Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
The 1970’s was an interesting era in that the TV Movie of the week was a regular event from the top networks. There was what I like to call the disease of the week movies, the family dramas and an abundance of horror films which are the ones that suited me just fine. By the time I was seeing them they were pretty much 5 to 10 years old but they were regular fodder for late night showings in reruns. Some of them are fondly remembered from Dark Night of the Scarecrow to the films of Dan Curtis(need to talk about those soon!) to Spielberg’s Duel.
Another plus in the movie of the week was that there was usually an abundance of familiar faces and for this 74 minute thriller we get Kim Darby and Jim Hutton as a couple who move into an old mansion that has secrets to hide. Turning up as an elderly carpenter is William Demarest who gives Darby a stern warning to leave the fireplace bricked up in the downstairs office. Sure! Like that’s gonna happen. Evil spirits in the form of troll like creatures with pumpkins for heads turn up and start to wreak havoc on the cast assembled by director John Newland. Newland was mainly a television director and worked on series ranging from Thriller to Star Trek and Fantasy Island.
Although there isn’t anything wrong with this effort I didn’t see it way back in the day so it doesn’t hold the memories of a Trilogy of Terror or The Screaming Woman for me. Then again for Guillermo Del Toro the film obviously meant something to him as he spearheaded the 2011 remake of the same name. There is an abundance of tele films that have all but disappeared but occasionally surface through archive editions or youtube. Seek them out.
As for our cast, Kim Darby cemented her place in the movies by giving John Wayne all he could handle in True Grit and Jim Hutton was a noted leading man for some time before his untimely death in 1979. William Demarest who had been in films for decades was nearing the end but would reunite with Hutton on the latter’s Ellery Queen mystery show in 1975. Go to a book from Fraser A. Sherman for a nice guide on this genre of television films from McFarland Publishing.