31 Days of Horror – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 1973
As an adult, nothing should scare me any more, short of death, taxes, and, of course, The Bride. But as an aficionado of horror movies, there are some flicks that do get a rise out of me. There are film nuggets that actually scare the crap outta me, some to the point where I won’t even watch them again. That’s how scared they get me. They are the stuff of vampires, gremlins, devil dolls, and the ultimate of all evils, mankind itself. Here’s yet another movie that still scares the crap outta me, after the jump.
Another Movie of the Week
This one is another “ABC Movie of the Week” from the 1970s, much like Trilogy of Terror. A young couple moves into a new house, a huge creepy house with lots of secret rooms and locked doors. Once one particular door, a small door to a furnace fireplace, is unlocked, three small hideous and furry creatures begin to terrorize them, particularly targeting the young wife played by Kim Darby.
The rest of the cast are television regulars, Jim Hutton as the disbelieving husband, and William Demarest, Uncle Charley from “My Three Sons” and classic character actor, as the local handyman who warns the couple not to mess with the unknown in the house. Demarest is essential the Fred Gwynne neighbor from Pet Sematary. He’s just as good in the template role.
The creatures stalk Darby throughout the telemovie, frequently whispering in the dark, “Saaallly” and “We waaant yooouuu.” And of course, no one else but her see the little buggers, so everybody else thinks she’s nuts. There is also another horror classic precursor in that she’s given sleeping pills, but must stay awake or the gremlins will attack her. Sound familiar? Yes, I’m looking at you, Nightmare on Elm Street. Don’t fall asleep!
On a side note regarding movies of the week, my big sister rooted for the monsters in this one, because Kim Darby ruined ABC’s adaptation of Zenna Henderson’s The People. I find that endlessly amusing, but that’s a story for another time. That and I’m kinda partial to Kim for the original True Grit. She’s a good kid, and was great as the mom in Better Off Dead.
This movie actually has a bit in common with Trilogy of Terror, scaring me for much the same reason that flick did. Again, the concept of little monsters, who could hide just out of sight frightens the hell outta me. A small thing, just in the corner of your eye, running by, and you hear the pitter patter of little feet, and maybe some insidious giggling – that’s scary. It’s a trick that was used later in the aforementioned Pet Sematary and with Chucky in the Child’s Play movies.
The small stature also lends terror to what once were simple non-scary objects. I was never afraid of a simple shaving razor until I saw DBAotD. Seeing one in the pint-sized hands of a gremlin, wielding it like a giant battleaxe, is not a good image to have in your head before you head off to bed. Three of the little monsters with God knows what in their hands, and you won’t sleep.
As you might imagine, I always tucked in the sheets, and never hung a leg or arm out of the covers. This movie was a big part of that, something I still do. It’s also why Gremlins and its sequel unnerved me a bit as well. I don’t like little monsters like this. It is notable that Ghoulies never bothered me however, but still, 99% of the time, little is bad. Give me Godzilla any day.
Guillermo del Toro was supposedly just as frightened of this film when he was a kid as well, so much so, he co-wrote and produced a remake of it in 2011. He tells stories of playing with his brothers and friends as a child as they would turn out the lights and whisper “Saaallly” to each other.
Del Toro’s vision is just as scary, maybe even more so. The remake is a different kind of scary though. Much like Tim Burton, del Toro’s monsters come from a whole different universe inside his head. Use Pan’s Labyrinth for reference. His monsters are just messed up. His versions of the gremlins from DBAotD come from a messed up region of fear. And no, I’m not watching that one again either.
The original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark from 1973 remains a cult classic horror despite its low budget and cheap effects. It still delivers real scares and chills. It’s a Halloween must, even though I watch most of it with my eyes closed.
Posted on October 27, 2012, in 31 Days Of Horror, Film, Glenn Walker, horror, television and tagged 31 Days Of Horror, better off dead, child's play, chucky, fred gwynne, ghoulies, godzilla, Gremlins, Guillermo Del Toro, halloween, horror, jim hutton, kim darby, movie of the week, nightmare on elm street, pan's labyrinth, Pet Sematary, remakes, the people, trilogy of terror, true grit, william demarest, zenna henderson. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.