For the life of me, I can’t fully understand why my expectations were so high for this movie. It might have had something to do with the attachment of Guillermo Del Toro’s name, unfortunately though he didn’t even direct it. It could have to do with the fact that this year actually reinforced my fate in the horror genre after the film Insidious was released. A Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark trailer was played before every viewing of Insidious and that was good marketing because I was very excited to this movie. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with the end result.
From the very beginning the film set a very intense and gloomy mood with a disturbing scene in which a man removes a woman’s teeth to give to the voices in his wall. It was a well made opening scene to set up a unique horror story. Then we meet our main characters, Sally, her father, and her step mother and that’s when the stereotypes and the disappointment begins. After the opening credits there were a handful of sequences I could definitely say I enjoyed particularly one where our main protagonist, Sally, crawls through her bed covers slowly. We know what’s to come. We just don’t know when.
Aside from a few select scenes such as that, the audience goes through agony as we have to watch scene after scene of actions that shouldn’t have been taken but are and lines you’d expect to be said and are of course said. I was sad to see Guy Pearce (a personal favorite of mine) in this dull horror flick playing the father we’ve all scene in any other lame horror film like this who of course doesn’t believe his daughter. It’s not that he was bad, he was just in a bad movie. Katie Holmes was decent and Bailee Madison was very believable as the trapped daughter.
All and all, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had a very interesting premise and a lot of potential. It just seem the filmmakers were too afraid to actually be too out of the ordinary because they managed to take a very unique idea and make just like any other cliche filled horror movie. And it wasn’t even one of the those horror movies that you can laugh it because it’s so stupid. It found a middle ground between amazing and awful and just managed to be sad. It’s truly a disappointment to state this but Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was was just not the horror film it could’ve been.
If you want to look at a film as simplistically as possible there are essentially two sides to a truly amazing film. The first side is one of art, the side where you look at the film from a filmmaking stand point and appreciate its themes and the way it excels in its craft. The second side is one of entertainment, this is the side that makes you want to watch it over and over again, the side that puts reasoning behind the question of why we watch films and the answer is simple, escape. What makes a masterpiece is when the art and the entertainment combine, collide and balance each other out. The Tree of Life is a movie that was very heavy on the art aspect and a lot lighter on the entertainment side.
This is not to say that I believe The Tree of Life was not a good film. I’m merely stating that there were many points that made you think, but didn’t necessarily give you much enjoyment. But that sounds a bit worse than what I’m trying to express. It’s not that I wanted to gouge my eyes out right after seeing it, it’s just that I wouldn’t sit down and watch it again anytime soon. One viewing will be just fine perhaps for a life time. That’s not even to say that it was extremely boring, I just got what I needed out of it and that most certainly wasn’t an excess amount of entertainment.
The Tree of Life was a rather mesmerizing piece of art, well put together and well acted on all accounts. It was executed masterfully for the exact story it was telling. What you find in this film is the exact ideas a director wanted to express with out thinking about what the critics would say or even the general audiences. He just made the movie he wanted to make and he made it very well. While at times The Tree of Life was slightly dull at other times it was mysterious and rather breath-taking.
The Tree of Life was a very broad and interesting look at life and the events and people who make us who we are. It’s a gigantic feat to take on ideas like these in any art form, but it’s not as if these ideas haven’t been tackled before. There have been movies that have been created that attempt to tackle these same types of broad ideas and no, The Tree of Life was not the master of expressing these themes. Other films have established ideas such as these and they’ve done it better. To put it bluntly, The Tree of Life is a pretty great movie, but it just wasn’t nearly as life changing as it was attempting to be. That’s just me, for someone else it may very well be the most life changing piece of art in existence. Decide for yourself.