MEXICAN film-maker Guillermo del Toro has explored childhood fears brilliantly in his work, from the ghosts of the past that haunt The Devil’s Backbone to the horrors of the imaginary in Pan’s Labyrinth.
His fingerprints are all over this slick remake of a 1973 telefilm, which del Toro has co-written with Matthew Robbins as a directorial debut for comics artist Troy Nixey.
Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) is sent to live with her architect father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend, interior decorator Kim (Katie Holmes), at the Gothic mansion they are restoring.
Despite the grim warnings of caretaker Mr Harris (Jack Thompson), who knows all about the goblin-like creatures in the basement, the Hursts foolishly move a fireplace grate, thereby unleashing the pint-sized horrors upon poor Sally.
At first, Alex ignores his child’s pleas and finds other explanations for Kim’s ripped clothes.
But when the menace intensifies, Sally finds an unlikely ally in her pretty stepmother-to-be.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is handsomely crafted and Nixey demonstrates flair behind the camera.
He has the eye for detail of an artist but regrettably not yet the steely nerves of a horror film-maker because there is an absence of creeping dread.
Madison brings emotional depth to her role and she galvanises pleasing screen chemistry with Holmes.
However, Pearce is woefully underused and the carelessness with which his character addresses the daughter’s deteriorating mental state borders on the laughable.
Despite a handful of effectively engineered shocks, you won’t be afraid of the dark.