), and he does it oh so well. Mixing death and little darlings is an easy way to heighten the dread for the viewer, very few can deny their apprehension when it comes to loss of innocence/innocents.
A twisted retelling of the 1973 film of the same name, the movie starts out with a bang, with the opening scene set in the past of the historic house, Blackwood Manor (that little devils or no, I would live in a heartbeat), introducing us to the antagonists of the story in the most brutal way possible. You don’t make it far into the film without cupping hand to mouth. Then to the present day, when a young girl named Sally (Madison) is sent to live in the same house with her Father (Pearce) who is refurbishing the manor, with his new girlfriend (Holmes). Sally is the picture of the despondent Daughter, who feels like her Mother gave her away, and that her Father’s new girlfriend is the wicked Stepmother, before even giving her a chance. Though she soon finds a world of wonderment in the house and on the grounds to help her cope with her new arrangement. In her exploration she finds a basement, sealed off until her parents excitedly scope it out. But, of course there’s a reason it’s been hidden away all these years. Inside the basement, inside the furnace, Sally hears little whispers; promising friendship to a lonely child. Little does she know that her nefarious new friends harbor sinister secrets, and the chaos that would come once she set them free.
Making a fairy tale come to life is all about atmosphere, and that is what the movies of Guillermo Del Toro are all about. That coupled with the tensions between parent and child, and a great script make this flick truly fiendish, and though it may have not been his highest grossing film, it is filled with a dark magic that will appeal to adult children like myself, who know better than to trust friends that won’t come out into the light.
As a bonus to those that see the film and find themselves wanting more, check out the book Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood’s Guide to Dangerous Fairies by Del Toro and Christopher Golden. It serves as a sort of prequel to the film, as a guide written by Emerson Blackwood. The original owner of the house, who spent his life trying to get his child back from the frightening fairies that inhabited his home. Beautifully done, but badly named, you should definitely be afraid of the dark. -Ruby