Air Date: October 10, 1973 (ABC Movie of the Week)
Production Companies: Lorimar Productions
Running Time: 74 min.
Available on: Warner Archive (DVD & Blu-ray)
Written by: Nigel McKeand
Directed by: John Newland
Cast: Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, Barbara Anderson, William Demarest
As many of these 1970s TV horror films as I remember seeing when they first aired, I do not recall Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. My first real viewing occurred when I bought the Warner Archive DVD prior to release of the 2010 remake, which, due to the sale of Miramax Films, was delayed until August, 2011. Perhaps my thoughts about it were tainted by my dislike of the remake, because I didn’t particularly like the original.
Jump to today, though, and I’m happy to report that I liked it much, much better. Photographs of the creatures make it look cheesier than it is. The dark, shadowy cinematography of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark hide the fact that it uses forced perspective and enlarged sets to simulate the size of the small creatures that terrorize Sally Farnham (Kim Darby) when she’s, well… in the dark.
Should you disagree and reside with the camp that believes the creatures are obviously actors (such as Felix Silla) in costumes, I challenge you to not be on the edge of your seat during the conclusion when Sally’s feet are bound and she’s dragged across the floor and down into the office. Further, the downbeat ending (that I love, by the way) should remove any doubts that this is a serious monster movie.
One thing I really like about the film is that even though her husband, Alex (Jim Hutton), doesn’t believe her, she doesn’t become a helpless victim. She accepts his lack of empathy and learns how to deal with the predicament herself. That doesn’t mean she’s particularly determined about it. She’s still very frightened and prefers to flee, but she has enough sense to plant flashlights around the house just in case she’s caught, well… in the dark.
If Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has any flaws, it’s with the acting. The men, in particular, are over the top. Alex is a selfish jerk that’s quick to overreact. His initial response to Sally is to yell at her and accuse her of trying to sabotage his career aspirations. He’s even rougher with Mr. Harris (William Demarest), the carpenter hired to help restore the house inherited from Sally’s grandmother, Alex blames him for planting such nonsense in her head.
For more of my thoughts, listen to me and Richard Chamberlain discuss it on episode 48 of The Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Don't Be Afraid of the All the People.
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to buy or rent Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, as well as to watch the great movies from this series...