Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is Guillermo del Toro’s second appearance on Girls Underground (Pan’s Labyrinth), although this film is a less straightforward example of the archetype. At first it may seem that the child Sally is the obvious Girl going Underground, but it evolves into a familiar story of an older protagonist rescuing her child and succumbing in the process (much like The Dark and Silent Hill).

8-year-old Sally is a troubled child rejected by her distant mother, and sent to live with her distracted father and his girlfriend as they restore an old mansion in New England. The mansion, of course, has a dark past, and terrible secrets – hiding in the basement, underground. There are tiny, vicious creatures living in the darkness there, and Sally (after finding the hidden basement in the first place) frees them by opening the gate to the fireplace. They whisper to her at night, at first enticingly, but quickly becoming menacing.

Simultaneously, the father’s girlfriend Kim is beginning to suspect something strange is going on with Sally and with the house, especially after the groundskeeper is violently injured. He directs her to the journals of the mansion’s original owner, where she discovers more information about the creatures. She finally convinces Sally’s father to take them all away from there, but the creatures will not let them leave (this is definitely an example of one of those GU stories that takes place entirely within a house). In the end, to save the girl, Kim must sacrifice herself.

There aren’t really any companions here, and no singular adversary, but it’s still a pretty solid GU story, at least worthy of an honorable mention. I also enjoyed del Toro’s usual flair for interweaving real and invented folklore, and the visual style and creepy whisperings of the creatures.

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