Brian Krause, Jaimi Paige, Louis Herthum, Jared Abrahamson, Michelle Hurd, Michael Leone, Noell Coet, and bucolic and shadow person-infested rural Pennsylvania.
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WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Your typical dark and stormy night. A crazed man loads a shotgun and rants at the darkness while his wife pleads for him not to go outside. He claims that he’s just protecting his family against “them” and scours the countryside but finds nothing in the cornfield around their home. But there is something out there, and it takes away their young daughter in the night.
|"You out there Malachi?"|
Cut to the Chambers family. Dr. John Chambers (Krause) moves his wife (Paige) and his young son Nathan (Leone) to a small town in Pennsylvania where he assumes the role of the town's emergency room doctor. Eventually, his estranged older son Ben (Abrahamson) shows up, fresh from flunking out of college, to disrupt the family’s new life. Shortly thereafter, wheezy shadow people start to roam the Chambers home.
|"I'm basically a creeper without the jeeper."|
After encountering the crazy man from the opening scene talking to Nathan in the forest, John learns about the kidnapping and begins to have paralyzing nightmares about the creatures invading his home. His own doctor diagnoses a sleep disorder but the nightmares continue.
|"Ah, I see the problem, there's a demonic kid-eating shadow beast on your cornea."|
We also learn that the Chambers are super duper over protective of Nathan. I mean I'm pretty sure the kid couldn't take a shit without a pat-down. But this is all due to the fact that Mom Chambers has already suffered two miscarriages and they are just used to being extra careful about everything. Meanwhile, Nathan is allowed to explore the forest where he is visited by the apparent spirit of the missing girl in the forest.
|"Hallo nice creepy girl like person! OY CLAVIN!"|
|You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out this symbolism.|
After a practical joke goes awry and Nathan turns up missing, John learns that the town's Sheriff (Herthum) in cahoots with the creatures, forcing him to go into the tunnel alone to retrieve Nathan.
|"Um, honey maybe we can keep trying on that baby..."|
He meets the creatures face-to-face and after a brief struggle, he's able to save the day. Although Nathan survives, John does not emerge from the tunnel. The next day, he wakes up and returns home where he discovers no one can see him. Is he dead? Is he now one of the shadow people? Will the the evil desire to kidnap children to the darkness consume his afterlife?
Fleshing out a great idea and delving deep into the artistic and symbolic potential of a narrative is certainly the hardest part of storytelling. Laying out an innovative concept, telling the story you want to tell, and giving the audience something to think and talk about is arguably the ultimate goal of any good storyteller. Nowhere is this potential mostly wasted than in the world of independent horror. Please don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of great indie horror movies, but the ones that tried to be something provocative, deep, and different but failed outnumbers the good ones over and over. While being independent affords more artistic freedom than corporate Hollywood franchise machines, constraints still exist. As I have said before, it’s about the time and the money.
Be Afraid has an interesting idea at its core that is chilling – that the overly protective nature of modern parenting spells doom for children. With more time, a bigger budget maybe, and sorry to say better actors this idea may have been driven home more satisfactorily. The movie suffers from loose ends (the nightmares and the monsters' purpose go unexplained), uninteresting and underdeveloped characters (Ben is a dropout and a loser but we really don’t know why), a barely laid out motivation for the Sheriff’s betrayal (was he sacrificing the children to the creatures?), and low level stakes (Nathan is missing for literally 20 minutes before everyone freaks out). A better watch is 2013’s Dark Skies which explored the same parent-terror territory with scarier though mixed results. Poorly lit and rarely scary, Be Afraid is best left as background distraction and will definitely bog down your Halloween movie marathon.