Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973 film)
|Don't Be Afraid of the Dark|
Original 1973 TV Guide advertisement.
|Directed by||John Newland|
|Produced by||Allen S. Epstein|
|Written by||Nigel McKeand|
|Music by||Billy Goldenberg|
|Edited by||Gene Fowler, Jr.
|Distributed by||ABC Broadcasting
USA Home Video
|Running time||74 min.|
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is an American made-for-television dark fantasy film directed by John Newland and starring Kim Darby and Jim Hutton. It was released by Lorimar Productions and was first telecast on ABC on Wednesday October 10, 1973. It has since been shown many times in syndication and was distributed on home video and now on DVD. It is known as Nightmare in certain countries in Europe.
The film focuses on a housewife who unleashes a band of goblin creatures from within a sealed fireplace in the Victorian mansion that she and her husband are restoring. In later years, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark became a cult film, and a theatrical remake of the same name was released in August 2011.
Sally Farnham and her husband Alex inherit an old mansion from Sally's recently deceased grandmother. Shortly after moving in, she discovers a bricked-up fireplace in the basement den, and asks the estate's handyman, Mr. Harris, about it. He tells her that Sally's grandmother had him seal it up after her grandfather died and that it is better to leave it the way it is. After he leaves for the day and Sally is alone in the room, she uses some of Mr. Harris' tools to try to remove the bricks herself. She is unable to budge the bricks, but is able to pry open a small side door that Mr. Harris had said was used for removing ashes from the fireplace. Inside is not a fireplace at all but a large, dark, deep sub-basement. As Sally leaves the den, several whispering voices are heard coming from behind the fireplace, calling her name, and proclaiming that "she set us free".
Sally soon begins to feel unsettled in the house. One night while sleeping, she is woken by voices whispering her name, and an ashtray mysteriously falls off her bedside cabinet. However, Alex dismisses her concerns and believes she is suffering from nervous tension. The next evening, when she is alone in the house, something grabs her dress as she is walking down the stairs and she hears voices whispering "We want you". She manages to free herself and sees something scuttling away behind a curtain, which she believes was a small animal of some kind. Soon afterwards, she hears the same whispering coming from behind the fireplace in the basement den. When Alex returns home, he remains unconvinced of her story, but makes sure the fireplace is bolted securely shut to reassure her.
The following night, Sally throws a dinner party for Alex's work colleagues as he is up for partnership at his law firm. During the party, Sally sees a small, hideous goblin-like creature near her leg under the dinner table. She screams, but nobody believes what she saw as the creature quickly vanishes. Alex grows impatient with her and thinks she is becoming delusional. Later, while Sally is in the shower, three of the goblin creatures make their way into the bathroom and turn out the lights so that they can attack her with a razor. As Sally turns the light back on, the creatures shriek and retreat from the brightness into the bathroom cupboards where they disappear. Sally then tells Alex that they should sell the house.
The following day, Alex goes away on business and Sally arranges to go and stay with her friend Joan. However, before she goes, the creatures attempt to trip Sally down a flight of stairs, but they accidentally cause the death of her interior decorator instead. Sally tries to confront the creatures and asks them what they want, to which they reply they want her spirit as whoever frees them (as Sally did by opening the fireplace) must become one of them.
That evening, Sally's doctor prescribes sedatives while her friend Joan stays with her. Joan begins to believe Sally's story about supernatural creatures in the house. Returning early from his trip, Alex, however, remains unconvinced. Alex then leaves to speak with their handyman regarding the history of the house and the truth behind the bricked up fireplace and Sally's grandfather. While Sally tries to stay awake after the creatures put the sedatives into her coffee, the electricity is cut by the creatures and Joan is locked outside by them while checking on the circuit breaker box. Sally manages to walk downstairs, but the creatures trip her over in the dark. As she is semi-conscious, they then drag her into the basement den and into the unsealed fireplace before Alex and Joan can reach her. The film concludes with Sally and the creatures speaking to each other, patiently waiting for their next victim to move into the house, leaving the audience to assume that Sally has been turned into one of the creatures.
- Kim Darby as Sally Farnham
- Jim Hutton as Alex Farnham
- William Demarest as Mr. Harris
- Barbara Anderson as Joan Kahn
- Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. as Francisco Perez
- Lesley Woods as Ethel
- Robert Cleaves as Doctor
- Sterling Swanson as Policeman
- J. H. Lawrence as George
- William Sylvester as Tom
- Don Mallon as Bob
- Felix Silla (Creature)
- Tamara De Treaux (Creature)
- Patty Maloney (Creature)
The film went on to become a cult classic among horror fans, and director Guillermo del Toro (who produced and co-wrote the film's remake) was heavily influenced by it when he saw it on television as a child. He and his brothers would reportedly follow each other around the house saying "Sally, Sally", mimicking the creatures in the 1973 film. "It was something close to my heart for a very long time," said Del Toro. "We thought the movie was the most terrifying on Earth."
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has often been noted for its Freudian themes as well as the proto-feminist undertones and the "fears and anxieties about the changing roles of women and the ways they are so often victimized or go unheard."
Miramax Films produced a remake of the film as a theatrical feature, released on August 26, 2011. The remake stars, Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce, and was produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro. The remake marks the directorial debut of comic book artist-writer Troy Nixey.
The film was released on VHS through USA Home Video in the 1980s. It was released on DVD on August 18, 2009, by Warner Archive. It was available online only as a made-to-order DVD-R. This release went out of print the following year, but was re-mastered and re-released again on August 24, 2011. This newly restored release of the film was timed to release with the theatrical release of the remake two days later.
- "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) Movie". Movie Insider. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- Wloszczyna, Susan (21 August 2011). "Guillermo del Toro loves the 'Dark'". USA Today. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
- O'Hehir, Andrew (24 August 2011). "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: Voices in the basement". Salon.com. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
- Goldstein, Gregg (2008-07-30). "Del Toro, Miramax not 'Afraid of the Dark'". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Company). Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- Shaffer, R.L. (25 August 2011). "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 29 August 2011.