Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this horror movie -- a loose remake of a 1973 made-for-TV movie -- focuses on a tween girl who accidentally releases dozens of hungry, scary creatures into an old house. She's often in danger, and although the movie is less bloody than other horror flicks, there are a few extremely gory sequences in which adult characters are disfigured and murdered (slashing, heads bashed, etc.), and the movie's overall tone/feel makes it very scary and suspenseful. Language is extremely mild for an R-rated movie ("hell" is about the worst of it), and an adult couple is seen kissing, with off-screen sex implied.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ten-year-old Sally (Bailee Madison), whose parents are divorced, is sent to live with her father, Alex (Guy Pearce). Alex is busy renovating a humongous old house and living there with his interior designer girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). Both Alex and Kim have a difficult time relating to the sad, withdrawn girl. Things get even worse when Sally accidentally discovers a hidden room and unwittingly unleashes an army of tiny creatures that are capable of great destruction ... and are very hungry. Unfortunately, Sally can't get any grown-ups to believe that the creatures actually exist. Can she find a way to stop the little beasts before it's too late?
Is it any good?
The bulk of the movie generates a serious amount of suspense and dread, in anticipation of the terrors that might -- or might not -- come. The movie also adds a little girl to the mix, giving the movie a new fairy-tale dimension, similar to Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, although this movie seems more based in reality than fantasy. The design is key here. The huge house, as well as some haunting artwork, adds character and a slightly otherworldly mood.
The original 1973 TV movie that DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is based on was low on gore and used some half-hidden, inexpensive visual effects to suggest the little monsters; the rest was left up to viewers' imagination. Here, writer/producer Guillermo Del Toro -- teaming with first-time director Troy Nixey -- more or less stays true to that concept, except that this version adds a couple of extra-gory sequences for today's horror hounds, as well as state-of-the-art digital creatures and strong characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. What's the impact of the gory sequences? Are they scarier than the more suspenseful/tense scenes? Why or why not?
Are either of the grown-ups in this movie role models? Can either of them make an actual connection with Sally when she needs it most?
What makes the little creatures so scary and/or creepy? Is a movie like this more or less scary than a story in which humans hurt each other, rather than creatures?
For kids who love scares
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.