Coming out of the DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK screening, I was struck by how the slow burn in horror films isn't used much anymore. It's very difficult to ratchet the tension slowly, so by the end of the film the intensity is almost unbearable. I think Troy Nixey's first feature film is a hell of a good ride, and although there's fat in the middle it's a quite effective horror story.
NemesisOfZod was at the Houston screening, and had a great time as well:
First I want to thank you for letting me get in to see Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark. The movie was great, and the audience seemed to genuinely enjoy the film and the atmosphere. I definitely look forward to seeing any other sneak previews, and my wife is totally jazzed about seeing The Great Muppet Caper, especially after I told her some of the details you told me about.
There are a lot of times in "horror" films when you can tell that the screenplay had strokes of brilliance, but after a while the director decided to phone it in. There are so many horror movie conventions that exist, and movies have become very predictable because of it. Walking in to see "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" I had some distinct ideas of what to expect, because it is produced by Guillermo Del Toro. I was expecting creepy eye hands and things of that nature. I based my ideas on Pan's Labyrinth to a degree, instead of remembering that he was also responsible for Mimic, and the way it turned a few cliches on their ear. (Seriously, I just mentioned Mimic) The pre-credits scene sets a lot of the story in motion, and is one of those scenes that will stick with you throughout the movie.The movie starts off with Sally (Bailee Madison from the creepiest episode of L&O:SVU) coming to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and father's girlfriend (An incredibly surprising Katie Holmes). You can tell that it isn't her idea of a good time.
I don't believe in spoilers, so I won't bother with them. As you watch the film, pay attention to the scenes as they happen. There is so much foreshadowing that occurs in minute amounts. As the movie progresses, You become involved in the characters and what is going on around them. The house in the film is being renovated by the father and girlfriend, and this keeps the father's mind on both the house and Sally, which means he can't focus on one or the other completely. At moments you will hate the father for how distant he is to the situation, and at others you will see Guy Pearce really crank it up and see how helpless he can feel in this entire situation. Sally moves through the movie and advances the story nicely, making you wonder how much of the backstory we really have, and how much is coming up. There is definitely an "is she or isn't she" kind of feel to the character. The best part of the movie is how it keeps you on your toes. It doesn't play the cat jumping out gag or things of that nature, and when the reality of the situation is revealed you feel relieved to know what is happening, and tense because you now know EXACTLY what is happening.
The level of violence is both over the top and subdued. You may have a moment or two that is cringe worthy, but at the same time this film isn't Saw. The violence has a purpose. It shows you the lengths that some will go to get what they want. The film doesn't end how you expect it to, and at the same time it ends how you think it will. Watch it and tell me if you disagree. A film like this builds up slowly, and as soon as it builds you up, the pace changes itself...you become involved. You move at a smarter pace than some other films. Most importantly, when you finally get to the end, the film leaves you going back through it, wondering if you could have missed other details that may have made a difference for you as the viewer, or for the characters themselves. I can think of a couple of things that I brought up to a few people that made them step back and say "Ahh!" because the answer seemed to be dangling in front of us, but never quite answered. This is the way horror films should be.
If you use this, you can call me NemesisOfZod. If not, I still appreciate you taking the time to read my review!
Thanks, man. Glad you enjoyed the screening. Nordling, out.