Most critics seem to agree that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark , a remake of a 1973 made-for-TV movie, is more creepy than frightening, but then critics are notoriously unfrightenable. Indeed Michael Phillips in the Chicago Sun-Times comments on filmmaker Guillermo del Toro's remark that the scariest movie ever made for TV was the original version. "He's not really talking about the teleplay itself," Phillips says. "He's remembering, fondly, his own preteen susceptibility -- what it was like to be a freaked-out kid watching a moderately well-made, cleverly suggestive haunted-house thriller." Phillips's take on the new version which Del Toro wrote and produced and Troy Nixey directed "Fairly good at best." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer dismisses it similarly. "Minor-key scare fare," he calls it. Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times finds the first 30 minutes of the movie "properly terrifying" but gives the rest of the film a drubbing ("...fear gives way to boredom, then frustration...") Most critics seem to agree that the gremlins in the movie should have remained unseen. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that seeing the creatures is disappointing. The mastery of computer-generated graphics, he says, "allow filmmakers to show just about anything they can imagine, when sometimes it's scarier to show nothing at all." (Nevertheless, Ebert concludes, "This is a very good haunted house film.") "The terror we don't see is always scarier than critters who look like digital Pixies from the Harry Potter movies," writes Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel . On the other hand, Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News finds the movie "enjoyably spooky," adding, "If you flinch at 'boo,' you'll find plenty to jump at here. Just don't expect striking originality."
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This lively romp is entertaining enough to amuse the audience even when it veers off the rails.