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Afraid Of The Dark Review

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An 11-year-old boy fears his sightless mother may fall victim to the lunatic stalking London and preying upon blind women.

★★★★★

Lucas (Keyworth) is an eleven year old voyeur, and good thing he is, too. It's thanks to Lucas's sneaking about day and night, following mysterious figures, that a stop is put to the wicked man who has been slashing blind women's faces in the streets of London. Not the least grateful will be Lucas's own blind mother (Ardent), friend to a number of the slasher's previous victims, and Lucas's dad (Fox), the policeman in charge of the slasher investigation. Lucas is sure to become a hero to his parents, and to all his many friends down at the neighbourhood centre for the blind in an eerily quiet, colourless West London.

But no. Or maybe... it's not like that at all. Half an hour into Afraid Of The Dark, we discover that we may be just as blind as the slasher's victims, because actually Lucas's dad is not a cop, there is no slasher, no blind folks; in fact it may be only our young protagonist who is losing his eyesight to some congenital disorder. Or maybe not.

Admittedly a strange and twisted scenario, but in this case weirdness is a virtue. Deftly avoiding self conscious experimentation and artsy intellectuality, writer/director Peploe constructs a mesmerising world of harsh contrasts and alarming juxtapositions. Without warning, our view continues to shift between that of the dreamy, instinctive Lucas and those of the dispassionate, reason-led grown-ups while all these half-real characters' lives unfold in a minature world so sensory deprived as to lend us the sensation of this much discussed blindness. When the two mutually exclusive surrealities of child and adult finally collide, some truths seem to result, but fans of Spielberg's tidy endings be forwarned.

Afraid Of The Dark is too subtle for Lynch fanatics, even slow in spots, but sure to inspire your weirder dreams for some time to come.