The Anticipation Is Killing Me

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Its a rare day when you'll find us eagerly awaiting the release of a remake here at The October Country. A rare day indeed. I'll just come out and say it, we're staunchly opposed to the remake trend (or "whore copies" as I like to call them as the term befits their true nature) that has swept Hollywood since the success of Marcus Nispel's 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-imagining (Jesus, seven years of this drek?) and has consumed any chance or likelihood that anything original will go into production by a major studio more than once a year as a result. Yet, here we are. To say that we aren't foaming at the mouth and chewing our lips with over-sized incisors at the prospect of what has been done to the 1973 made for TV movie / obscure cult classic Don't Be Afraid of the Dark in the very capable hands of producer Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone) would be, well, underselling our enthusiasm.

The original '73 movie was an effectively creepy, (mostly) successful attempt in wringing genuine chills from it's strange, small premise. The premise being that of young couple Sally (Kim Darby) and Alex (Jim Hutton) inherriting an old mansion from Sally's deceased grandmother, recently deceased. Upon moving in, Sally discovers a small portion of the fireplace in the basement den has been bricked up and asks the estate's handyman, Mr. Harris (William Demarest), why that is. Mr. Harris informs her that her grandmother had it sealed up after the death of her husband and the bricked up mysetry is better off left alone. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a horror movie if Sally heeded her handyman's advice, so soon after she busies herself with removing some of the bricks herself. Unable to fully free them all, she manages to clear away enough that a small door is revealed to be hidden behind them. Leaving it at that, Sally resumes renovating the house alone, as her lawyer husband (more often than naught) is away at the office striving to make partner at his firm. It isn't long after that Sally's nightly torment begins. The lights routinely go out, beckoning voices can be heard and tiny, hideous, scurrying figures are glimpsed within the darkness. Something very evil has been awakened behind that small door in the fireplace. Something that very much would like to drag Sally off into it's world of enternal darkness.

The original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, though displaying a genuine, errie atmosphere throughout it's proceedings and more than once shows itself capable of raising the hair on our arms (plus it scores points for it's anti-television downbeat ending), hasn't aged all that well. The problem lies with the film's creatures, simply put, made rather ineffective and silly by some unfortunate, dated makeup SFX that I'm assuming were results of the film's limited TV budget. Though they might have chilled some's blood back in '73 (I imagine young ones were particularly scarred by the film, I would have been) unfortunately, they nearly undo all the nicely crafted suspense and dread built up to the point of their reveal. In retrospect, its a shame that the creatures living behind that small door weren't kept in the shadows entirely, because it is in the darkness where they truly exude their power to unnerve. Though I am not a proponent of that tiring Hollywood excuse that just because something has aged, or not aged well, is reason enough to overhaul a franchise or existing property, the creatures from the remake have already been glimpsed in the teaser trailer and boy, are they an improvemnet. Recalling the demonic visage of the pint sized minions of 1987's The Gate (those things did traumatize me), what we have briefly seen of them promises to be terrifyingly memorable.

Other bright spots feeding my hope that I won't regret spotlighting this film in a few months: The cast is talented (Guy Pierce and Katie Holmes, whom suprisingly doesn't bother me when her face isn't on the cover of a tabloid in relation to her wacko husband). Guillermo del Toro has a distinctive visual style that is always welcome (the influence of which can be found in everything from set design and creature effects) and oftentimes makes for a unique, imaginative world that is always an honor to visit. It appears (judging from the tidbits of material that has been released thus far) as though his stamp of creativity has been left on this film too. What I can only hope for, in regards to the remake, is that the integrity of the original's paced atmosphere has been kept intact, favoring mood over cheap jump scares and big money, special effects overkill. In short, don't let this be another Haunting remake. Please, gods.

Miramax Film's Press Release:

Prodeucers Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage) and Mark Johnson (Chronicles of Narnia) join forces to deliver Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a tale of hair-raising, spine-chilling horror.

Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison), a lonely, withdrawn child, has just arrived in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex (Guy Pierce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the 19th-Century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the sprawling estate, the young girl discovers a hidden basement, undisturbed since the strange disappearance of the mansion's builder a century ago. When Sally unwittingly lets loose a race of ancient, dark-dwelling creatures who conspire to drag her down into the mysterious house's bottomless depths, she must convince Alex and Kim that it's not a fantasy - before the evil lurking in the dark consumes them all.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark's Teaser trailer:

"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" Trailer
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