Full review, as usual, available over at ye Herald.

Why do I say Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a Guillermo Del Toro hand-me-down? Because it is. The inspiration for it has got to be that scene in Hellboy 2 with the pixie-sized monsters who also eat teeth. Grafting that idea onto the concept from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (an unusually effective TV movie from 1973) is a good fit, and raiding/expanding your own ideas is hardly a high crime, but it makes the whole thing feel a little tossed-off.

Especially because the story is just all wrong. I don’t know if it’s Troy Nixey’s direction or Del Toro’s cowritten script–wait, yes I do, it’s both–but it seems like the same goddamn scene repeats itself fifty goddamn times: Bailee Madison, the little girl, is attacked by tiny monsters, does nothing, then gets rescued by a grownup in the nick of time. Why is this repeated over and over and over? Well, you can’t just have her get eaten 30 minutes in, dummy. That’s why. That would be a TV episode and not a movie.

Still, in practice, it’s a boring story structure that slowly disengages you from the material until you don’t really give a shit about what’s happening in this kooky old house. What was the deal with Guy Pearce, too? His acting was all stiff–he’s normally great–and his character’s motivations seemed to be “whatever is dramatically convenient to the current scene” rather than anything consistent. There were just way too many seams visible in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark to lose yourself in it. There was nothing terrible about it. Just nothing all that fresh, either.

They kind of got hosed on the R-rating, incidentally. I read it was for something like “heavy and persistent fear,” which is a BS rating. There’s certainly not any language, violence, nudity, drug use, thematic content, or any of the other usual suspects at play here. I think they got tagged with the R-rating (which reduces profits on just about any horror movie) because they opened the movie with a fairly grisly (but not that graphic) scene of dental trauma. That shit will make anyone squirm.

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