Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Katie Holmes
Kim (Katie Holmes) © 2011 Miramax

Katie Holmes’ first role was in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, but it was her performance as Joey Potter on the popular TV series Dawson’s Creek that brought her to the attention of the viewing audience. Then her marriage to super star Tom Cruise brought her even more recognition.

Holmes moved from TV to movies with ease, appearing in such diverse films as Wonder Boys, The Gift, Pieces of April and Batman Begins. She ironically is going back to her roots in her new movie, produced by Guillermo del Toro, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, which is based on a 1973 telefilm of the same name.

Holmes portrays Kim, the girlfriend of architect Alex Hurst (Guy Pearce) who is restoring their Gothic mansion, Blackwood Manor. When Alex’s young daughter Sally (Bailee Madison) is sent by her mother to visit them, she begins to hear rasping voices calling out to her in the basement, which ultimately unleashes an ancient race of creatures who have lived underground for centuries.

What was it about this that attracted you? Did you know the original move?

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Katie Holmes
Kim (Katie Holmes) © 2011 Miramax

I didn’t. My first encounter with this was the script, and of course I knew Guillermo. I just fell in love with these characters, and I like the genre of classic horror movies. In particular ones that have characters and stories that can stand apart from the use of the creatures.

I thought this did that so beautifully, and I loved Kim because she is a strong female character who makes real, definitive choices in the movie. It was very exciting.

Could you talk about your character’s fear of motherhood?

Well, what I loved about this character is the journey that she went on. Starting at the beginning of the film, she rejects being a mother, and really being close to Sally, and it’s hinted at that Kim had a tough childhood, so she doesn’t want to be a mother.

I think through the sheer moments of listening to Sally, she becomes her friend, and it is then where she makes the choice to really pay attention and take care of her, and almost without any effort, or despite herself, she becomes a mother. It is really culminated at the end.

How about your experience as a mother?

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Katie Holmes and Bailee Madison
Kim (Katie Holmes) and Sally (Bailee Madison) © 2011 Miramax

I think a tremendous amount of strength is revealed when you become a parent that you didn’t know that you had, and a tremendous burst of love that you didn’t know you were capable of feeling and giving. Both of those things are a surprise, and they’re the best.

To what extent does the actual house inform your performance? Does it have a haunted house vibe, or was it not nearly as creepy as it looks onscreen?

Kim helped to design the house, so I didn’t find it too creepy. I thought it was beautiful, and it was important that the house looked very nice, because that was their jobs, and you always want to believe that their jobs are their jobs. It was very important in this movie because it explained why Alex was so distracted and not available to Sally.

I didn’t find it creepy, I found the locations in the house quite beautiful, and I was excited about it because I could feel that juxtaposition of something beautiful set against something incredibly terrifying. I really loved it. It had a fantasy element to it.

Did you know what the creatures in this film were going to look like? What was it like relating to them when they’re not there?

I was privy to that information. I saw them, and I was blown away. They were so cool looking, and totally creepy and disgusting. The previs was very helpful. I didn’t do much green screen, the previs helped because then I could really follow what I was supposed to do.

Is it challenging for you maintain both an acting career and motherhood?

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Bailee Madison and Katie Holmes
Sally (Bailee Madison) and Kim (Katie Holmes) © 2011 Miramax

In today’s society, both parents are working, and it’s always a question of balance and just making it work and figuring it out, and it’s wonderful. What I love about the movie business is that when you’re working on a movie, everybody brings their children.

I’ve gotten to know Guillermo’s family, our families are good friends, and the kids grow up together. It’s great to be around artists. I feel very proud that my daughter gets to, for lack of a better word, hang out with very interesting people.

Can you talk about working with Bailee? She’s amazing. Was she a natural, or was it great direction?

She was amazing. She is so professional, so talented, and she really loves being an actress, and so dedicated, and brilliant. Talking to her about a scene you feel like you’re talking to a partner. She comes in with great ideas, so she’s not afraid, she has a point- of-view, and she’s willing to discuss it. She’s really strong.

Do you have a favorite scene?

There’s a scene where Bailee’s hiding up in the tree, and my character comes and finds her, and it’s one of the first moments where Kim actually starts to listen and she lets go of her own guard. I think that’s powerful, and it was really fun to shoot.

What do you think it is that we like as an audience about being scared so much?

I think that audiences like to have a release and a relief, and whether it’s through laughter or tears, or being frightened, you get out that emotion that you’re carrying around with you. There’s nothing like not knowing what’s coming, and there’s nothing like a film that really delivers great tension and really gives you that thrill.

There’s really nothing better; it’s like great theatre – you really feel something, and you identify, and those people up there are you.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.