'Don't be Afraid of the Dark': What Critics Say

12:37 PM PST 08/26/2011 by Rebecca Ford
Miramax

One calls it "a very good haunted house film," while another says it "promises much more than it delivers."

The reviews for the horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which will open in theaters Friday, Aug. 26, have praised the haunted house location that the film is set in, but mostly criticized the main character – the creepy creatures that inhabit the house.

Produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Troy Nixey, the Mirmax film stars Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce as a couple who must deal with a child’s (Bailee Madison) belief that there’s something lurking in their home.

The Hollywood Reporter
’s Kirk Honeycutt writes that the film is “a scary movie that is genuinely scary in parts, although an adult can’t help noticing this is set in the very worn and tattered territory of the haunted-house genre.”

REVIEW: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

“The movie may still scare 9-year-olds when it gets released August 26, but anyone much older may laugh rather than shriek,” Honeycutt wrote.

“Savage and ugly as the tiny monsters are in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, they're not as frightening as the filmmakers would have you believe. These wee beasties are not all that interesting, either, and frankly, neither is the movie,” wrote AP’s David Germain.

“The tension del Toro and Nixey create promises much more than it delivers. When the homunculi finally step up the action, their confrontations with the humans seem more silly than scary,” he wrote.

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“There's promise in the first few minutes,” wrote USA Today’s Claudia Puig. “The opening credits have a distinctive style, and the spookily handsome estate in Rhode Island conjures up a palpable sense of the Gothic.”

However, Puig does not stay impressed with the film as it went on. “The formulaic story is particularly disappointing given that the movie is co-written and "presented by" (whatever that means) visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro,” she wrote.

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Roger Ebert also praised to location of the film. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark begins with an extraordinary house that should be haunted, even if it isn't,” he wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“This is only the second film by the director, Troy Nixey, but he shows a firm hold on atmosphere. He and the screenplay make good use of the inclination of adults to dismiss the fears of children as imagination running wild,” he continued. “The tension between what we know Sally has experienced, and the casual dismissals of the grown-ups is central to much of the film's tension.”

“This is a very good haunted house film. It milks our frustration deliciously,” wrote Ebert.

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