Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Movie Poster Image
Scary remake features some gore and a young girl in danger.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 33 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main point here is probably "curiosity killed the cat" (or "don't go in the basement"). But a little girl does learn to open herself up -- she starts out sad and shy and ends up stronger ... though it takes a horrifying experience and a terrible loss to get to that point. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A little girl eventually begins to show bravery after bonding with her father's new girlfriend. The girlfriend shows a great deal of empathy and patience for the lost, sad, daughter; their mutual bond makes them both stronger.


Most of the movie concentrates on suspense and the threat of violence rather than lots of gore (which doesn't make it any less scary), but at least three scenes are quite graphic, with bloody teeth-pulling, head-bashing, leg-breaking, creature-squishing, stabbing, and slashing. Other scenes show a little girl in danger, with the terrifying potential of harm. A couple gets into heated arguments.


An adult couple is seen kissing. They begin (presumably) making love, but it happens off camera. Some giggling/kissing sounds are heard through an air vent.


Mild language includes "hell," "poop," and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

A young girl wears Converse high-top "Chuck Taylor" shoes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The girl in the movie takes some kind of prescription medication in one scene. There's also a brief discussion about the girl's (unseen) mother using medication to solve problems.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydoglover6 August 27, 2011

Good little horror flick for tween and up horror fans

I honestly don't see anything in this movie that would make it inappropriate for a 13 year old. Yes, it's pretty scary at times, but that's the p... Continue reading
Adult Written bypvtplatypus January 3, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

I don't understand why so many people disliked this movie. It's not the best movie I've seen this year, not even close. But it's a fun, bedt... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byKyle1414 July 31, 2013

Extremely creepy effects, and there's some jump scares!

This movie honestly doesn't need to be rated R. I'm dead serious whoever created this film really could have made it PG-13 because there's nothin... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bydirectioner23 February 10, 2013

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?

Movie details

For kids who love scares

Our editors recommend

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.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate