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Monday, February 15, 2010

Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark

     Airing on ABC the night before Halloween in 1973, a certain little made for tv movie terrified television audiences with its spooky simplicity.  "Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark" is one of those great ABC Movie of the Week frightfests that has earned almost legendary status, and it most certainly deserves it.  This horrified me as a child, and pretty much everybody else that saw it as well.

      It's a doozy of a story. A sinister tone is immediately set with a snarling black cat, an old mansion, and a dark, windy night. A young couple, Sally and Alex Farnham, inherit an old Victorian mansion from Sally's grandmother.  To our delight, they find an old bricked up fireplace in the downstairs study.  Sally discovers that her grandmother ordered it bricked up twenty years prior, which arouses her curiosity.  Sally downright gets a bee in her bonnet about opening this fireplace, and eventually, so do we. The crotchety caretaker knows the secret, but won't dare give Sally the key.  Sally is a practicaly gal though, and of course gets the keys.

     What she discovers is that these small, troll-like creatures are living in there, and they are quite intent of taking over Sally's soul.  Silly as all this may seem, it works.  It works very well, actually. We completely buy what's happening in the basement of Sally's old, spooky house. The whole thing has a great "Twilight Zone" vibe about it, and in the right atmosphere, watching this alone at night can definitely give you a good case of the creeps.

     As a child of the time, (I was born in '72, but remember seeing this on tv sometime around '81 or so...obviously a rerun.) I found this particularly scary.  What child isn't scared of monsters living in your house, or of the dark?  "Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark" has all you need- a big, creepy house, lots of windswept leaves, groping creatures in the night, and evil whispers in the dark.  Great stuff.  Similar to that other chestnut, "Trilogy Of Terror", it's another sad reminder of the forgotten era of those wonderfully weird made for tv movies of the 70's and 80's.  This is an eerie, fun little movie, and has made such an impact that it has been remade as a feature film with Katie Holmes.  Why in the world they stopped making tv movies like this one is beyond me.  This stuff is where it's at.

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