31 Days of Horror – ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ (1973)

Made-for-TV shocker gets under your skin despite era's analog effects

TV-based horror evokes images from “Dark Shadows” and its cartoonishly bad effects.

The medium struggled to scare us for generations, with only a few notable exceptions. “The Night Stalker,” for example, had its moments. TV’s “It” miniseries featuring Tim Curry also outkicked the coverage, in genre terms.

Add “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” to that microscopically small list.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark Trailer (1973-USA version)

Kim Darby stars as Sally, a married woman who inherits an old home as the movie opens. The house’s basement-level fireplace has been aggressively sealed with bricks, per her late grandmother’s instructions.

Sally tries to pry the bricks free without much luck. Instead, she unbolts a metal door near the closed-off opening where she can access the fireplace’s ashes.

She inadvertently frees a group of nasty little demons who apparently have been trapped within the home for some time. The buggers quickly set their sights on attacking Sally, a game of cat and mouse with chilling consequences.

Yes, that’s Uncle Charley (AKA William Demarest) as the handyman who warns Sally about unsealing the fireplace.

The special effects are as clunky as anything from the early 1970s, but the creatures’ faces prove haunting all the same. Their whispery voices – ‘Sally, we waaaaaant you” – suggest she’s in for the fight of her life.

The made-for-TV production is only 80 or so minutes long, but it packs plenty of unsettling moments in that tight time span. Darby is effective as a woman who slowly realizes the evil forces pursuing her, and the film’s ending isn’t easily forgotten.

Guillermo del Toro co-wrote the 2010 remake, a film with flashier effects and few reasons to recommend it.

The original “Dark?” It’s a Halloween treat suitable for pre-teens eager for their first horror movie experience.

31 Days of Horror:



  1. No movie scared me – and scarred me! – more than this one when I was a kid. Plus the NY area TV channels showed it CONSTANTLY.
    The remake sucked, sacrificed all the low-budget creepiness for lame CGI

  2. For the best horror from television, one should watch a few choice episodes of Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. It was on for two seasons and later in the first season took a turn towards supernatural/scary stories. “Pigeons From Hell,” “The Hungry Glass,” and “The Cheaters” are three good ones to try.

  3. I saw this on TV when it came out. I was a little kid and obviously inadequately supervised because it scared the crap out of me! I bought the DVD a few years ago and am afraid to watch it.

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