Friday, February 3, 2012

Final Film, #92: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

What is a dentist’s favorite time?
Get it, 2:30? Insert boo here.
It’s also the tooth-fairy’s favorite time, since what likely follows a tooth ache is a sprung chomper ready for a barter trade.

But just what does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth? She obviously sells them to someone… where else would she get all those $1 bills (at least that was the going rate for teeth back when we were shedding incisors). 
And what sick bastard is out there buying up teeth?
We get our answer in this week’s film, our final stop along the horror time continuum, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

Seems the tooth fairy isn’t a beautiful woman floating in and out of darkened rooms exchanging teeth for dollars like some kind of reverse fetishistic stripper. 

It is actually teeth fairies that come collect the cuspids – small rodent like creatures who climb up from the Underworld through your basement and travel in packs. 
These fairies will stop at nothing to collect teeth and bones, even resorting to kidnapping and murder to collect. It’s a fact whittle tween Sally learns first hand.

Divorce is hard on tweens, and poor Sally didn’t take it too well when her mom and professional home-remodeler father Alex (Guy Pearce) visited Splitsville. 
After acting like a little bitch, Sally’s L.A. hussy of a mom gets sick of the brat and ships her off to Alex’s house on the East Coast – a huge decrepit mansion that Alex and his interior decorator girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) are working to restore.
The house last belonged to a turn-of-the-century artist who disappeared himself after the mysterious disappearance of his son.

Sally is sad – nobody loves or wants her, and her Dad has taken up with a younger woman who desperately wants to be Sally’s “buddy.”

Bored and pissed off, Sally starts to explore the grounds of the mansion without her father’s permission. She stumbles upon a hidden basement, which eventually Alex and Sally explore against the wishes of a local carpenter with extensive knowledge of the house and area. The entrance to the basement from the house was hidden… hmmmmm, probably a reason there.

The basement is creepy, like basements can be. But when Sally checks out the old coal furnace, she hears soft voices calling her name. Yeah, that is extra creepy. Well, Alex tells Sally not to play down there, but what does the little snot-rag do?! She goes and plays down there! 
The furnace has been bolted shut in “we mean business” style. But that won’t stop Sally – her ghost friends are down there! Sally pries open the old furnace, and finds inside not only a bowl of blood-stained teeth, but also the cries of hallowed voices pouring out of a seemingly bottomless hole.

Well, the fairies are really out of the bag now, huh Sally. Nice work dumbass, don’t you think that creepy teeth-filled furnace was sealed and the basement abandoned for a reason! 
Of course you didn’t think you twit! If we had a lead pipe and some duct tape we’d… sorry, sorry, we got out of hand there…

Sally’s visit to the bottomless hole riles up the hideous tooth fairies that live within it. They smell fresh teeth and bones! The fairies begin to stalk Sally for her miraculous molars using any weapon they can to pry those bones from her body.
Of course all the adults don’t believe her tales of narrowly escaping from the pack of hungry beasts. They just chalk it up to Sally having a case of the “Tween Sads.”

Meanwhile with his entire life wrapped up in the house, Alex doesn’t want to think there might be something wrong with the place. But sensitive girlfriend Kim might just believe the poor girls tale, and start to investigate.

Will Sally escape the blood thirsty fairies?
Will the fairies still trade cash for canines?
Is it actually possible for Kate Holmes to act?
Find out in 2011’s teeth-chatter, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.4
Chris Dimick hides under his pillow :
“Crush fingers, smash out teeth, and sever limbs if you have to, horror movie. Just don’t touch the eyes.
Everyone has their phobias – the things that if shown in a movie make them scream, close their eyes, and hold out their hands in disgust. For Nick, he can’t handle teeth mutilation.

So you can believe that Nick didn’t actually see various parts of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark… specifically the one where an iron file and hammer is used to collect more “pearly whites” for the evil fairies. It was only fair that Nick was put through the disgust-ringer this week. I got mine last week in the movie “May,” specifically when May took a pair of scissors and gouged out her own eye.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m afraid of a lot of things. Insects, insanity, criminals – and I can usually hack seeing them presented on screen. But not eye mutilation. Touch the eye and you better bring the barf bag… I just can’t hack it.

