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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (FilmDistrict) has so little to commend it—even as a conventional horror film—that it might as well be titled "You Won't Be Afraid of This Movie."

With only one real fright—generated by the initial appearance of a cluster of tiny, angry goblins living in a basement furnace—this staid and stale remake of the 1973 made-for TV film offers equally little fodder for moral discussion.

About the closest thing to dialogue it might inspire would be viewers shouting at the characters on screen, "How can you people be so dumb?"

It appears that the filmmakers pushed for an R rating to give their project some credibility with fans of gore. But surprisingly, and happily, there's little of that to be seen.

As directed by Troy Nixey and written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, this version adds a sad and troubled child to the earlier film's haunted-house mix. That's Sally (Bailee Madison), the daughter of ambitious, divorced architect Alex (Guy Pearce).

Together with his new live-in girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes), Alex is restoring a brick Tudor mansion in Providence, R.I., with the aim of showcasing it in Architectural Digest and launching his career into the big time.

The house had been owned by famed artist Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald) whose life, along with that of his young son, came to a mysterious end in the manse. Sally's not thrilled about staying there since she realizes that her mother has abandoned her, and since she's by no means keen on Kim. Plus, it's autumn and the place is gloomy both inside and out.

Spooky high jinks ensue, logic flies out every available fenestration, and soon there are demons in the ductwork. Sally finds the sealed-off basement, is lured to the furnace, lets out the goblins and tries to befriend them. By then, the only remaining question is: Who's going to get pulled to the lower depths?

On a library visit to investigate Blackwood, Kim learns that the critters need humans to restore their ranks (though how, exactly, this works is never explained), and that they also had some dealings with Pope Sylvester II way back in the late 10th, early 11th century.

Open your church history textbooks and you'll discover that this is an ancient canard. The pontiff in question—an energetic advocate of church reform and the first Frenchman to occupy the chair of Peter—had a number of talents, including a gift for mathematics. He is credited not only with the introduction of Arabic numerals into Western math but also as the inventor of the pendulum clock.

Sylvester, however, was so fast with his abacus—a device he is also said to have reintroduced to Europe—that the more superstitious members of his flock murmured that he was in league with Satan.

For this, poor man, he gets smeared in a bad horror movie more than a millennium after his death.

The film contains intense action scenes with a bit of gore, cohabitation and fleeting profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Matthew: Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the "tax farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners" (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers. 
<p>Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important. </p><p>No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.</p> American Catholic Blog The most appealing invitation to embrace the religious life is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor.

 
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