In Person: Guillermo Del Toro, Katie Holmes & “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

WARNING: Film spoilers in the text and video below!

It took a long time to bring Don't Be Afraid of the Dark to the screen. 

Back in 1998, Guillermo Del Toro wrote a script based on a 1970s TV movie. He took the screenplay to the Weinsteins at Miramax but didn't agree with the changes they wanted so he walked away. After Miramax fell apart recently, Del Toro dusted off his first draft of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and locked in comic book artist Troy Nixey to direct it.

The movie had its premiere on Monday night here at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater where the cast and filmmakers talked about the new movie with Film Comment editor Gavin Smith.

Katie Holmes (pictured above, left) stars in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark as the unwelcome step mother figure to a young girl (Bailee Madison, pictured above, right) staying with her dad and girlfriend in a beautiful and scary old house that is filled with secrets. While exploring a hidden chamber, she encounters mysterious creatures with a connection to the mansion’s past.

“Fairy tales were the cradle of horror tales,” said Guillermo Del Toro, discussing the roots of his new movie, which he also co-produced. The always entertaining Mexican filmmaker, known for such films as Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and The Devil’s Backbone, explained that he’s a devotee of famous Welsh author Arthur Machen and his depiction of fairies as tiny evil creatures.

“Fairies, in pagan mythology, are not blinky, shiny little fuckers,” elaborated Guillermo Del Toro, during a discussion that had young Bailee Madison covering her ears frequently as she tried to dodge his salty language. “They are really nasty, dirty, ambivalent, malevolent, all of the above, you know? And I like that. That aspect has not been explored.”

Like Del Toro’s other films, a young child is at the center of this new version of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Moderator Gavin Smith asked Del Toro why kids are always so integral to his films.

 “To me, the seen of horror was childhood,” Del Toro said, “I was terrified of everything. I believe children of great complexity.”

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