Thursday, October 6, 2011

Halloween Horror Challenge Oct 5th: DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973)

D. John Newland
Warner Brother's Archives
Made For TV

This 1973 made for TV horror movie has a lot of memories for old school horror fans and was recently remade by Guillermo Del Toro's production company. But many fans seem to prefer this low-fi original with it's tiny rubber monsters and hysterical leading lady. As I have been doing all month I have been dipping into the piles of horror flicks I have neglected to take a look at in the past and this mini classic was another of those movies.

Kim Darby (best known as the neurotic mom from 80's classic BETTER OFF DEAD) stars as a a young wife of a upwardly mobile businessman. They have just purchased a home in hopes to make a new life together. John Hutton plays her husband and from the get go it is pretty clear he doesn't value her the way he should, that his work comes first. In the basement of the new house if a bricked up fireplace they are warned not to mess with, but of course she cracks it open. Soon there are these tiny little creatures scampering around the house tormenting her. Naturally her husband doesn’t believe her at all, even when things aren't adding up. Finally it all climaxes on a stormy night after they little ghouls have managed to drug her.

While the movie is not really violent (only one person dies) it is consistently creepy, preying on those fears we all have of things we can't see in the dark. Those same primal fears that make us afraid of things like rodents, snakes and small animals. If you are afraid to go into a darkened room, or to have your feet hanging off the side of the bed this is the kind of the kind of thing this movie exploits effectively. Every-time the little creatures in DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK creep around a book case or are under a table it is the universal fears we all have.

The treatment of the lead female character in the movie is abominable though as every character in the movie treats her as she is stupid, hysterical or just being a child. Even well past the point when her Husband should be excepting there is something going he he clings to the idea that she is somehow at fault, until it is too late. There is even some dialogue taking the piss out of Woman’s Lib. Making this very much a sign of the times it was made.
But at the end of the day the movie is still very effective, and most if that is because of the creepy little monsters and creative photography involving them. It is no surprise people still remember this one.

Available remastered from the Warner Brother's Burn on Demand Archive. 

Review © Andrew Copp 

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