Friday, September 16, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Come Out Wherever You Are

A precocious kid, a big mansion, and mean little creatures that go bump in the night. Essential ingredients for a typical horror film, if only the pacing was done right so that it won't be that much of a chore to sit through what was overly dramatic family relationship matters for the first half, where young Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent packing to stay with her dad Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in their new mansion in the middle of nowhere, one that has a gruesome past (as with almost all mansions) involving minute goblins with an appetite for children's teeth.

With Guillermo del Toro lending his name to the production, one would have set expectations that it'll reach the dizzying heights of his films such as Helboy and Pan's Labyrinth, but first time director Troy Nixey allowed the focus to be put on the estranged relationship between Sally and the adult folks in the new chapter of her life, battling plenty of deep resentment especially with Kim who would be her step-mom sometime soon. Tantrums get thrown around, gifts and little nice gestures get ignored, and when she starts to hear whispers from the shadows who want to befriend her, it gets brushed aside as a relocation problem that with settling down will go away.

As mentioned it gets a little tiring trying to keep up with the family drama of the usual fears when dealing with a potential step-mom, though I would say to hold on to your horses since it is precisely this aspect that packs its emotional punch when it mattered. What didn't work was Guy Pearce seemingly like fish out of water, being out of place and uncomfortable as the dad now thrust with the responsibility of a young daughter, when all he wants out of life at this stage is a hot wife who's also his business partner in their joint-renovation of the mansion to be sold for a handsome profit, if only they can get Sally to play ball and not spook everyone out of the house. It's money first, safety and sanity second. Not exactly what one would expect a parent to behave.

The narrative only picked up from the midway point when the creatures come out of the closet, well, basement sinkhole, and appear in full glory, no longer playing peekaboo with the audience and characters. Creature design is excellent though, where like little gremlins the creatures may seem easy fodder to be stomped on, and with their inherent weakness for light make them easy targets so long as one is carrying a large flashlight. Thankfully these get compensated through swarming large numbers in highly organized fashion, and being ultra fast and cruel, sparing no thought at utilizing many household items from screwdrivers to boxcutters to inflict maximum damage and pain to the larger human opponents, and opens the door for some degree of gore on screen.

Still, this bunch of critters took a little too long to make their unholy appearance, which in the meantime you'd have to contend with an overly long lesson on how not to behave as a parent, with upbringing methods on display both good and bad. There are clear plot loopholes that stem from goalposts being shifted to make way for a more emotional, touching ending, as well as inexplicable behaviour of seemingly rationale people, and if the pace had been tightened and unwanted scenes canned, this could have been a very taut thriller indeed.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...