"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" Appeals to the Thrill of Childhood Fears in All of Us

Die-hard horror fans (including this one) generally spend their adult lives hoping to re-experience the fear and awe they derived from the scary flicks they saw as kids. Which may be why Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro was inspired to co-produce and write (with Matthew Robbins) a remake of the legendarily creepy 1973 TV-movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which del Toro reportedly saw at age 9 (and this reviewer at 10). In this visually lush updating, directed by newcomer Troy Nixey, 9-year-old Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent by her mother to live with her architect father (Guy Pearce) and his interior decorator girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in an old Rhode Island mansion they're restoring. In a flash, Sally is compelled by whispery voices to open up a firmly bolted fireplace ash pit — big mistake — thereby setting free small, demonic creatures that feed on the teeth of dead children, a trait that is a nicely nasty new touch. (The TV movie was vague about their motivations, beyond ordinary demon meanness.) Just because they can, the creatures begin taunting and frightening Sally, who puts up a good fight. If the grand finale isn't as resonantly scary as the original, maybe that's just because, try though we might, we're no longer impressionable kids. (Rated R)


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