Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - 2011

Quite frankly, I don't understand how Del Toro and company could have completely misunderstood the outstanding elements of the original film.  Their remake of a classic (treasured by all 70's kids) turned into some kind of child's fairy tale nightmare just doesn't work.  What is even more baffling is that Del Toro wusses out at the end of the film, something which he did not do in his superior film "Pan's Labyrinth".

The original was a zeitgeist which chronicled a dying culture in which women were only housewives, glorified servants.  Kim Darby's child like Sally was just a wife stuck in an old victorian home.  She undertook the job to refurbish that white elephant of a house while her husband engaged with the outside world in an exciting job.  As the terrors creep in and Darby falls apart the truly scary part of the situation was how Darby was infantilized.  That whole "poor little woman prone to screaming fits" attitude towards her was really terrifying.    I suppose children who are used to such patronizing behavior find it more frightening because they are aware that Darby is an adult and adulthood is supposed to stop that treatment.  The original film also waited well into the second act to reveal the monsters, beforehand they were just bone chilling voices in the dark.

This remake tried to recreate the story from scratch.  Of course according to today's Hollywood everything must be BIG.  The original was a deft, claustrophobic low-fi psychological horror set piece but this remake had to be a fun house.  Gone is the pretty little family Victorian Painted Lady and in its place is a huge robber baron estate.  The basement sitting room is now a huge artist's studio with bombastic painted murals.

The explanation for the monsters now has an awkward, non-fitting backstory culled from various fairy tales.  The original quite rightly kept the monsters mysterious, they just were and nothing more needed to be said.  The only reason they wanted Darby's Sally was because she opened their prison.  The new version has a muddled story that they want children's teeth or they kidnap victims if they don't receive them.  I don't know.  It just all comes out as intriguing ideas but with no extra thought put into them.

Because there is no mystery to the voices in the dark, this film runs out of steam well before the end.  Truly, the more interesting story turns out to be how Sally's father is heading towards foreclosure rather than Sally seeing little beasts. C'est la vie.

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