Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Won’t Someone Please Save Katie Holmes?

Die-hard horror fans (including this one) generally spend their adult lives hoping to re-experience the fear and awe they derived from the scary flicks they saw as kids. Which may be why Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro was inspired to co-produce and write (with Matthew Robbins) a remake of the legendarily creepy 1973 TV movie that del Toro reportedly saw at age 9 (and this reviewer at 10). In this visually lush updating, directed by newcomer Troy Nixey, 9-year-old Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent by her mother to live with her architect father (Guy Pearce) and his interior-decorator girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in an old Rhode Island mansion they’re restoring. In a flash, Sally is compelled by whispery voices to open a firmly bolted fireplace ash pit—big mistake—thereby setting free small, demonic creatures that feed on the teeth of dead children, a trait that is a nicely nasty new touch. (The TV movie was vague about their motivations, beyond ordinary demon meanness.) Just because they can, the creatures begin taunting and frightening Sally, who puts up a good fight. If the grand finale isn’t as resonantly scary as the original’s, maybe that’s just because, try though we might, we’re no longer impressionable kids.