Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Dont' Be Afraid of the Dark -- 2.5/5

There was so much about this movie that I wanted to like, but it never came through for me. I loved that Guillermo del Toro's name was attached to this, and that it looked like a classic haunted house story not so different from one of my favorite horror films El Orfanato (also produced by del Toro). It also had a pretty creepy trailer attached to it, and furthermore I had no clue what it could be about. Maybe not knowing was for the best.
[spoiler alert] The movie starts out in possibly the 1800's. A creepy old scientist who lives in a ridiculously gorgeous mansion knocks out his maid's teeth to feed to these evil sounding creatures who have captured his son and will not give him back until he gives them "child's teeth." Needless to say the scientist angers the whispering creatures by offering them adult teeth and they pull him down some shaft to his death.
Jump to the future, where the movie doesn't seem to quite know where it is. The airport has old fashioned arrival signs, Katie Holmes (the evil step-girlfriend) carries around a Polaroid camera, and the father (Guy Pearce) has a smart phone he can text on. What? At first I thought they could be in the 90's, but the texting really through me off that scent.
Then we get to the house, and it's gorgeous. Probably the only thing that made the movie worth viewing to be honest. Now it's the time where characters are established (sort of). The little girl's parents are divorced, she is taking some pretty strong medication that could be the cause of her depression, and the dad seems like a class-A jerk. Oh, and I shouldn't forget that Katie Holmes' character apparently had a really bad childhood, but don't worry -- apparently that's not important because they never ever mention it again in the movie. Actually, the character's lives aren't important either because all this back story that could be potential character development is shoved to the side for the rest of the movie.
We move on as the secret basement is discovered by young Sally (played by Bailee Madison). After roaming around a fairy-tale-like labyrinth (complete with fairy mushroom circle and all), she finds a window covered by one giant bush, thus the discovery of the basement. Of course, one of the construction workers (Harris) attempts to keep the family away from this discovery, but fails miserably. When the father and girlfriend Holmes discover the basement, they go hog wild. Of course, the audience realizes this basement is the one where the mad scientist killed his maid for her teeth and was in return killed by these whispering creatures. Right away, Sally notices the shaft that has been conveniently bolted up. This intrigues her.
It all seems so simple and easy to follow up until this point. So potentially good and interesting. But alas, this is where the plot holes and weird parts start and keep on coming. This is where the movie gets bad.

Plot Hole #1: Apparently Harris's grandfather was the one who bolted up the shaft (what?) but we never know why his family doesn't own the house anymore and why on earth he's working to restore it if he knows the house's dark and scary secrets.
Plot Hole #2: Even though the creepy whispering creatures sound, well, creepy it doesn't stop Sally from wanting to be their friend (why?). Maybe this is because her parents don't love her (the creatures repeat that a lot), but as a kid if I heard creepy voice who demanded me to "turn off the light!" I would be running away and not trying to release them from there bolted shaft. Maybe she was just lonely.
Weird Part #1: Grown up men can't seem to escape the wrath of these hunchback, limping creatures with tiny sharp objects. And they almost kill poor Harris for attempting to protect Sally. I don't know why he couldn't just walk or run up the stairs to the light and save himself, but apparently these little guys are very...strong?
Plot Hole #3: After Harris' demise and the father refuses to believe the daughter about anything, girlfriend Holmes decides to rush off to the library on the command of Harris. 16 minutes before closing time, she is able to find the young librarian and they run off into a restricted section to discover more about the scientist who owned the house, Blackwood. While she must wear gloves, the librarian doesn't seem to need them while touching these old sketches and diary entries. It is now where we discover the secret of these hunchbacked tiny creatures. Apparently they used to kill people to replenish their ranks, but after making a treaty with the Pope (what?!?!) they started to live off of children's teeth. To get these teeth, at night a child would place his or her tooth under a pillow and in the morning find a silver piece. So, like Darkness Falls, we are dealing with...a tooth fairy. Oh how scary.
Plot Hole #4: After successfully crushing one of the creatures, Sally doesn't show anyone the body's remains. Maybe that would have made someone believe she wasn't mental??
Weird Part #2: While these creatures can apparently drag a little girl down to a basement, attack a grown man, and break a woman's legs with a rope, they seem to have issues with stabbing someone with a poker in the face.
Plot Hole #5: Once girlfriend Holmes is taken by these creatures, the father and daughter seem to get out of the situation OK. No police questioning, no anything. The disappearance of Holmes goes unnoticed it seems.
Plot Hole #6: The ending was just of the charts confusing. After sacrificing her life to save little Sally, apparently girlfriend Holmes is now the master and commander of these little tooth fairies (wait....what? why?...the world may never know).

The characters never grow, we only ever get to know them skin deep. It attempts to be a commentary on modern child abuse (what with the medication and the neglect), but stops concerning itself with that about 30 minutes in. Who knows why the creatures were able to make a treaty with the Pope, but were never documented otherwise. The story is all over the place, and it doesn't seem to be very good and understanding what it wants to be. The movie is just confusing.
The sad part about it, is that there were some interesting parts to this movie that if done right could have made it really great. But it fell so short of greatness and completely fell off the map into craziness. It seemed like del Toro mashed all the things he likes (labyrinths, dark houses, children) into one film and didn't care where or how the story would pan out.

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