**1/2 (out of four)
Contrary to the knowledge of Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes of “So You Think You Can Dance”), not only does the old Rhode Island house they’re restoring have a basement, it’s also home to creepy crawly critters that feed on teeth. Of course, until Alex and Kim believe the terrified stories of Alex’s daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison, excellent), who’s seen the little buggers up close, the adults prefer to power through in hopes of landing the house on the cover of Architectural Digest. Not snooty at all.
The buzz: Wow, what an original title (the movie’s a remake of a 1973 TV flick) and concept: A freaky house in the northeast! That’s never been done. However, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” comes from producer/co-writer Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Blade II”), whose legion of devoted fans surely will flock to anything the veteran horror man has cooking.
The verdict: Wait a second. Do the too-familiar, too-talkative monsters, whose look and whispers so recall Golllum you expect them to purr, “My precious,” need children’s teeth to live? Or do they merely prefer them and will settle for adult teeth, like stopping for fast food when your fave restaurant is closed? The movie never decides, nor does it justify Alex being so clueless about things happening right in front of him. He doesn’t even connect Sally’s escalating fear with an incident in which the token “guy who’s been at the house for years and knows all the awful history” (Jack Thompson) receives injuries obviously caused by a tiny monster attack. Yet even if “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is pretty dumb when you think about it, when you’re scared you’re not always thinking straight. First-time feature director Troy Nixey provides more than enough dread, accentuated by the chilling clickety-clack of little beasts waiting to strike, to turn nonsense into nightmares.
Did you know? Sally’s mom advises her not to eat glutin because it’s bad for her concentration. Good point: Not letting a kid eat apple pie is a good way to get them to concentrate strongly … on someone that’s eating apple pie in front of them.
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