Directed by John Fawcett, starring Maria Bello, Sean Bean, Richard Elfyn, Maurice Roeves, Abigail Stone and Sophie Stucke.

As her performances in the overlooked 'The Cooler' and the overrated 'A History of Violence' have shown, former 'ER' star Maria Bello is an actress that Hollywood should pay more attention to when it comes to casting big movies. But appearing in chillers as hamfisted as 'The Dark' won't do her any favours.

Attempting to get back together with her estranged artist husband James (Bean), New Yorker Adèle (Bello) travels with their young daughter Sarah (Stucke) to James' new isolated studio on the Welsh coastline. The atmosphere is ominous from the beginning with Adèle having a nightmare and Sarah discovering the troubled history behind her father's new home. And any attempts at domestic reparations prove shortlived when Sarah goes missing - presumed drowned - leaving Adèle and James to try and discover if the past has any bearing on the present.

With its spectacular opening shots of coastline, 'The Dark' sets itself up as a classy alternative to blood-and-guts horror. But while it's stylish, there's no substance behind it. Having made his name with his wolf-filled debut 'Ginger Snaps', director John Fawcett gets bogged down in this adaptation of Simon Maginn's novel 'Sheep', failing to bond you with the characters or keep you interested in the story.

Bello is good at what she has to do but seeing her running around in a film that wastes her talents is a huge disappointment. The longer 'The Dark' goes on, the more it relies on run-of-the-mill scares and, by the close, the whole plot feels so jumbled that the biggest mystery is how something that looked so promising at the outset turned out to be so dreary.

Definitely nothing to be afraid of here.

Harry Guerin