Film » Film Capsules

Dont Be Afraid of the Dark, and More

In this week's film capsules

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (R)

The made-for-TV Don't Be Afraid of the Dark had kids trembling in their pajamas back in 1973. For some reason, Guillermo del Toro decided to remake this cheap shocker as a glossy feature, co-writing and producing with comic book artist/writer Troy Nixey directing. The film's moody Gothic style is resonant of del Toro projects like The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth, but the material remains cheesy and occasionally laughable. The remake centers on an alienated child, Sally (Bailee Madison), sent to live with her dad (Guy Pearce), who is rehabbing a Rhode Island mansion with his girlfriend (Katie Holmes). Turns out the house is haunted by goblin-like creatures that live in the basement, and Sally's curiosity unleashes the little hellions, with terrifying results. The most effective horrors are those sensed but not seen — a principle this disjointed movie ignores, despite allusions to finer literary themes. Once we get a look at the CGI creatures — hideous, hunchbacked, baboon-like beasts that they are — all pretensions to quality are lost. (Pamela Zoslov) Final Destination 5 (R) — Not much changes in this shallow spectacle of needless gore and cheap thrills. Like other outings in the franchise, the plot is a mere vehicle to usher in the most bizarre and ridiculous set of coincidences leading to some brutally gruesome deaths. A group of young adults manage to escape their untimely demises; Death feels cheated and tracks down each survivor. That's really all there is to it. (Ben Gifford)

Fright Night (R) — Vampire movies are rarely laughing matters, but Fright Night adds just enough humor to its gore. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a high-school senior living in Las Vegas, has cool friends, a hot girlfriend, and a new neighbor, who just happens to be a vampire. Charley is suspicious at first, but when a friend goes missing, he cautiously begins spying on the odd, sinister, and possibly undead Jerry (Colin Farrell). Fright Night doesn't exactly revolutionize the played-out genre, but Farrell nails his bloodsucker's sexual allure. (Gifford)

The Guard (R) — We learn quickly that police Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) sleeps with prostitutes, drinks on the job, and steals. But Boyle is more lunk than villain, and The Guard's central point is that people are generally many things at once. Boyle gets wrapped up in the imminent arrival of a half-billion dollars' worth of cocaine, and FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is there to intercept it. The movie is occasionally brilliant and purely out of left field. To pull off something that makes Hot Fuzz look like a low-level BBC sitcom is an impressive feat indeed. (Michael Byrne)

Our Idiot Brother (R) — Paul Rudd stars as a long-haired, bearded, earthy do-gooder who seems to inadvertently step on every land mine along life's terrain. The movie is studded with likable stars, including Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Elizabeth Banks as Rudd's put-upon sisters. Still, Our Idiot Brother is heavy on situational ephemera, light on narrative thrust. But when the filmmakers are able to plant the camera on Rudd and any one of his co-stars and just watch, magic happens. (Justin Strout)

One Day (PG-13) — One Day follows Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) every July 15 as their friendship progresses, digresses, and then progresses again over the course of 20 years. They lead separate lives throughout: Emma as a prude believing she can make a difference in the world, and Dexter as a reckless risk-taker who treats that world like his playground. But just when you think One Day is heading toward a nauseatingly cheesy ending, a startling turn of events changes the entire movie, but not necessarily in a good way. (Courtney Kerrigan)

The Whistleblower (R) — The Whistleblower tells the "inspired by actual events" story of an American cop who journeys to post-war Bosnia to work as a peacekeeper, only to discover that her United Nations cohorts are involved in a sex slavery ring. But the evident lectern-pounding well-meaningness of Larysa Kondracki's film doesn't make its maladroit handling of its story and characters any more compelling to sit through. It all plods forward like a particularly sweaty and dirty Lifetime movie. (Lee Gardner)

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