Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010 film)

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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Dont be afraid of the dark poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTroy Nixey
Produced byGuillermo del Toro
Mark Johnson
Stephen Jones
Written byGuillermo del Toro
Matthew Robbins
Based on
StarringKatie Holmes
Guy Pearce
Bailee Madison
Jack Thompson
Alan Dale
Garry McDonald
Julia Blake
Music byMarco Beltrami
Buck Sanders
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byJill Bilcock
Gran Via
Distributed byFilmDistrict
Miramax Films
Release date
  • November 6, 2010 (2010-11-06) (Virginia Film Festival)
  • August 26, 2011 (2011-08-26) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[1]
Box office$38.3 million[2]

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a 2010 horror film written by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro and directed by comic book artist Troy Nixey. It is a remake of the 1973 ABC made-for-television horror film of the same name.[3] The film stars Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, and Bailee Madison, as a family moving into a 19th-century Rhode Island mansion, where the withdrawn daughter (Sally) begins to witness malevolent creatures that emerge from a sealed ash pit in the basement of the house. Jack Thompson, Alan Dale, Garry McDonald, and Julia Blake stars in supporting roles.

An international co-production between the United States, Australia, and Mexico, it was filmed at the Drusilla Mansion in Mount Macedon and Melbourne (both in Victoria, Australia).[4]

The film was released in the United States on August 26, 2011, by Miramax Films and FilmDistrict. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has received mixed to positive reviews from critics, who praised Holmes, Pearce and Madison's performances, direction, atmosphere and musical score, but criticized the lack of originality and jump scares and grossed $38.3 million against a $25 million budget.


At Blackwood Manor in Providence County, Rhode Island in the 19th century, renowned wildlife painter Lord Blackwood summons his housekeeper to the basement where he reluctantly bludgeons her to death with a hammer and chisel. He removes her teeth, as well as his own, and offers them to mysterious creatures down an ash pit within an old fireplace; the creatures reject his offer and demand only the teeth of children. Blackwood begs for them to give back his kidnapped son, only to be dragged down the ash pit by the creatures.

In present day, 8-year old Sally Hurst arrives in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex and his girlfriend Kim, both restoring Blackwood Manor to put it on the market for their client Mr. Jacoby. Sally is depressed due to her mother forcefully putting her in Alex's care and giving her copious amounts of Adderall. On the first night of her stay, the melodious tune from a carousel-styled nightlight awakens the creatures in the ash pit. The next day, Sally wanders the grounds and finds the hidden basement's skylight. One of the workmen restoring the house, Mr. Harris, warns her, Alex and Kim not to venture into the basement, but they do so anyway. Sally hears the creatures calling her name and follows the mysterious voices to a sealed fireplace. "BE AFRAID" is written in runes above it.

Sally opens the fireplace to meet the creatures and finds one of the old housekeeper's teeth. The creatures quickly prove to be hostile, stealing Alex's razor and shredding Kim's clothes. Alex blames Sally and finds a 19th-century silver coin in her possession, which she found under her pillow after the tooth disappeared. Alex and Kim head into town on a business trip and Sally sneaks to the basement to talk with the creatures, but Harris sends her away and tries to seal the fireplace. The creatures emerge and brutally wound him with his own tools and he is hospitalized. Sally's increasingly frightening encounters with the creatures prompt Alex to call a therapist to talk to Sally, who draws a sketch of one of the creatures that attacked her under her bedsheets.

Kim visits Harris in the hospital, who tells her to find the unpublished artwork of Lord Blackwood in the local library. The librarian reveals the artwork, one of which is of a creature whom he describes as being like tooth fairies, which every now and again turn a human into one of their own. Kim races home as Sally is attacked again by the creatures while having a bath, the lead creature being a transformed Lord Blackwood who proclaims the creatures will make Sally one of their own. Kim finds an undiscovered mural painted by Lord Blackwood in the basement, depicting his son being taken below ground by the creatures. Kim confronts Alex who is more interested in hosting a dinner for Mr. Jacoby and friends. However, he finally realizes what is happening when Sally is trapped in the library by the creatures, but she fends them off by using her camera flash to distract them.

