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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark(2010)
Introverted Sally Hurst has just moved in with her father Alex and his girlfriend Kim when she realizes that their sprawling estate holds its fair share of secrets. Ascending to the depths of the house, Sally gains access to a secret lower level that has lain undisturbed for nearly a century, when the original builder vanished without a trace. When Sally accidentally opens the gateway that kept the creatures locked up tight, she realizes that in order to prevent them from destroying her family is to convince her skeptical father than monsters really exist.
For more about Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and the Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray release, see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Director: Troy Nixey
» See full cast & crew
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray Review
Tooth Fairies gone wild.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 7, 2012
Now you'll see what it's like down here.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has the look and feel of a classic "Creature Feature," a movie that hedges its bets on atmosphere and the unknown over character development and scares that aim to beat the audience members over the head rather than settle into their very souls. It's an effective, if partly imperfect, movie, a smartly constructed, generally entertaining, and occasionally skin-crawling little feature that doesn't have any real surprises up its sleeve but that will leave audiences, well, afraid of the dark, of the unknown, the musty basement, that rusted grate, the little things that go bump in the night, those voices that might be in the head or that may be that creature lying in wait to do who knows what with its unsuspecting victim. Writer Guillermo del Toro's latest story is a dark nighttime Fairy Tale of sorts, and one of the better kinds suited towards real horror, that kind that wiggles its way into the viewer's very essence and grips tightly on its prize, the sort that plays on basic fears and old wive's tales, a story that becomes more frightening the closer the action comes to a head, and the further from complacency the characters are drawn.
Young Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison) has just arrived in Rhode Island where she's to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). She's none-too-thrilled with the prospect; she misses her mother, who forced the move, and her situation isn't helped by dose after dose of medication that a young girl like Sally probably doesn't need. Alex and Kim are in the middle of a massive restoration project that Alex hopes will land him on the cover of a prestigious magazine and take his career to new heights. They're remodeling the old Blackwood place, but little do they know its dark history and the terrors it has in store for them. When an adventurous Sally discovers a secret basement, she, Alex, and Kim go exploring, against the wishes of Harris (Jack Thompson), one of the remodelers who's more familiar with the home's dark secret. Sally becomes obsessed with the room and the voices that call to her from it. Unsurprisingly, Alex and Kim reject Sally's claims of tiny little creatures living in the house's shadows, but soon enough they'll all come to be afraid of what lies within the house's darkest corners and forgotten places.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark wouldn't wrongly be thought of as a "tweener" Horror movie; its R-rating isn't exactly warranted, though it is a bit more graphic and traditionally straightforward than its lesser and lower-rated genre brethren that generally aim to sell tickets rather than tell a real, honest scary story. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark isn't exactly scary in its own right, at least not in the sort of way that passes for "scary" in the early 21st century. It's not about severed limbs, hacking and slashing, things jumping from the dark, or sharp musical cues. Instead, the movie strives for the sort of scares that are of the more subtle variety, that accumulate and leave a lasting impression, that wear on the senses and whisper in the ear, the sort that makes its victims want to curl up under a blanket, not walk out of the theater in disgust. The film takes pride in its slow development, in its genuine rhythm, its classic tenor. It's the sort of movie that makes creepy old basements, cobwebs, and little girls in peril truly frightening all over again, making them real places and that hide real danger to real victims, and not just because genre convention says they must. This is del Toro's real success with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The story isn't exactly original and the characters certainly aren't the most memorable ever committed to screen, but the movie works wonders with its environment, its atmosphere, and its cadence, all of which frame the lesser elements and mold the the more superficial pieces into something more complete than can other Horror movies that work in the reverse.
Certainly, the film's production design is a great asset and is necessary in making the movie more classically scary. This is a movie where the house becomes a character. It seems alive, even if its just a hiding place for the movie's pint-sized nemeses. It shows that perfect Horror movie mixture where it's at once both beautiful and terrifying, somewhat shadowy, visibly warm but chillingly cold, and foreboding and unforgiving beneath the classic and safe surface. The lighting, design, and careful attention to detail help make those rusty old grates and cobweb-covered corners mean something again, in this case pending terror and doom. The movie does miss the mark with its score, which is superficially effective yet awfully generic, sounding as if it could come out of just about any "little boy or girl in danger" Horror movie. The cast is adequate, but the characters are somewhat flat with boring backgrounds and who make by-the-Horror-movie-book decisions. Fortunately, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark isn't about its characters, at least not first and foremost. At best, they're pawns in the larger realm of atmosphere, moving about the house with a perfect rhythm to up the ante and produce both a more immediate sense and a more constant undertone of fear. The creature design, like the actors, seems secondary to the greater mood. They look good, like some kind of cross between stop motion and CGI, which results in a design and movement that's not wholly real but not absolutely artificial, helping in the terrifying dream-like quality that makes the movie work so well.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray, Video Quality
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark features another upper-tier Blu-ray transfer from Sony. The movie oftentimes finds itself in low light and dark places, from the terrifying murder scene at film's start all the way to its climax. The transfer handles the darkness rather well; blacks rarely even hint at crush. They remain naturally deep and true, while offering fine shadow detail save for the very darkest few moments. Brighter scenes reveal fantastic colors. The palette is vibrant when colorful clothing is on display, and it's equally effective in the very warm, comforting wooden and lower-light interiors within the house. Fine detail is fantastic. Sally's heavy winter cap as seen upon her Rhode Island arrival is faultlessly textured. The droplets of water lying on the shiny black BMW look authentic. The house's natural vegetation is crisp and well-defined. Its brick exterior is marvelous, and its intricate wooden interiors are faultless. The dusty basement and rusted grate offer up a palpable texture. A light but critical grain structure only keeps the details sharp and true, while also providing a pleasant film-like texture. Banding, blocking, and other eyesores are absent. This is a pristine transfer from the top down, marred only by a few blacks that come in just a hair on the heavy side.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack lives up to that "master" title. The track is awash in discrete elements and immersive ambience. Scratching, scattering creatures often maneuver seamlessly about the listening area. Creepy chants and dialogue float with unmatched ease across the soundstage, all while retaining pinpoint accuracy and impeccable clarity. Some of the deeper, scarier elements come from a heavy low end that's tight and strong, but that unravels at the very bottom and produces only rattly vibrations. Music enjoys very good clarity and front-speaker spacing. The surrounds mostly carry those creature effects and some minor environmental ambience. Dialogue is clear and robust as it flows almost exclusively from the center channel. This is an active, involved soundtrack that will greatly satisfy listeners craving a completely immersive, surround-heavy audio presentation.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark contains only two extras of note, including a trio of featurettes that are together billed as a "Documentary."
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a pretty solid movie that's at its best when its focused on mood and design over characters and creatures, which, fortunately for the audience, represents the vast majority of the runtime. Writer Guillermo del Toro's film is accomplished in its reservedness, the film content, and rightfully so, to linger and build its tensions and fears rather than beat the audience senseless with, well, senseless Horror. Those in search of cheap thrills and buckets of blood won't find any here, but anyone looking for classic Horror and frightening atmosphere need to check this one out posthaste. Sony's Blu-ray release of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is rather short on extras, but it does feature great video and audio in typical Sony fashion. Recommended.
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In an early retail announcement, Sony Pictures Home Enterainment and Film District have indicated plans to release Don't Be Afraid of the Dark on Blu-ray. A remake of the 1973 telefilm, the supernatural thriller stars Bailee Madison (Brothers) as a young girl ...
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