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‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ will have you scared at times

movie review
By: Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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True horror movies are better when you’re more afraid of what isn’t on screen instead of what is actually being shown. The art of the slow, devious climb to suspense was pushed aside in favor of expositions of gore, violence and in-your-face bloodletting that would make Charles Manson blush. On the sliding scale of horror, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is more along the lines of a “Goosebumps” novel than it is a “Saw” film. However, it does employ more than a few basic techniques of horror storytelling that give it a classic, albeit campy feel. The film tells the story of young Sally, whose designer father is renovating an old house with his girlfriend in hopes of catching the eyes of some very wealthy and influential people in his line of work. Sally, who is reluctantly living with her father in the house, uncovers creatures that go bump in the night who wreak havoc on the residents and prey on the little girl’s fears and emotional baggage. The big name attached to the film is that of Guillermo del Toro, the filmmaker behind “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” movies. While del Toro’s fingerprints can be seen on many aspects of the film, most notably set design and creature effects; it’s newcomer Troy Nixey who cuts his teeth here directing his first feature film. Nixey does an admirable job trying not to ape del Toro’s style but there are several breaks in logic during the film that any reasonable person can figure out and are clear growing pains for the fledgling filmmaker. One problem Nixey seems to have solved is Katie Holmes’ choice in film roles. The actress gives a strong performance and is one of the few actors in this movie who is not playing a caricature. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” won’t get you jumping out of your seat often but it’s an unsettling and creepy little film that manages to stuff a few legitimate scares in an otherwise flimsy packaging. Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer. ---------- “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” Directed by Troy Nixey Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison Rating: Three out of five stars