On Friday, we unloaded the first ever look at Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. I moderated a panel with the film’s director Troy Nixey and the film’s co-writer and producer Guillermo del Toro.
I was first onstage and there were a few nice little yells from the crowd from fans of the site and I quickly prepped the audience for what they were in store for. I introduced Troy and then Guillermo and then the lights dimmed. We began the panel with the teaser for the film, a short but effective little bit of magic featuring very quick glimpses of some of the creepy elements of the film and then one nice big concussive ending. From up where I sat, it was incredibly effective. Incredibly effective. To share a glimpse of our beautiful little monsters was vital I think to get the point across, but folks saw just enough to get the gist and not enough to have any idea what they were in store for.
We then began the panel, which as expected featured tons of hilarious Guillermo del Toro bon mots, but what was even more interesting was how effectively and passionately he dispensed true advice and rich explanations of his craft, the state of the business, and how to effectively make good movies in this world. It was amazing stuff and I could see the crowd soaking it all up. Too often Comic Con panels are shameless and manipulative attempts to broadly sell to the audience. We had a very enriching conversation (Troy was also excellent) and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it. Though much of the coverage has been about Guillermo’s delicious profanity or the shock of an actually scary horror movie coming out, the big takeaway from me was Guillermo’s ability to teach, entertain, and showcase some of the traits that have made him so special.
After a solid twenty minutes of discussion we shared the film’s opening scene, set in the early 1900’s at the house where much of the film takes place.
The scene features a maid being lured downstairs into the cellar and knocked out by the mansion’s owner Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald) and the subsequent vicious and grisly attempt by the man to knock her teeth out to feed to the creatures living in the depths of the ash pit. The creatures have taken the man’s son, and having taken out his own teeth and not having sated them he regretfully grabs a hammer and chisel to take hers out.
Things don’t well for folks.
You can tell instantly if a scene plays or not. It played, and it played well.
There were gasps, groans, and that uncomfortably laughter that makes scary movies so lovely. People winced at the teeth extraction stuff, freaked out at the whole idea of what Blackwood is doing, and loved the way the scene ended with its dark tunnel and shapes coming up from the abyss.
The lights came up and it was so cool to see a dude who has already succeeded on so many levels of Hollywood beam like a proud father as the audience cheered for the movie. This is a movie that has been in Guillermo’s brain a long time and at one point he was to direct it. It’s very close to his heart. And Troy’s.
Only two years ago Troy was a comic book artist whose short film was starting to make the rounds. As the story goes, I brought these two dudes together and a dream was born but the real reason we were all sitting on a stage in front of 7,000 people on Friday is because Troy is also a man with incredible vision and filmmaking skills. I think people have now started to get to see that, which is incredibly exciting. Though Guillermo casts a big and delightful shadow, Troy’s style and eye will certainly be evident the more people see of this movie.
We then took questions from the crowd and I can say without any reservations that it was the most legitimate and least frivolous bit of questions I’ve ever seen in 8 years of Comic Con. No bullshit. No people acting in character. No freaks. No one too much into trying to promote themselves. I attribute that to Guillermo’s fan base being a unique and smart one, the fact the panel was so rich and genuine and not a marketing shill for a product, and because we need movies like this right now. We truly do.
And then it was over. But from most accounts it was one of the high points of this year’s con. A sleeper. The little engine that could. The bottom line is that we finally have shown folks what’s coming on January 21st, and hopefully a lot more of you will get the chance to see some of it real soon.
What follows is a diverse and rich collections of links and images to the coverage, tweets, and feedback from the panel. Some really fun stuff in there (and some folks who got some details wrong too), and I am really happy to see the breadth of it. There’s a few high profile sites that didn’t do much about the flick, but whatever. I’m really happy and proud to share this (courtesy of Kara Sargent, who won the signed poster contest).
Folks, please spread the word for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. I really think we have a special little movie for you guys and we need to capitalize on this first salvo.