Alex and Kim decide to flee the house with Sally, but both are ambushed by the creatures and knocked out. Sally tries to wake Kim up but also gets ambushed by the creatures and is knocked unconscious. When Sally wakes up, her feet have been tied up with rope, and the creatures are starting to drag her to the basement for her transformation. Kim awakens and goes to the basement to confront the creatures, cutting the rope around Sally's feet but only to get caught herself in the ropes and her leg broken as she struggles to get free. The creatures drag Kim into the fireplace, as a distraught Sally crushes the creature who used to be Lord Blackwood to death with a large flashlight. Alex arrives just as Kim disappears, and the father and daughter mourn their loss.

Some time later, both return to the abandoned mansion to leave a drawing of Kim there. After they leave, a strong draft pulls the drawing into the creatures' lair; the entrance is now bolted with metal. The heroic, caring Kim, who saved Sally, has been transformed. She is heard convincing the creatures to stay in hiding because they "have all the time in the world", and people will forget in time, and others will come to the manor.



Del Toro chose Troy Nixey to direct the film after seeing Nixey's short film Latchkey's Lament. For the design of the creatures in the film, Nixey drew inspiration from pictures of mole rats.[5]


Del Toro has attributed the idea of giving the creatures in the film a fairy origin to the work of the writer Arthur Machen, saying in an interview: "I love the Welsh author Arthur Machen and his idea that fairy lore comes from a dark place, that it’s derived from little, pre-human creatures who are really, really nasty vermin but are magical in a way, living as they do for hundreds of years. His books are what compelled me to do this." Machen's stories are specifically mentioned in the film by the librarian character.[citation needed]

Del Toro is a long-standing admirer of Machen and said his work was also an influence on El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army both of which also feature fairy creatures.[6]

The name of "Emerson Blackwood", the character who built the mansion in the film, is a tribute to Algernon Blackwood, another writer of supernatural horror stories.[citation needed]


This picture, which was developed with Miramax in the wake of the division's closure and sale, was released by FilmDistrict, and was rated R despite filmmaker ambitions to the contrary.[7] Del Toro has stated, "We originally thought we could shoot it as PG-13 without compromising the scares ... And then the MPAA came back and gave us a badge of honor. They gave us an R for 'Violence and Terror.' We asked them if there was anything we could do, and they said, 'Why ruin a perfectly scary movie?'"[8]

Troy Nixey narrated the film at a screening at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.[9]

The initial release date was scheduled for January 21, 2011.[10]

Due to the sale of Miramax by Disney on December 3, 2010, the release was put on hold until the sale was finalized.[11] The film was released on August 26, 2011.[12]


Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 60% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 173 reviews, with an average rating of 5.87/10. The website's critical consensus states that "While it's pleasantly atmospheric and initially quite scary, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark ultimately fails to deliver the skin-crawling chills of the original".[13] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 56/100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3½ stars out of 4, calling it "a very good haunted house film" and adding that it "milks our frustration deliciously."[15]

Home media[edit]

It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 3, 2012 and February 20, 2012 in the UK.


  1. ^ Kaufman, Amy (August 25, 2011). "Movie Projector: 'The Help' to brush off the competition again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  2. ^ "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark – Box Office Data". BoxOfficeMojo. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  3. ^ Fleming, Michael (May 6, 2009). "'Dark' days for Katie Holmes". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  4. ^ "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". The Age. Melbourne. November 4, 2011.
  5. ^ "Movie Pick: 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark'". Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  6. ^ "Dark Deeds: An Interview with Guillermo del Toro and Guy Pearce by Robert Cashill". Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  7. ^ Guillermo del Toro isn't afraid of... Much of anything,; accessed April 1, 2018.
  8. ^ Preview Review,, August 2010.
  9. ^ Barton, Steve (July 2010). "Tiny Images From 'Walking Dead', 'Let Me In', 'Saw 3D' & 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Gets a Release Date". Dread Central. June 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
  11. ^ Winning, Josh (October 12, 2010). "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark delayed". Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  12. ^ Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark official website,; accessed April 1, 2018.
  13. ^ "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  14. ^ "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  15. ^ "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". Chicago Sun-Times.

External links[edit]