We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
A family is terrorised by malevolent little creatures in this 70s TV movie remake, co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro.
If there's one thing guaranteed to make bedtime a miserable experience for a child, it's the creatures that squat under the bed, waiting to grab a wayward foot. It's these sleepless nights that Guillermo Del Toro and Troy Nixey aim to recall with their re-imagining of the 70s television movie Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark.
The basic plot plays second fiddle to a creeping sense of dread. When a young girl, Sally (Madison), goes to live with her father (Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Holmes) in their huge gothic mansion she makes the unfortunate decision to try to befriend some very nasty little beings, which soon run amok.
The real star of the film is the house itself and the set design is spectacular. Moody lighting, oppressive wood panelling, huge gothic staircases - the film has it all and it's a credit to Troy Nixey's direction that this never feels too much like a theme park attraction. Revelling in audience expectations of the haunted house genre, Nixey can almost be heard giggling with joy as he devises clever ways to frighten the audience.
The score swoons and willows, with some very loud audio stingers to accompany visual scares. But the film loses steam towards its final third and fails to provide any shocks or surprises that audiences won't see coming.
It may also be difficult for audiences to believe that a technologically savvy, smart-talking child like Sally would make such staggeringly awful choices when it comes to the raspy, frightening creatures she seems so keen to meet.
In a nutshell: Full of atmosphere, fleeting glimpses of nastiness, some decent scares and a few nods to the original (including a harrowing bathroom scene) Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark will remind viewers to tuck their feet in at night but is unlikely to terrify any hardcore horror fans.
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