Monday, April 22, 2013

#980. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Directed By: John Newland

Starring: Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, Barbara Anderson

Tag line: "Can you see them, Sally ... hiding in the shadows. They're alive, Sally. They want you to be one of them when the lights go out"

Trivia: The role of Alex Farnham was originally to be played by George Hamilton

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a 1973 made-for-TV movie, is a disturbing little thriller, and features a trio of tiny monsters you won’t soon forget.

Sally Farnham (Kim Darby) has recently inherited a house that belonged to her late grandmother. Shortly after she and her husband, Alex (Jim Hutton), move in, Sally discovers a brick fireplace in the basement that’s been boarded up. The handyman, Mr. Harris (William Demarest), who worked for Sally’s grandmother, tells Sally that under no circumstances should the fireplace be opened (yet refuses to explain why). Despite his warnings, Sally removes the bolts from the fireplace door, and in so doing releases three goblin-like creatures, each standing no more than a foot or so tall. Neither Alex nor her best friend, Joan (Barbara Anderson), believe Sally when she tries to tell them about the little monsters, chalking her bizarre behavior up to nervous tension. Continually hounded by the new “visitors”, Sally begins to fear for her life, and is left to wonder what it is these miniature pests want from her.

While the actors definitely do their part to make Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark a memorable motion picture (especially Hunter, who perfectly conveys the confusion and, later on, the terror of a woman pushed to the brink), it’s the goblins themselves that make it entertaining. Initially, we only hear these creatures, talking in faint whispers and calling Sally by name. This alone is enough to give us the heebie-jeebies, but when we finally get a glimpse of one of the mini-monsters, the movie’s creep factor hits a whole new level. They appear continuously throughout the second half of the film, hiding behind curtains, climbing up stairs, and, in the film’s best scene, trying to attack Sally while she’s in the shower. It’s clear from the outset that these imps intend to kill Sally, which is confirmed when they try to trip her at the top of the stairs, and instead send the interior decorator (Pedro Armendáriz, Jr) plummeting to his death.

The goblins, which were played by actors in make-up, may, at the start, evoke a few laughs from younger viewers, especially those accustomed to more "high-tech" (read CGI) monsters. But after a scene or two, these creepy little buggers will have even the most jaded audience members poised at the edge of their seats.

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