Eh. It started off in a fantastically horrific and creepy way. But, then again…the beginning of a horror movie is perhaps the easiest part to make. The rules haven’t been determined and nothing has to make sense. Simply create a regular situation with people acting irregularly, throw in some blood or a rabid porcupine and the beginning will be a success. So, I don’t want to give too much credit. Still, they didn’t mess it up, so hip hip hooray for them!
A much harder section of the movie to create is what I would like to term “the rest of the movie”. Either it has to make sense…or it has to make sense to the characters in the movie…or it has to make sense that nothing makes sense. Oh yeah. And it has to build on the opening scene to dive deeper into this world of terror. And someone, at some point in the movie, has to do something…anything that makes sense, even if only by accident.
Let me give an example. Let’s say the movie is about a group of teenagers staying at a cabin in the woods. There is a strange noise outside. Someone decides to investigate. As a viewer, and armed with the knowledge that this is a horror movie, this seems like the worst possible thing that he could possibly do. The person is either going to get killed in some gruesome fashion, get scared by a cat, or get scared by a cat right before getting killed in a gruesome fashion. Yet, if this was real life, the person would probably find the culprit. Perhaps it is a wind blowing a branch into the side of the cabin. Maybe a raccoon is sifting through the garbage. In the end, while the part of us knowing it is a horror movie groans at this person’s idiocy, the part of us grounded in reality can find the person’s actions reasonable, even if we would never try it because we have seen too many horror movies.
Now let’s examine a scene in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. A couple is renovating a beaten up mansion that they plan to resell. During their efforts, they discover that there is a basement. The reason they did not know about it is because the staircase had been walled off. This does not concern anyone…why should it? I’m sure it was…common practice back in the day to wall off staircases????? (This is not the part I have a problem with…though it didn’t help the movie watching experience). So, then the man’s 8-year old daughter starts to hear creepy voices coming up through the vents to her bedroom coming from this newly discovered, terrifying, dark, creepy basement. The voices say they want to be her friend and for her to release them. Riiiiiiight…good try voices. But this is a little girl and that is one super creepy basement. And you’ve been tormenting her and her family. There’s no way she would go downstairs and…wait…what is she doing? 8 year olds have problems going down a regular basement, but she is fine going in this one that, oh by the way, doesn’t even have any lights???
While the first example is repeated often in a bazillion different ways, it will always work on some level because there is a level of plausibility to it, even if we don’t want there to be. The scene, and other scenes like it, from “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” fail miserably due to there being no plausibility. While I am for the efforts to create new and interesting methods of horror, just don’t make them stupid.
Visually, this movie was fun. It almost could have been good if more time was spent on character motivations, eliminating nonsensical ideas, and not wasting a fun opening scene to the movie, but instead utilizing it as a framework of where the new characters introduced later would end up.
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