Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Katie Holmes, left, and Bailee Madison star in "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." 

Film District

Every week, it seems, I watch a remake, or a "reimagining," of a feature film that didn't need to be remade.

Now here's a remake of, I swear, a made-for-TV movie (starring Kim Darby, incidentally) from the 1970s. The newer film is above average, but nothing that will make you keep talking about it two hours after you've seen it.

The show, which is mostly creepy as opposed to scary, begins a century or more ago and then flashes forward to the present day. Divorced dad Alex (Guy Pearce) is picking up his little girl Sally (Bailee Madison, a wonderful young actress who is sure to be starring in more shows) to bring her home to a mansion he is renovating in Providence, R.I. Accompanying the two is Kim (Katie Holmes), Alex's new girlfriend, who is helping him rehab the mansion.

Sally barely acknowledges that Kim is alive. She is obviously a depressed child who mopes around the house until she finds a cellar that no one has seen in many, many years. The oddball caretaker (Jack Thompson) tells Alex and Kim to keep the cellar closed off. But Alex wants to take a look at it, so he opens it up. Soon Sally is exploring the basement and the dark corners of the lower level.

She begins to hear whispers from a grate that she manages to open, and that's when the voices begin to follow her, asking her to "Come and play." Sally has unleashed the likes of something she never imagined and, once she figures out what's going on, that no one will believe.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that a Polaroid Instamatic - the kind that took pictures that popped out of the camera and took a little while to "develop" as you watched - plays a major role in this. I suppose this is a nod to the 1970s movie, but it doesn't work here: Why don't the picture-takers use a cell phone or a digital camera to the same end?

Bailee steals the show as the troubled child who cannot seem to communicate her dire straits to the grownups. Pearce and Holmes are fine as the adults who can't get a grip on what is really happening in the house.

It's worth a look, but, like many other remakes, this material won't haunt you.