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Tag Archives: Katie Holmes
Produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro — who seems to be able to get other people’s movies made more easily than his own, as of late — “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” sees first-time director Troy Nixey remake a 1973 teleplay for the 2011 big screen. This isn’t as dicey a proposition as you might think. On a specific level, the original, while primitive, has a real sense of creep and chill to it. Also, horror is, more often than not, a genre that benefits from remakes — or, rather, can benefit from advances in special effects under the guidance of strong storytelling stewards. (I will put the remakes of “The Thing,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ’78 and “The Fly” above their original versions in a frightened, horror-sick heartbeat.)
Del Toro’s additions to the script — written alongside collaborator Matthew Robbins — make the new iteration of the film more in line with his cinematic universe of dark fantasy, where creepy homes are explored by little kids wrapped up shroud-tight in the tenuous membrane between daylight reality and dimly lit nightmare. They also make it better. Couple Alex (Guy Pearce) and Kim (Katie Holmes) are renovating the old Blackwood estate — which, as the pre-credits sequence of madness and monsters and murder makes clear, has problems beyond blocked eaves or bad insulation in the attic — with Alex’s estranged daughter Sally (Bailee Madison) shunted to stay with Alex and Kim by Sally’s selfish, shallow mom. Left to explore the grounds by busy guardians, Sally starts hearing little voices — tiny voices, thin and sharp — asking her to be their friend.
As in so many other horror tales, including del Toro’s own “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a child leads this story — in part because children are closer to wonder than grown-ups and thus, by extrapolation, closer to wonder’s shadow-side, horror, but also because children’s innocence and confused place in an already scary world makes it hard to scream, ‘Just get out of the goddamn house!” at them like you would at an adult. Nixey is a perfectly agreeable visual talent — it’s easy to imagine the bad hypothetical version of this film in 3-D, and let us give thanks that didn’t happen — and his cast works well within the expected confines of the genre (with extra credit to Jack Thompson as the secret-keeping groundskeeper, Harris).
The scares do work, thankfully, and Nixey mostly plays his monster hand slowly and carefully, gradually revealing who Sally’s new pals are and what they want, with both being fairly unsettling. (It should also be said that between this film and “Hellboy II,” you can easily figure out one of del Toro’s major childhood obsessions.) “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is, mysteriously, rated R. I’ve seen worse moments, in both senses of the word, in all too many brutal and bumbling PG-13 horror films as of late.
I can’t imagine any kid over 14 being too discomfited by the film — or, rather, discomfited beyond the jolts and jumps in the theater — and indeed, think that a mid-to-late-teen audience would get the most out of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”; if it leads them to del Toro’s own films, all the better. Much like the film’s characters, the moviemakers are refurbishing an older, shabbier piece of workmanship — and it’s a welcome enough place to stay for a few hours, in the shining and terrible darkness of the theater.
There were some very bad films at Sundance this year. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called closing-night film “Son of No One” “a deer caught in the headlights of Sundance scrutiny, selected as the closing-night movie and perceived as an epic disaster days ahead of its premiere.” Featuring Channing Tatum, Al Pacino and Katie Holmes, it’s one of the most reviled movies to have played. I didn’t catch “Son of No One”; my personal worst-of was “The Ledge,” which plays like a badly acted version of every college dorm-room B.S. session you’ve ever had, with Charlie Hunnam pitted against creepy, Christ-loving, cardboard caricature Patrick Wilson for the love of Liv Tyler, and co-starring Terrence Howard as the dumbest cop in the history of film.
Those were minor lowlights, though. There were some amazing films at Sundance this year, coupled with one of the most lively acquisitions markets the festival’s seen in years, as distributors picked up films left, right and center.
“Like Crazy,” a young romance starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, was picked up by Paramount. Superbly acted, it picked up the Grand Jury Prize, which many, including your correspondent, felt should have gone to “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
Purchased by Fox Searchlight, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is an amazingly paranoid and excruciating dramatic thriller about a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) on the run from a cult. Featuring a great supporting performance from John Hawkes — an Oscar-nominee for his work in last year’s festival hit “Winter’s Bone” — it’s a moody, brooding masterpiece.
“The Future” saw Miranda July return to Sundance after her earlier “Me and You and Everyone We Know” with a richer, rawer film than many thought she was capable of, a great mix of careful, subtle acting moments and big, bold touches of dark magical realism.
“The Sound of My Voice,” written by star Brit Marling, also stood out. Starting as the tale of a troubled couple making a documentary about a cult leader (Marling), “The Sound of My Voice” works as a mind-bendingly enigmatic and twisty indie film in the vein of “Donnie Darko” or “Primer,” with those film’s maddeningly addictive what-the-what? strangeness and assurance.
“Here,” starring Ben Foster (“The Mechanic”) as a map surveyor in Armenia who meets and falls for photographer Lubna Azabal, was another standout — a sensitive, subtle and beautiful romance with big ideas in its silences. We all know that the map is not the territory, but “Here” also dug in to look at how often the territory is not home.
“Take Shelter” was another twist on familiar thriller ideas, as Michael Shannon (“World Trade Center,” “Boardwalk Empire”) gave yet another amazing performance as an Ohio man haunted by dreams of disaster and apocalypse that threaten to crack open his waking life. Sony Pictures Classics picked the film up before Sundance even began, and with reason: While the film could use some editing and tightening, its mood of menace is riveting.
“The Details” chronicles the marital difficulties of Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks — and if its secrets-of-the-suburbs plot is nothing new, the execution is excellent, and Laura Linney‘s turn as the craziest crazy cat lady of all time alone makes “The Details” worth seeking out when it comes to theaters thanks to the Weinstein Co. later this year.