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The small cast of co-writer and producer Guillermo del Toro’s new film stuck together at Lincoln Center on Monday night for the premiere of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” — a remake of a 1973 television movie del Toro bought the rights for 16 years ago. Much like his acclaimed “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the new movie revolves around a young girl’s struggle against the supernatural.
“I heard if you can make it past the first five minutes, you’re good,” said one attendee.
“There is no unnecessary gore,” said del Toro in the film’s introductory remarks, “but still, you’re gonna crap your pants.”
When the gruesome opening scene was met with several audible shrieks, it became clear that the film’s title message — to not be afraid of the dark — was merely taunting the audience, now rendered helpless in their seats.
The film’s precocious 11-year-old star, Bailee Madison, plays Sally, a sulky young girl who resents moving into the Gothic mansion that her father, a noticeably absent Guy Pearce, has painstakingly restored with his interior designer girlfriend, played by Katie Holmes. Sally becomes privy to the house’s haunts that reveal themselves only to her.
“A lot of people say that I’m older than my age,” said the bubbly, charming and articulate Madison, who could pass for a miniature Katie Holmes. “Whenever Katie and I had a break, we’d have dance parties and do arts and crafts and paint.”
The bond between the two actresses was evident, as Holmes, clad in a black dress from her line Holmes & Yang, referenced the realistic mother-daughter relationship between the MacNeils in “The Exorcist.”
“That [relationship] was really important to me. Guillermo doesn’t write victims; he doesn’t write women who just sit back or are afraid. Kim learns to listen to Sally and to identify with her, almost despite her own misgivings about having children... It’s about the bonding between two women.”
The question, as with any horror film is: If a house is haunted by unwanted guests, wouldn’t one be compelled to just leave?
“I remember reading and seeing documentaries about people in middle-class neighborhoods that actually have haunted houses — I was talking to Ryan Gosling about this, of all people — and when people have no money, they say, ‘where would we go? We don’t have the money [to move],” del Toro said.
“In the movie, every penny they have is tangled in the house. If you had a mortgage or a down payment,” he laughed, “reality would make you stay.”