In general, I prefer the films of Guillermo del Toro that he doesn’t direct (“The Orphanage,” “Splice”) to the ones he does (particularly “Hellboy” and its sequel). That pretty much holds true for “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” which he only co-wrote and co-produced, ceding the director’s chair to newcomer Troy Nixey.
Living underneath the new-to-them Rhode Island mansion of architect Alex (Guy Pearce, “Animal Kingdom”); interior-designer girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes, TV’s “The Kennedys”); and his daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison, “Just Go with It”), are demons. Little, hairy demons who live for hundreds of years and crave children’s teeth.
In its first half, the movie is sufficiently creepy, holding two good jolts (albeit due to the increasingly lazy practice of really loud sounds on the soundtrack). But plot holes as large as the house keep it from being this season’s “Insidious.” To reveal minor but ultimately insignificant spoilers, at no time does Sally, who’s the only person — still alive, at least — to see these creatures, demand that adults look at her proof.
She takes Polaroids of them she could shove into her father’s face, but doesn’t; she even kills one by smashing it between two bookshelves, yet fails to inform the room crowded with adults of the resulting mess, much less the disembodied appendage on the floor right in front of them.Plot holes as large as the house keep it from being this season’s “Insidious.”
The lone victor of the experience is Madison. Now all of 11, she gives quite a grown-up performance, free of the amateurish tics of most child actors. But I was also distracted by how much she looks like Holmes, yet isn’t playing Holmes’ daughter. The resemblance is uncanny; that it’s yet another “duh” moment that del Toro and company missed is baffling.