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MOVIE REVIEW: "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" $7/10

Who goes down into a sealed off basement after hearing raspy voices whispering their name? Only a 10 year-old, I guess.

I remember keeping myself within reach of a light switch whenever I crept down into our dark basement growing up. I was never as brave as the lead characters in a Guillermo Del Toro yarn. From "Pan's Labyrinth" to this weekend's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," the visionary producer/director clearly has a thing for putting kids in fantastic situations.

Fantastically DEADLY situations.

Del Toro's tales work without exploiting our emotions, though. That's because these young girls are strong - braver than most adults would be. They're not adults yet, incapable of the jaded thinking that would immediately have them picturing death and dismemberment when heading down into a cob-web infested lair.

Del Toro wrote and produced this film, based on a 1973 TV movie I've never seen. It's a good, ol' fashioned haunted house creeper. Broken family moves into creepy mansion dad is rehabbing. Young girl is caught in between divorced parents, only to find that a mysterious entity in the basement is sympathetic to her cause. Weird old man hanging around the grounds seems to know what's going on and will try to protect her. Parents won't believe her even if she speaks up, then everything builds into absolute insanity.

And of course, all of this could have been prevented if they JUST LEFT THE HOUSE LIKE ANY NORMAL HUMAN BEING WOULD DO.

"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" is not going to revolutionize the genre. If anything, it's proof that the creature feature is far from dead. It reminded me of some of the fun ones I grew up watching. "The Gate" came to mind, or something like "Cat's Eye." Even "Ghoulies." Sorry, bad B-movie dropper here.

I was shocked at how much I bought into this, seeing how horror movies about the unseen ("Paranormal Activity") are so effective these days. "DBAOTD" puts its tooth-chomping fairy goblins front and center. They scream, chatter, grunt, laugh, stab. They will make you chuckle at points, but when the lights go off, you may find yourself taking your feet off the floor. You know, just in case.

I always feel bad for directors in these situations. Del Toro is clearly an emerging auteur with his own style, and director Troy Nixey settles in well under the umbrella. The movie has terrific pacing, and Nixey waits long enough to deliver the close ups of the goblins.

The performances deliver where they should. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce are perfectly clueless, with the most dynamic role given to youngster Bailee Madison. She sells horror very well, especially amongst creatures created in a far away computer.

"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" earns a Leshock Value of $7 out of a possible $10.

The Leshock Value Movie Reviews are based on a $10 ticket price. Because most movies never live up to forking out so much cash, Marcus tells you how much they're really worth. We don't recommend negotiating with the cashier at the box office window. Do so at your own risk.

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