I’ve been waiting to review this movie since I saw the trailer. My love of Guillermo del Toro may color this movie as a lot better than it actually is, but I will not apologize for that. Directed by Troy Nixey from a script written by del Toro this is a modern retelling of the 1973 classic. It’s the kind of movie that del Toro does best, a mix of the fantastical with a heaping spoonful of dread. In an interview del Toro has called the original “the scariest tv movie we ever saw.” and once this movie first showed up in the news, it reminded me of a story my mom told me. Whenever I would talk about horror movies with my mom she would talk about this movie with these little people that were trying to drag this girl down into this fireplace, but she couldn’t remember the name of it, and it terrified her as a kid. I’m pretty sure this is the one.
The cast of this movie is pretty perfect, with Guy Pearce playing the dad, Alex, and Katie Holmes as his girlfriend Kim. Pearce plays a perfect not-there father, and I would go so far as to say he’s almost villainous for a good part of the movie. Katie Holmes plays Kim, Alex’s girlfriend and is really trying to be a mother figure and comes through really strong, and is the one who finally figures out what is going on. Sally is played by veteran child actor Bailee Madison, and aside from a horrible creepy smile during one of the creepiest scenes in the film is really convincing. The character of Sally really grows through the movie and
In true Guillermo style the exposition comes on naturally, and almost organically, showing us just a small snapshot of a story that is old and will never truly end. In the original teleplay the mystery of the creatures was never really explained. They were just weird goblin creatures that want to drag a lady down into their world. It was more of an in the moment kind of film. del Toro’s screenplay takes us deeper into the mythology and explains what they are, and what they want. The exposition comes through the grandson of one of the original grounds keepers, and paintings done by the original owner of the house, Blackwood. The special effects handled by Iloura did a fantastic job on the creature design and animation.
The creatures themselves reserve a special place in my nightmares. I have a weird thing about any type of monster that only exists in shadows and whisper things to you. No idea why, it’s just one of those things that gets under my skin. The fact that there is a HORDE of them, and they can use tools, just makes it worse. Here’s a hint kids, when you hear something whispering at you, from a stove that has been securely bolted shut, don’t fucking open it. Whatever it is, it’s probably not a damn candy monster.
The third act is truly the boiling point of this film that just kind of simmers through the second act, building tension as the creatures make themselves known. The bathroom scene that was truly memorable from the original is re-imagined perfectly. I have to say that I didn’t know how I would feel about the use of a child, as I’ve mentioned before I hate the use of children in horror movies most of the time. It’s usually not done well, or it’s done just because it’s a cheap and easy way to make the audience feel even more uncomfortable. del Toro is one of the few masters of the horror genre that uses children effectively, Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil’s Backbone, and as producer, The Orphanage, all use children in an amazing way. What really stands out about them is that they’re not victims. He empowers the children and turns them into the heroes that I think we all wish we were when we were that age. It’s really his ability to write those kinds of stories, while being able to entertain adult audiences, that really makes him one of the most talented in the industry.
If you’re a fan of fantastical stories, with a hint of horror, this movie is a must see. It’s pretty low on gore, except for the opening teeth breaking, and an awful leg break near the end so pretty much anyone should be able to get through it.