FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 8, 2006

I'm not, trust me.

You know what's worse than looking forward to a movie, finally seeing it, and being disappointed with it? I'll tell you what's worse! Looking forward to a movie, finally seeing it, and being disappointed with it- when everyone in the world has told you the movie is great! That's what's worse! And that's exactly happened to poor ol' me last night when I got to see the 1973 made-for-TV flick Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. I'd read glowing review after glowing review of this movie, praising it's scariness. Maybe all the Peanut Butter M&Ms I ate were affecting my judgment, I don't know...but I will say that I wasn't overly impressed.

Kim Darby and Jim Hutton (father of Timothy Hutton) are Sally and Alex Farnham, a young couple who inherit a big, creepy old house from Sally's grandmother. The couple hires handyman Mr. Harris (William Demarest) to help with fixing up the place- he's worked on the house before and knows what's what. There's a locked door which Sally is dying to get into, and when she finally finds the key, the door opens to a dark, dank study. Sally wants to turn this into an office for herself, but Mr. Harris tells her to forget that idea. There's a fireplace in the room, but it's bricked up and the ash door is bolted shut. Mr. Harris did that a long time ago, though he won't tell Sally why. He insists that some things are best left the way they are, and that's that- stop meddling! Personally, I think Hollywood needs a Mr. Harris. Anytime some bozo got the idea to revive a series, or screw with an established history, Mr. Harris could stop them in their tracks. Just imagine...

"Let's make a movie about Leatherface's childhood!"
"Some things are best left the way they are! Stop meddling, ya idjit!"
"Hey, that old guy's right! What a stupid idea! Let's come up with an entirely original idea instead!"

Mr. Harris Goes To Hollywood could save me alot of stress. His reasoning isn't good enough for that Sally, though. She really needs to get that fireplace open, and when she's alone, she unbolts the ash door! Pfft- ain't that just like a woman? Can't leave well enough alone. I bet she's a terrible driver, too!

When Mr. Harris finds the door open, he promptly re-bolts it...but it's too late! Tooooo laaaaate! They have been let out...they who stalk the darkness and want to claim Sally as their own...they who creep around and whisper Sally's name...they...who...are about 7 inches tall and have shrivelled gourd-like heads. Dammit.

The fatal mistake of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, for me, was the overexposure of the things in the dark. Hearing whispered voices, catching a glimpse of something scuttling behind a table, thinking maybe you see a face in the window...these things are scary. Watching creatures run around- creatures that look like Smurfs stricken with that awful condition that makes you age before your time- is not scary.

The rest of the movie runs the typical course: Sally keeps seeing these creatures everywhere and she's sure they're out to get her, but everyone thinks she's crazy. Unfortunately, Sally's the one who's right. Eventually the shriveled little things do get her, and Sally disappears into the fireplace to...I guess become a shriveled little thing herself.

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. For a TV movie, it's certainly original and scarier than most of the others you'll see. If I had seen this when I was a kid, it probably would've left me afraid to go to bed that night, and most nights afterward. This movie had a great premise- what's scarier than the idea that yeah, there really is something lurking in your room in the dark? Knowing there's something there but not knowing what it is- that's terrifying. It would've worked better if we'd never really seen the pint-sized creatures...I couldn't help but think "Just step on them!", or "Just kick them really hard!" whenever Sally was being tormented. Now this movie would be a great candidate for a re-make. Like Mr. Harris says, some things are better left the way they are, but not all. I give it 6 out of 10 mini-pumpkinheads.

What am I wearing? For God's sake, what am I wearing? Eyyyyahhhhh!


warrenzone said...

I love this movie!! I like when the little bastards talk! They are mean.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha! The little bastards are mean. I think I went in with too many expectations- like, it would be scary. I was too bummed to have alot of fun.

Anonymous said...

YEah this film wasn't really a impressive as the hordes let on, but very decent for a tv movie from the seventies.

I kinda liked those mutated Smurfs, and wish there was more of them.

The worst part by far was Sallys hair and dress. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, great blog, final girl! I was real pleased to see that you gave your treatment to a film a had in my possesion. It got off my ass and on to my ass again to see the film!

Even if the film was only so-so it was fun to compare opinions on the film, and I'd say I agree with your review.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, snarf! Heh...snarf. Yeah, this movie was fun, but not overly frightening. The pruny, mean smurfs just crack me up.

Anonymous said...

I saw this as a kid and was blown away. I think what stuck out to us latch key kids was that downbeat ending. Man-o-man! What a shocker. I did get a copy as an adult and thought if was fun, but not as scary as I remembered. However, the little people look like someone latexed a hardhat on their head. Nice.

I believe this movie is up for a remake. At least it was in development at one point not long ago. No one, and I MEAN NO ONE could ever replace Jim Hutton. A true one of a kind.

Want to see a TVM that will scare the pants off ya? Check out Don't Go to Sleep with Valerie Harper and the late Dennis Weaver. It's a jumper.

Amanda By Night

Anonymous said...

You're right, Final Girl. It could have been better. If I remade this I would:
1. Not show the little bastards till the very end. Like you said, shadows and whispers are scarier than Smurfs with rapidly aging disease. And when I did show make them scarier looking. In fact, according to IMBD trivia, the screenwriter had originally envisioned them being quicker and more demonic instead of the lumbering little Jawas that ended up on film.
2. Have the little demons have enough sense to know that tying a woman's ankles doesn't make her completely helpless. With her hands free and no gag she could have wacked them and yelled for help. But no, she took their pictures! I guess the demons knew Sally wasn't too bright and tying her ankles alone would totally confuse her enough not to fight back. I hate it when filmmakers make their females complete idiots just to move the plot along. Like Jane Fonda in Barbarella. The brats just tie her wrist leaving her feet and legs free to kick the snot out of them and really she could have swung her elbows and beat them little witches to a pulp. But no she goes, "Oh, gosh, they've tied my wrist! I can't move a muscle! Help, please!"
3. The movie is really more creepy than scarey. The idea of being pulled down in some dark, bottumless pit by evil little demons never to return is the stuff of nightmares. But the movie sells out by having Sally suddenly become one of them. We hear her scream but then at the end she's like become the leader of the midgets! Like, ok I'm down here, lets get to work being evil. If I remade it I would have had a voice over of Sally's echoing voice saying, "Where am I? Help me, someone! Please let me go!" And then the little demons would say, "You can't go, Sally! You are with us forever! Forever!" Then we fade to black as the demons laugh.

Anonymous said...

I think you have to have seen this movie as a kid to get the full scare effect. I saw it when I was 8 and it scared the shit out of me and my best friend.

jervaise brooke hamster said...
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