Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Remastered Special Edition (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Review Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
With the remake of any film, the original often sits in a vault (or archive in this case) and waits for the opportune time for a re-release. This week, Warner Archives has released a remastered special edition (it has one special feature) of their 1973 TV movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Originally airing as an ABC movie of the week, this film was shot, edited, and scored in just under two weeks. A pending writer strike forced this into production and out of it came a tale of disturbing horror.
Sally (Kim Darby) and Alex (Jim Hutton) just inherited a home from Sally’s grandmother. Sally immediately gets a local handy man, Mr. Harris (William Demarest), and an interior designer, Francisco (Pedro Armendariz Jr.), to fix up the place. She discovers her grandfather’s old study in the confines of the basement. This dark room is all boarded up and even its fireplace is bricked over. Sally and Francisco see lots of potential for the space, but Mr. Harris warns them that the room should remain as it is. As with any horror film from this era, the woman; naïve and headstrong, wants things done a certain way and ignores all the warnings around her. This, of course, unlocks the nightmare that is Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
The film is far from perfect. What is present here is both captivating and scary. At first we see that Sally and Alex don’t have much of relationship. Sally is interested in making a beautiful home and Alex is worried about his career. Darby and Hutton have very little chemistry as a married couple. It would have helped to have seen their characters before they moved into the home. This would have established what kind of marriage they had. It would have also been beneficial to know Sally’s state of mind before they moved in too. All this is hindsight and really not that important to the overall fright that transpires.
When Sally starts to tear the room apart, she unleashes three very disturbing creatures. Their identities, purpose and reasoning are very lucid, but one thing is clear: ever since Sally let them out, they seem to stop at nothing to get her to join them. At first, Sally is at odds with her sanity and their existence. No one will believe her about the creatures and so she takes it upon herself to get rid of them. There are cliché’s everywhere from her husband not believing her to the inevitable death of expendable characters. The film may look and feel cheesy, but it is unlike anything you have seen before.
For it’s time, budgetary constraints, and production schedule, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was a fun and scary ride. Today, thankfully, it is just the same. Any fan of low budget horror, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, or Outer Limits will appreciate this TV movie. It is quick, fun and packed full of great scares. Will it keep you up at night? No. It will, however, entertain you. After all, what more can fan of horror ask for?
Warner Archive has released the film before. What makes this edition different is its commentary by Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton from Dead Central, screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination), and Sean Abley from Fangoria Magazine. Their commentary is a collection of insights about the film, the era in which it was made, and jokes about what Kim Darby is wearing. Much like MST3K,they point out the obvious plot devices and holes. Thankfully, they have a great love for this TV movie making it a worth while commentary.
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, reviews, and criticisms.
Mania Grade: B+
Moview: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Remastered SE)
Starring: Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, Barbara Anderson, William Demarest, Pedro Armendariz Jr.
Written By: Nigel McKeand
Directed By: John Newland
Distributor: Warner Archive
Original Year of Release: 1973
Extras: Commentary Track