But is this really horror? Does grossing someone out really count as scaring them? Are “torture porn” movies like Saw, Hostel or The Hills Have Eyes truly horror? Or something else? Something cheap?
While other horror movie fans have chosen sides on this argument, I’ve remained Switzerland. I can drink both side’s Kool-Aid… understand where each is coming from.

Sickening someone requires tapping into emotions that are much different than those that cause fear. Getting a reaction out of someone through well-drawn out setting, character development, suspense and payoff is much harder than just showing an image of someone having their private parts thrown into a blender. 
The argument can be made that the latter “scare” is achieved cheaply and without effort, while a slow burn scare takes artistry.

I could agree to that, if it wasn’t for movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark… and its writer/producer Guillermo del Toro. 
Del Toro has a knack for mixing the extremely scary and the extremely disgusting, causing one to hide their eyes while puking through their fingers.

With movies like The Orphanage and Splice, there is always a moment in a del Toro movie that starts out creepy then turns sickening. I won’t point out all of these in DBAotD, but there were many.

For example, the teeth smashing scene. If done gratuitously as part of a slasher movie, one could argue it was just a cheap way to get a rise out of the audience. But in this film it was pertant to the plot, the teeth were needed to appease the fairies so they would hopefully return the teeth-smasher’s son from the Underworld.

Del Toro has a way of filming extremely nauseating sequences but creating them in a way that you can’t really argue against their inclusion in the movie. They are necessary, but boy you wish they weren’t.
It is the perfect mix of shocking gore and spooky set-up. 
One might see it as a meeting ground of Torture Porn and Classic Horror.

Gross out horror is the newest "trend" in the genre, and is likely so because it pushes boundaries and presenting something never done before. 
The inclusion of torture porn in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and other movies make the film seem fresh and interesting. 

This films use old school storytelling of ghosts and monsters, but mix in what’s great about modern slasher nonsense – dazzling bloody FX, unique and creative ‘kills’, and attention grabbing mayhem.

So why only a 3.4? The problem facing DBAotD is one that all “haunted house” movies face. When the going get tough, why don’t the characters just get going… out of the house!
This film answered that question quite well, actually (But it’s all just in Sally’s head; Alex’s business will be ruined if they don’t finish repairing the house). 
But even with explanations in place, part of the plot still seemed a bit forced and farfetched (How can a group of foot high fairies overpower a grown man?)

There are some horror movies that earn their scares through dishonest methods, grabbing hold of our base fears, like eye or teeth mutilation, and yanking as hard as they can till we scream-puke. (Or as I like to call it “scruke.”)
But don’t get high on your horse and think that gross out scenes have no place in horror. When used well, like del Toro does, they can take an average film like this one and move it all the way up to a near grade B.
And in these days of crap-films and remakes, a B is good enough for me.”

N-Rating: 3.4
Nick Rich hides under his pillow:
“I don't actually think that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark deserves a 3.4 rating, but I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to a) yet again go twinsies with Chris and
b) taint the integrity of our rating system one last time.

Although I was a bit apprehensive about finishing off the project with this film (I was secretly hoping Apollo 18 would win the vote), I'm actually glad things turned out the way they did. For one, back on November 16th, 2009 when this train rolled out of the station it began with a Guillermo del Torro production: The Orphanage. Who would have thought that 2 years and 2 months later we would be book-ending our journey with another del Torro fare? Not this guy!

No sir! Not me!

Sure, DBAotD wasn't nearly as great as The Orphanage, but it certainly had its merits - like its dark and eerie atmosphere. Personally, I thought there was something missing from this film, but it was enjoyable to watch just for the mystery, creepy overtones and production value. There was plenty to be annoyed with, like the tween girl and (as Chris mentioned) the 'why don't they just leave' factor... Oh! Lest we forget to mention the frustration at not being able to totally hate Katie Holmes' performance! (Usually a reliable pastime.)

