Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a fairy tale for people who know that not all fairies are nice and some of them can be downright terrifying. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce star as Kim and Alex, a recently engaged couple restoring a mansion whose previous owner is said to have mysteriously disappeared. Alex’s daughter from a previous marriage comes to live with them. It’s obvious from the start that Sally feels abandoned by her mother and ignored by her father who is often too distracted by the restoration to pay any attention to her. In this vacuum of attention, there is Kim. Instead of playing the role of the wicked stepmother, she reaches out to Sally despite frequently being rejected.
It’s not long before they discover a hidden basement and a creepy groundskeeper shows up to warn them that the house isn’t safe for children. Soon after that, Sally starts to act up and becomes terrified of the dark. Ultimately, this is a story about motherhood and how giving birth isn’t the only way to be a mother. Kim listens andbelieves and sacrifices for a child who isn’t yet hers.
As with The Orphanage, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark features a gorgeous house that is as much a character as any of the human actors. It’s a darkly beautiful place to tell this story. Guillermo del Toro cowrote the screenplay and his influence is felt all over the film.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark isn’t a great movie, but it definitely left me terrified of the vents in my house for a couple of nights. If your kids start to hear any mysterious whispering, it’s probably best to just get out of your house. Maybe set it on fire, just to be safe.