Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

dont be afraid of the dark poster 1973 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Creepy, suspenseful

Some cheesy costumes, underdeveloped

Movie Info

Movie Name: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Studio: ABC

Genre(s): Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): October 10, 1973

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

dont be afraid of the dark demon monsters

Hi…just wanted to welcome you to your new home…we’re your roommates!

Sally Farnham (Kim Darby) and her husband Alex (Jim Hutton) have inherited a dark and gloomy house from Sally’s grandmother and with it a strange room with a sealed up chimney.  Sally goes against the wishes of the handyman Mr. Harris (William Demarest) who has tended to the house for years, and opens the chimney…unleashes something evil!  Now, there is something in the house, and the creatures want Sally.

Directed by John Newland, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a horror suspense thriller that originally aired on October 13, 1973 on ABC.  The film gained a cult fanbase over the years.  Fan of the film Guillermo del Toro produced a big screen remake of the film in 2010.

TV horror was at its peak in the ’70s and early ’80s.  There were a number of high end horror films made directly for TV that were critically acclaimed and also considered more fear inducing than bigger budget horror film that were released to theaters.  Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is often considered one of the best of the TV horror films.

dont be afraid of the dark kim darby

Worst “Flip This House” situation…mini-demon infestation

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has a great set-up.  It has a marriage on the rocks which has Sally not having any means for help since her husband thinks she’s sabotaging his career.  The horror builds and builds with Sally questioning if she is imagining it despite pretty visible creatures.  Sally quickly realizes the horror is real but is trapped in trying to explain mini-monsters to others…it does have a little bit of “why don’t she just leave” factor to it (the attempts to keep her are pretty weak), but it can be overlooked by the nice tension built by the film.

I’m not a huge Kim Darby fan but you don’t need to be to enjoy the movie.  In fact, most of the acting is so-so throughout the film.  My Three Sons’ Uncle Charley (William Demarest is the handyman ordered to not help Darby by the little demons and her jerky husband played Jim Hutton only see the truth too late.

dont be afraid of the dark demons bathroom scene

Hmmm….maybe we should be more careful about stalking and killing…and try not to be seen

The creatures themselves are kind of terrifying despite being rather cheap and cartoonish.  The movie utilized a scaled set to allow human actor to portray them, but the mouths of the monsters don’t move when they are talking which takes away from them (but they do have really expressive, scary eyes).  The shooting style of the movie makes it work and it remains an effect horror film in that sense.

You can’t think a lot about Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark or you sees the flaws in the basic set-up.  It is supposed to be a Pandora’s Box kind of story with Darby’s character unable to resist the urge to open this chimney that shouldn’t be opened, but it also begs the question of why her grandmother didn’t leave a warning about the monsters, why would you have a dark room if the monsters hate lights, and how can the monsters threaten the handyman if the monsters don’t really leave the house…he could just not go back to the house (and he could protect himself with a good flashlight).  The horror of the film is lasting with its creepy imagery and whispering monsters.

Related Links:

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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