Director – K. C. Bascombe
Cast – Kevin Zegers, Jesse James, Rachel Starsken, Charles Edwin Powell, Linda Purl
Release Year – 2002
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film I remember seeing way back in 2002 when it was first released, and I remember liking it. Here I am viewing this film seven years later and for the most part…I STILL like it. Fear of the Dark is pretty low-budget, yet stars some actors that have gone to do some pretty big recent horror films. After he came to fame with kids and soccer moms in the “Air Bud” movies and before he went on to do Wrong Turn and the Dawn of the Dead remake, Kevin Zegers broke into the horror scene with this film. His costar Jesse James appeared as Ryan Reynolds’ son in the 2005 remake of The Amittyville Horror and Rachel Skarsten appeared in the awesome flick Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Pretty impressive for a group of actors in a lesser known movie.
The plot for this film is very simple. Ryan Billings(Jesse James) is a twelve year old boy who has been diagnosed with a very strong fear of the dark(thanks to earlier events in his life). He spends each and every night in utter fear and freaks out at the mere sound of a light bulb flickering and showing it is low on juice. One night his parents decide to go out for an important date and leave him home alone in the care of his older brother Dale(Kevin Zegers), who believes his younger brother is just a huge sissy and not actually seeing things in the dark. Soon enough, strange things start to happen during a really bad thunderstorm. This only gets worse when the power goes out, and Dale gets a close look at the creatures of the dark that have been tormenting his little brother for years.
I think a big reason why I enjoy this film is because I can relate to it, as well as many other people. At one time or another most of us were afraid of the dark, especially after watching a really scary movie (The Evil Dead) when you were young and vulnerable to almost anything. Although I was never as afraid of the dark as Ryan was, I still remember checking my closet, looking under my bed, and keeping my head under the covers when I heard weird noises that I could not explain myself. We see all of these actions in this film, and it brought back some scary, yet fun memories and helped me identify with the film’s characters.
The atmosphere in this film was enjoyable and something we can all relate to. I’m sure at one point or another we all have had our power go out late at night in the middle of a thunderstorm, and there is a very good reason why we light candles and tell scary stories during those mements…because the setting works!
I personally enjoyed the looks of the creatures and found them to be quite creepy. The tall creature with the long coat and cowboy had looked pretty original to me, and the old lady in the basement brought back memories of Sam Raimi’s demons in his Evil Dead trilogy. Oh, and there is even a shout-out to The Evil Dead in this film. Ryan is trying to watch something fun and happy on television but the tv keeps changing the channel to the demon scenes in Evil Dead. I love the film, and was glad it was used in this flick. Plus I never get tired of hearing Sam Raimi’s distorted voice saying “Join us…JOIN US!!!”. Hehe.
The acting in this flick was surprisingly well done given most of these actors really did not have much previous film experience. If there is one aspect I need to knock this film on it is the special effects. The effects involving the disappearing and reappearing of the creatures was pretty cheesy and screamed “Low Budget!”. A little more action here and there during the first and second movements would have been nice as well, and would have helped the film’s pacing a little bit. There is a lot of development in this film and we don’t get much of the good creature action until about the last 20-30 minutes of the film. However I must applaud director K. C. Bascombe for using atmosphere to his advantage and giving us lots of scenes trying to scare us with what we DON’T see. It’s genius and I never get tired of that notion in horror. His use of camera angles and sound effects was genius and perfectly executed.
Overall, I enjoy this film and recommend it to anyone who wants a simple film to watch and bring back memories of when you were afraid of the dark. This film is low-budget, but if you look past that then you can see the integrity behind this film and find it to be a positive watch.