Way back in 1973 there was a TV movie titled Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. It starred Jim Hutton (Timothy Hutton's dad) and Kim Darby (Mattie in the original True Grit). It was about a young couple who moved into a huge old mansion that had small, evil creatures in the walls. You never saw the creatures but you got the impact of their presence, and when they drag poor Kim Darby off to their underground lair it was terror time all around.
The new Katie Holmes/Guy Pearce thriller Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a remake of that old TV movie. This time out, the haunted Sally (Bailee Madison) is a child who has come to live with her father Alex (Pearce) who is working on renovating an old mansion. His girlfriend Kim (Holmes) is the interior designer.
Almost immediately the "creatures" begin to torment Sally. You can tell she is their target and it will be up to Kim and her father to protect her... if she can only convince them she is in danger. They tend to blame everything she tells them on the fact she is despondent over her parents' divorce.
In this version we actually see the "creatures" and that is a mistake. The unknown is always scarier than the known. The creatures look horribly disgusting but they also look like you could step on them and squash them. So the movie loses that caliber of horror that it could have had.
The acting is also weak. Pearce is a non-person in the movie and looks like he is having a bad wig day. Holmes is just weak looking overall. You never actually think she has the potential to rescue Sally unless she whimpers the creatures to death. When Holmes started out on Dawson's Creek she had huge potential but it has slowly drained out of her career.
The film is rated R for profanity and violence.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark never gets its stuff together. The characters are gloomy and so is the atmosphere of the film. You never get a good enough feel for any of the characters to have real concern for them. Therefore the climax of the movie is weakened and the ending is laughable.
I scored Don't Be Afraid of the Dark an unafraid 4 out of 10 on www.jackiekcooper.com