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Like co-writer/producer Guillermo del Toro, I have strong childhood memories of watching the original 1973 television movie, upon which 2011’s DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK ($36) was based. As the original DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK totally creeped me out in my youth, I was more than eager to see what the big screen adaptation of would bring to the table. Despite a less than stellar box office take, 2011’s DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK proves itself to be an atmospheric and very creepy update on the original. Sure, this version of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK follows the basic framework of the original, but Guillermo del Toro and co-writher Matthew Robbins have embellished the story; giving the creatures that are central to the horror a back story and something of a mythology to explain their origins. Also, CGI is employed to allow the creatures to realistically interact with the main characters in the story, something that was impossible to do in the original.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK opens with a modestly gruesome sequence set in centuries past, involving renowned naturalist painter Lord Blackwood and his housekeeper, whom he summons to the basement of his Rhode Island home- Blackwood Manor. We quickly learn that some sort of creatures that have tunneled up through the ash pit within the basement fireplace, and have abducted Lord Blackwood’s young son. In his desperation to get back his missing child, Lord Blackwood uses the housekeeper’s teeth as an offering to the creatures, whose preference seem to be for the teeth of children.

Flash forward to present day, Alex Hirst (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) are currently undertaking a restoration of the long abandoned Blackwood Manor, when Alex’s eight-year old daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison), comes to stay with him. During her exploration of the property, Sally discovers the skylight of a long hidden basement. And despite the warnings of local handyman, Mr. Harris (Jack Thompson), who has some familiarity with the property, Alex locates the hidden entrance to the basement and ventures down there with Kim and Sally in tow. Soon, Sally hears someone or something whispering her name from behind these bolted metal grating over the old fireplace, and the eight-year old makes it her business to open up the old fireplace to discover what is inside…

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. As you might expect from the title, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is a movie that features numerous dark sequence that are phenomenally well rendered, thanks to a marvelous 1080p presentation. Despite so much darkness during the course of the movie, image sharpness, clarity and dimensionality all remain generally excellent. Additionally, fine detail and texturing score very highly, especially in this context. During the sequences with more normalized lighting, the image is even more impressive. Colors are warm and attractive for interior shots with normalized lighting, while the exteriors exhibit a cooler pallet. Flesh tones always look correct, despite tonal shifts in the pallet. Blacks are pitch perfect and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast is smooth throughout. Shadow details are pretty much first rate, but there are moments where it is allowed to fall into the abyss to enhance the scares. The elements from which DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK has been mastered are free from flaws. A modest veneer of grain/noise shows up from time to time, which maintains the organic quality of this excellent presentation.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. All the discrete channels are well implemented for sound effects placement, plus the effects movie about the sound field effectively- the creature attacks work exceedingly well, as the little monsters scurry about one’s listening environment. There is plenty of atmosphere and creepy sound effects to set the right mood and raise the tension level. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is pretty terrific, Marco Beltrami’s music sounds great. The bottom end of the track offers up enough punch without seeming overblown. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the extras. The primary extra is a Three-Part Making-Of Documentary that runs over twenty minutes in total and covers The Story, Blackwood's Mansion and The Creatures. A number of Bonus Trailers close out the standard extras. DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). An authorization code is provided for an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film, which is just a stream away.

As I stated above, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is an atmospheric and creepy update on the original. Sure, this type of gothic horror may not wow some viewers, especially those who prefer more graphic offerings, but I found it to be an enjoyable fright fest. The Blu-ray presentation is wonderful. Recommended.


Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (2011)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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