DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

ABC Movie of the Week 
Original Airdate: October 10, 1973


With Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, William Demarest
Directed by John Newland
Reviewed by JB

      DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is one of the simplest and most effective horror stories ever featured on the ABC Movie of the Week.  A couple move into an old house that belonged to the wife's grandmother. The handyman warns the wife not to attempt to open the bricked-up fireplace in the basement.  Of course, it isn't five minutes after the handyman utters his warning that we find the wife happily prying open this particular portal to Hell.

    Unknowingly, she sets free three tiny malevolent creatures who now want her soul.  From the moment she unleashes them, the film becomes a psychological and physical tug of war between the woman and the three creatures, who apparently need to bring her down to the sub-basement with them to complete their happiness. Crafty little buggers they are too, especially as they are only about five inches tall and can't stand strong light.

    The tight, economical structure of the best of these 72-minute movies for television is on full display in this film, which has no time for such niceties as backstory or character-growth.  What are these creatures and why are they in the basement? Not explained.  Why should we care about this woman in peril?  We don't know much about her, but she's played by the cute and vulnerable-looking Kim Darby, who had appeared in a previous Movie of the Week titled THE PEOPLE the year before.  If Kim Darby wasn't enough for audiences to care about, her husband is the always-likable Jim Hutton, who had just started making his name known on television.  The MOTWs were often cast with familiar faces, based on the premise of "You know these people and you already like them so we don't have to explain who they are and why you should care."  So Darby and Hutton were all the characterization the film needed.  There is not much of a plot once the creatures get loose.  Instead, we are witness to series of attacks on Darby by the creatures, who are repeatedly thwarted somehow and then go off to regroup for the next attack. It works.  Who needs story?

    DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was remade in 2011 by producer/director Guillermo del Toro, who fell in love with the movie when he was a kid.  Similar to my feelings on Peter Jackson remaking KING KONG for the same reason, I don't understand why someone would want to remake a movie they love.  Wouldn't it be better to take the actual movie they love and share it as a special event at high schools and colleges?  4 - JB

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