James Van Der Beek watching Katie in Batman Begins

I suppose the conditions in which I viewed the film skewed my opinion a bit... but since when have I cared about skewing? I will always have a good memory of watching this flick... my wife on the couch covering my daughter's eyes at the scary scenes... Chris' head twinkling in the Skype window across the room... munching on a few freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with ice cold milk... watching the moody Spaniard's film play itself out on my projection screen... I can't say the DBAotD was a perfect film. It wasn't. But maybe, just maybe, it was the perfect film to end the Rich Dimick Horror Project.

RDHP 2009-2012

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you need research for your thesis paper 'Why Are Children So Annoying in Films?' or if you're brave enough to witness Mrs. Tom Cruise kinda-sorta-acting.”

Things We Learned from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark:
-Tweens from LA are extra depressed.
-Never trust a landscaper.
-The tooth fairy is a sick bastard.
-You can give dogs ADD medicine.
-First comes the starter wife. Then the reboot wife.
-Old teeth aren’t sanitary.
-Sick of your baby? There’s always the fire department drop off!
-Katie Holmes is an actress… not just that Scientologist's child-bride.
-Nick’s baby wants teat… not teeth.
-Voices coming out of a furnace aren’t friendly.
-Nick loves Michael Jackson for his music. Chris hates him for his pedophilia.
-Seriously, just leave a haunted house.
-You can’t be a horror fan if you’re willing to poke fingers into plot holes.
-Child birth is more relaxing than watching horror films (according to expert Mel).
-If a room in your house is sealed up, it’s like that for a reason:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Sally just doesn’t seem to fit into her new environment, and lashes out at everyone around her. She’s a right bitch with several problems, and Nick takes note.]

Nick: “This girl is like Rolling Stone magazine.”
Chris (reluctantly answering): “Yeah, why’s that?”
Nick: She’s got issues.
Nick: “I just wanted to bring the boo back one more time.”

RDHP Presents: 
The REAL Mythical Figures
Wake up people! You think Santa Claus is a jolly fat bastard who loves to bring you presents while you sleep?! You think aliens are some friendly creature like E.T. who likes to get drunk and mind-meld with you?! You wrong, you dead-@$$ wrong!
This week’s movie taught us that the Tooth Fairy is actually an ancient pact of monstrous creatures that lust after our bones. Here we uncover the truth on several other “mythical” figures by showing their true identities, and agendas. Beware!

Santa Claus
Sure, he sees you while you’re sleeping. But he does a lot more than just look.



Easter Bunny
Those “eggs” he leaves behind that you shove into your holes? Yeah, those are just implantations that soon hatch inside your stomach, only to take over your brain and do the bidding of the Rabbit-Race. Don’t even get me started on what those "harmless" Peeps do!



Uncle Sam
On the poster he looks like your friendly older uncle or Dad’s friend. And look, he says he wants us! Even if you are not into that, at least it is flattering. But do you realize what this kindly gentleman wants you FOR?! Well, it’s not helping tornado victims in Missouri rebuild their city like in those National Guard commercials, that’s for sure.



Think these midget Irishmen are cute and cuddly and give you luck. Get close enough and they're more likely to give you an Irish Kiss and rob your wallet of gold.



One of the few mythic monsters that pop culture sometimes gets right. We know the universe is a big place, and call it racial profiling if you want, but for every E.T. there is an Alien Queen ready to use your body cavity as a swaddling cloth for her young. Stephen Hawking said it best – Aliens aren’t going to travel millions of light years across the universe to shake our hands and teach us the meaning of life. They want blood, brains and resources, people!



They might look majestic, but this species was put into extinction by our ancients for a reason. You know those “magic” horns they have. Seems unicorns fancy using them to gratify their baser desires… whether you want them too or not. Yes, we're saying they're rapists.



We Did It!!!
Next Week the Credits Roll!
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark marks the Rich-Dimick Horror Project's final film, capping off a journey through horror movie history that had us watch then blog about one horror film from each year between 1920 to the present.
Next week we will recap this fantastic voyage, looking back on the highs and lows, as well as giving our final thoughts on the project as a whole.
Come back next week for a recap and virtual project completion celebration! 
We'll bring the Scotch and Whiskey, you bring your eyes!


  1. Great job on the blog guys! I enjoyed reading every week and will be sad when I can no longer vicariously watch horror movies via rd horror project. Can't wait to see what the wrap up entails.

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