Twelve year old Ryan Billings has been diagnosed with an acute fear of the dark. He spends each night lying awake in torment, waiting and watching as the evil in the darkness grows stronger, feeding off his fear. His older brother Dale, suspects that there is nothing wrong with Ryan and that this is just a ploy for more attention. Regardless, he promises to watch over his little brother as their parents head off to a party for the night. Outside a storm rages and when the power goes out, darkness envelops the house. Ryan knows that tonight the evil has finally come to claim him. Dale desperately tries everything to try and calm him down, until the horrors in the dark make him realize Ryan had good reason to be so afraid!
“Fear of the Dark“, it’s a horror film with some decent acting, FX, and all around sort of “message base”. At one point I “wanted” to compare it to a scary “Goonies” style movie, but that wouldn’t be quite correct. The film is a step above most of the independents that came out that year (2003) and has some early great acting talents attached to it. I was impressed at the time and had even placed this as one of my “ones you’ve never seen” list favorites.
I decided to re-watch the film for the review, which now makes this film up to about 6 viewing cycles for me. I think its biggest issue really was the marketing and the cover art which always screamed “low budget” from the point of view of a “Blockbuster renter”. I’m sure you all will agree (with the DVD cover art I posted). I’m not even sure why I took a chance on it at the time, but like many of these, occasionally you find a gem (which I did).
Starting out, we got some pretty professional “spectre” effects hitting the walls which is always a good sign. We got a few of “those” Freddy-Kruger-pushing-against-the-wallpaper effects that also suggest your in competent hands. The story plays out like you would imagine a “Tales from the Darkside” episode to root itself into the old “afraid of the dark” concept. Primarily things “within the dark” tall tales that young boys seem to conjure up in their heads.
This movie takes “that” metaphor and makes it a reality for the 2 brothers “Dale and Ryan Billings. Ryan (Jesse James) is the youngest of the 2 who suffers from night terrors and having to sleep with the lights on (at all times). Dale (Kevin Zegers0, is the teen adolescence older brother who of course thinks his brother Ryan is losing it (while tying to also impress a local school girl whom he is infatuated with).
We got good old teen love going on (subtlety) and the subject at hand which is those “dark things” in the shadows. As a horror character the “dark things” are creepy enough to matter and still low budget enough to not break the bank. One resembles a trench coat cowboy with others being more like “night demons”.
The Billings parents decide to head out to a business function party leaving Dale to watch over Ryan while they are away. Dale’s mom, Sandra (Linda Purl) is a sculpture artist who creates strange looking (and a bit eerie) statues out of metal parts. The statues when left in the shadows of the evening tend to appear quite sinister. Once they head out, Ryan begins to go into panic mode as a freak storm starts to effect the house lights. As you can guess this factor is the brunt of the story which releases these dark things upon the 2 brothers over the course of the evening. Dale is later joined by his soon-to-be-love-interest, Heather Fontaine, (Rachel Skarsten) who heads over after work to help baby sit.
The specters tend to appear when the lights go out in strange places and absorb into a mist when the lights are back on. The director K.C. Bascombe has alot of fun with this factor as Ryan seems to be euqipped with emergency lighting gear and various light traps.
“Fear of the Dark” is a film that you can watch and have fun with still holding a bit of tension that works. “Tension” in fact is what keeps this film moving which might otherwise droll upon the monotony of ..”ya we get it, things come out when its dark” premise”.
Use of camera lens, Editing FX and the occasional CGI coolness also make it believable for viewers. It’s never gory, or murderous, just scary enough to be a cool teen scare kind of experience. I do recommend this film as a “one that got away” kind of movie. For the time of its original release, these FX were still considered pretty cutting edge.
You might even leave the film with the much repeated “There’s nothing there in the dark that’s not there in the light.”!!!!
Fear of the Dark (2003)