Director – John Newland
Cast – Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, Barbara Anderson, William Demarest, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Lesley Woods, Robert Cleaves
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
While most made-for-TV horror films these days are terrible(thanks a lot Sci-fi channel), the TV movies from the 70s and 80s have delivered some pretty creepy experiences, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is one of them. The story is simple and not overly original, but complimented with good execution it amounts to one of the creepier TV horror films that I have ever seen.
Alex and Sally Farnham are a young couple who have inherited an old home belonging to Sally’s ancestors. They accept the home as a fixer-upper and move in to start their new life in a new city, but things turn awry when Sally disregards the warnings of the home’s old caretaker/carpenter and opens a door that has been bolted shut for an unknown reason. Sally furthers her future demise by unleashing a group of demons hidden within an old chimney in the room, a group of demons who plan to make her own of their own.
I find it hard to believe (and quite sad) that the vast majority of modern horror films fail to capture the atmosphere of 70s and 80s horror films, including TV horror films from those decades such as this one. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark starts of delivering superbly creepy atmosphere thanks to a fantastic directing job from John Newland. He perfectly delivers dark cinematography aided by low-lit shadowy sets, a supreme musical score, and a spooky home to deliver the goods with. He paces the film well, and while its story is simple in nature it never slows down much thanks to the spookiness at hand. We get some pretty sweet looking creatures that I am sure delivered excellent chills for 1972, and even to this day if you were to actually come across these little fiends I am sure they would have the same effect as they did back then. This being a TV movie we do not get much gore or many kills, but that failed to deter me given the horror provided was high quality, and I treated this watch as a TV film.
I mentioned earlier that the story is a simple one, but that does not mean it lacks quality. Personally, I love films that involve naïve people moving into a home with a dark past, especially if the home is of creepy nature, such as this film’s fixer-upper. Throwing in the demon element was awesome, and I enjoyed the long-held mystery behind the demons, and the numerous scenes we get with them causing their havoc on Sally. Earlier I made a reference to the film’s lack of kills and gore, but thanks to the numerous scenes we get with these little creatures I felt that the lack of kills and gore was made up for with spooky entertainment delivered via the demons. We get the usual haunted house character play between spouses in that Alex is the logical thinker who believes that his wife is at first spooking herself over what the old carpenter told them, and then convinces himself that she is going insane with her non-stop talk about the demons running around their home, demons that only she can see. The story isn’t perfect, and it lose a bit of steam towards the end, but its haunting climax was very enjoyable to me, and provided exactly what I wanted to see…good horror.
Overall, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is one of the spookiest TV horror films I have ever seen, and that comes as a result of incredible atmosphere and a good simple yet solid story. If you are looking for a slightly lesser-known early 70s watch involving demons then this is sure to give you what you need.