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Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection is a brand to follow when it comes to physical media releases. Rivaling that of reveals from Arrow Video, Criterion Collection and Vinegar Syndrome, we know when in the month that their upcoming titles will be announced but what they will be is an intriguing mystery. And given how large the catalog of Warner Bros (And New Line) is, it could be any number of things. Being that its October, horror is the overwhelming theme with the Blu-ray titles.  Rounding out my series of reviews for their October titles is the 1973 made for television movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark starring Kim Darby (The mom from Better Off Dead AND from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers). This one became available on October 22nd. You can order from the link below (Which, I’m obligated to tell you, nets me a very small percentage).

Film 

More than 40 years after it was first broadcast, this classic TV Movie-of-the-Week chiller continues to cast a spell over viewers new and old, and looks better than the original broadcast thanks to this brand-new High Definition master derived from the original camera negatives! After she inherits her grandmother’s house, Sally’s  (Kim Darby) marriage has a sinister wedge driven through it when her occult “imaginings” come to life and threaten to derail husband Alex Farnham’s (Jim Hutton) career. Also starring William Demarest.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark may not be in the public conscience nowadays, outside of the retro horror junkies, but it was quite a big deal when it aired in 1973. People who saw it then or on a replay sometime in the childhood during the last century will remember it well and think quite fondly back on in. Made for TV horror movies weren’t some sort of scrub back in the day, and you would find gems and filmmakers that could do boffo with limited resources. And we are talking back before Stephen King miniseries rule the airwaves, this was back when there was really on Salem’s Lot to speak of in terms of television King content. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark stood tall among the others too. It was also found itself being remade for theaters a few years back, produced by Guillermo del Toro, that starred Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce (And quite forgettable, I might add).

Its easy to see why this film worked so well and manages to sneakily overcome its limited television movie trappings. By that, I mean it has limited locations and isn’t able to blow all of its budgets on creatures and special effects. Where it works out is in the ability of the crew to be able to light and shoot what they have and the script and actors able to craft interesting filler dialogue and perform it as convincingly as can be. Nowadays, these things are quite obvious, but if you’re a younger viewer, this build up of things scare people through conversation can really stimulate the mind and run the imagination. Couple that with the lighting, editing and camera angles/movements I mentioned before and you’ve got quite a competent and effective package.

I don’t think any adult is going be traumatized, have trouble sleeping or find themselves sitting on the edge of their seat checking for weird noises in the house during the movie, but rather I think this is one that horror-loving parent can share with their very young children. Its a classic haunt and definitely has the mood and atmosphere to work well and spook the crap out of kids under 10 with some good ease. With no commercials and end credits not counting, it also finds itself just barely crossing over an hour. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, if you like it, can become that film that works as a holiday tradition passing down from generations to enjoy during the season or as you wrap up your trick or treating.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Warner Archive Collection debuts Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on Blu-ray with a 4K scan from the original negatives. And boy, does this film look ever so lovely. In terms of set design and location shooting, the movie doesn’t appear to offer much, but with this transfer you can truly see the expert craftsmanship on display with the lighting, angles and movements to improve upon what little they were given. The film finds itself having rich detail and pristine definition in every frame. Colors really burst out and the blacks are haunting and appropriately shadowy in a sinister fashion. This film looks absolutely marvelous and its extra pleasing considering this was a TV movie. Also kudos to Warner Archive for keeping the original aspect ratio for the film as the recent V miniseries Blu-ray opted to crop the film to fit 16×9 displays.

Depth: The film features a pretty impressive depth of field and the camera work in the film has no issue confidently displaying a nice pushback in a scene making hallways and open doorways appear pretty deep. Dolly movements are confident and slick and no motion distortions occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep but looking to the bars on the sides a bit lighter than your natural blacks. Grain tends to run heavier in the darkest shadows. Detail holds in strong and the only stuff lost is likely intended for mood and atmosphere. No crushing problems found.

Color Reproduction: Colors flush out quite beautifully here with bold strokes and pop wonderfully from scene to scene. The house in the film is the real all star in this department as it has many wallpapers, tiles or furniture upholstery that showcases a nice burst of bold coloring.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from star to finish. They look really full to the touch and textures and details like freckles, wrinkles or make-up touches come through clear as day from any reasonable distance in the shot. The goblin creatures also show many good details on their flesh, but not showing any sort of “seeing behind the curtains” sort of things that kill the illusion.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark arrives to Blu-ray with its original mono track in a lossless form. And its a pretty impressive, loud and full sounding experience. The mix is well layered with some terrific depth in which the sounds and nuances feel like they are traveling around despite utilizing only 2 speakers in the front. It makes for a fun, classic experience.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. The audio overall has an analog feel but is pretty clean and in good shape. It captures the whispering very well and distributes it at a perfect volume.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • by Amanda Reyes (Made for TV Mayhem)
  • by Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton (Dread Central), Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination, Day of the Dead) and Sean Abley (Fangoria)

Summary 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark still works out well enough and is a pretty solid pick to watch as a family or with very small children come Halloween time. Warner Archive Collection seems to agree on its reputation as a classic as they have done a pretty outstanding job in restoring it for Blu-ray and even added a brand new commentary for this release. This is an easy pick up for classic horror lovers and vintage television collectors.

Paid Link.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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