Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 28: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (2010)
As a lifelong fan of scary movies, I thought I had seen it all—that was, until I saw Troy Nixey‘s Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. Penned by horror maestro Guillermo del Toro, this heinously underrated creepshow is a carefully-crafted gaggle of gasps that’s wholly unique and disturbing without relying on excessive gore or cheap jump-scares. It’s haunted house horror at its finest, and essential October viewing for anyone who feared their basement as a child.
A remake of the 1973 made-for-TV movie of the same name, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark centers on withdrawn eight-year-old Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison), who has just arrived at Blackwood Manor to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce), and his girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes), both of whom are working to restore the property to its former glory. She’s not thrilled with her new living arrangements, especially once she learns the sprawling estate is also home to a horde of little zombie-monkey-fairies. As you probably guessed, this doesn’t bode well for Sally and her family, who soon find themselves caught in a frightening fight for their lives.
Being totally honest, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark probably won’t keep you up at night. It’s pretty slow-moving at times, and boasts what might be the most inept group of protagonists ever (The monsters are the size of kittens—give me a baseball bat and a pair of safety goggles and this movie is over in like 20 minutes tops). But what this film lacks in sheer terror it more than makes up for in atmosphere. Blackwood Manor is massive and foreboding, and Nixey and del Toro masterfully utilize space and light to accentuate the feeling of isolation. What’s more, the duo wisely keeps their creatures under wraps until the second act, bringing viewers’ anxieties to a low boil before dousing them with a wonderfully unexpected conclusion.
An exceptionally cohesive cast also helps elevate this film far beyond your average monster romp. Madison is fantastic and easy to root for, adding a welcome human element to an otherwise ridiculous plotline, while Pearce and Holmes are impeccably oblivious from the word “go.” Their plight feels authentic despite the fact that their fighting fairies, making for a compelling watch that’s hard to turn away from.
All in all, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is everything you could want in a horror movie. It’s unnerving and enthralling in equal measure, and best of all, it’s totally one of a kind. Definitely make some time for this one if you’re sick of slashers and over ghosts. I promise you won’t regret it.