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Afraid of the Dark 1991
Description: A tiny boy, obsessed with blindness and violence, slowly gets trapped in his own delusions.
Released: 22 Jan 1992 Director: Mark Peploe Writers: Mark Peploe, Frederick Seidel Actors: James Fox, Fanny Ardant, Paul McGann, Clare Holman Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
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Afraid of the Dark Reviews:

How apt that a storyline about sight requires some close scrutiny in order to be understood.The true impetus of this film occurs in the details. Some random examples: *Lucas' name means "light." *The pattern on his pajamas resembles prison stripes, perhaps symbolizing the entrapment and immobility that he fears from impending blindness.*The dual nature of the knitting needle--a)descriptions like 'sharp' and 'penetrating' apply to its function as well as to a person's insightful abilities, and b)the veiled sexual reference of the act of stabbing as a displacement for the impotence Lucas feels, both in losing his sight as well as for the primary powerlessness of childhood.*He sees through a telescope/he calls his knitting needle a telescope...telescopes are supposed to bring the distant object close, but they also fold inward on themselves, a diminution of what they were. They reveal, and then they collapse.*The color blue, mostly missing from the film's palette, is used mainly for small features like picture frames (something which includes our visions...rather like Lucas' eyeglass frames include his current vision); a cabinet (also something which contains, even locks up, and can withhold its contents from view as opposed to putting them on display); the baby sister's pretty blue eyes, praised even as Lucas' eyes are ever more distorted through his lenses; the knitting his mother makes for the baby, surely an unusual color for a female infant--but is it really blue or has Lucas fully lost sight of reality by now? Even his demeanor is "blue" as he becomes increasingly more detached, both from reality and from the folks and happenings around him.His detachment is partly a effect of his confusion. He can hardly see, and what he thinks he sees, he can't trust. Therefore, his responses to folks become odd and then almost nonexistent. For the most part he stops reacting to them. He is in the process of disappearing from his own life. The globe is becoming invisible, and so, it seems, shall he.He further detaches from the globe around him as folks remain blind to his bizarre inner landscape and the worries besetting him. There is a lovely dichotomy in the stage where he is across the road from the wedding crowd. Without his thick lenses, the folks appear to be ineffectually stabbing about with canes and dark glasses. When he puts his lenses back on, the folks look normal. They can't see when he can't see, but they can when he can. One of his fears is that the globe will be as uncomprehending of him as it will be incomprehensible to him, when he is blind.There is also the fear that another senses aren't to be trusted. Notice the stage where Toby is trying to receive in the window: the squeeching of the soapy rag vs the glass blends with the dog's eager whines until the noises and suds somehow become the signs of a crazed, foaming beast. The deterioration of Lucas' senses and the destruction of what he loves become one and the same.No wonder this is a terrified tiny boy. And if he can be impelled by his dark visions to slay Toby, whom he loves, what might he do to baby Tess who is, at the very least, an object of ambivalence? Interesting that the name Tess means 'harvester' or 'reap.' To reap is to glean (a common synonym for comprehension, as in "what can you glean from this situation?"). It is to collect, to gather--also terms for pulling oneself together. A harvester is productive, someone who expedites growth (crops in the field) into sustenance (grain for the bread), just as the emergence of baby Tess brings about the full flowering of Lucas' fears, feeding them to the mission of his fateful act.Tess is the final catalyst, personifying the loss that Lucas so dreads. He has lost large sister Rose to marriage and eventual motherhood, his parents to their absorption with the baby, his pal Toby is dead, his grip on reality is loosening, and he is losing his vision and with it, his freedom. For all he knows he should even lose his life in the impending eye operation. All this loss solidifies in the diminutive photo of Tess. The periphery of his globe has narrowed until the only focus is this fresh tiny baby who hasn't seen anything yet, and so he takes her. To preserve her? To present her his view of the world? To create her the repository of his last vision? Or for something more sinister? At this mission the action is cute ambiguous. I can't say what his intentions are, and maybe he can't, either. However, in looking at the clues provided in the names (father Frank, means forthright, let's-be-frank; mother Miriam, biblical namesake protects the man Moses; sister Rose, roses signify purity, love; brother-in-law Tony, means 'praiseworthy'; Lucas and Tess, lucidity and reaper) I tend to think a positive outcome is intended all along.It is a great moment at the end when Lucas says the nurse, "I like to look," whereas before, looking had become a frightful, confusing exercise. He watches her knitting needles as shadow puppets on the wall, but instead of something horrific they are just...knitting needles. Nothing more. True is real.That's how I see it, anyway. Someone else might have a various interpretation. I have to love a film that lends itself to alternate views.


Psychological horror stories often rely on clichéd photos and stories to evoke terror from the audience. A notable exception is the movie "Afraid of the Dark" which stars Ben Keyworth as an 11 year old man who struggles with morbid fears of going blind, as well as fears of a stalker in the roads of London who preys on the blind. This moody thriller has a convoluted storyline and abstract pace that create it hard to decipher, but the film is worth the effort due to it's subtle horror that is mesmerizing! This one ferments in the psyche long after viewing. Keyworth is joined by a powerful cast including Fanny Ardent, and James Fox, but Keyworth is the real strength of the film. His intense demeanor is riveting!


Young Lucas, an adventurous young boy, is seen as a fearless monster who seems to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. When we first meet him, he accompanies his mother to a sort of care center for the blind. There are reports of a slasher that is cutting the faces of some of the blind folks that attend the center. When he follows one of the women, who leaves nearby, he watches in horror as her face is slashed by the intruder. Lucas flees to the cemetery nearby, where he likes to play. It's at this mission that we realize something is wrong with Lucas, who ends up spying on his half sister posing for a photographer.Then, everything changes.The mere reality is that everything one has witnessed is just not so. The fact is that Lucas is going blind if he doesn't have the operation to save his sight. His loving parents, Frank and Miriam, are ecstatic because they are expecting other baby, something that doesn't enjoy well in the young boy's mind. Lucas, who probably feels jealousy toward the unborn baby, thinks of methods of dealing with the intrusion in his life. His obsession with knitting needles prove to be a risky proposition.Mark Peploe, who co-wrote the screen play, creates a movie that will be disorienting for a lot of viewers, but which ultimately, satisfy the ones that stay close to the story. There are many indications the first section of the film is just how Lucas' mind work, just the opposite of what one sees on the screen.Ben Keyworth, who plays young Lucas, is excellent for the role. He makes the most of his Lucas, by just being where he is. This man is an enigma who is not instantly understood and has to assert himself. James Fox and Fanny Ardant enjoy the parents. The helping cast does fine under Mr. Peploe's direction."Afraid of the Dark" is a movie that makes the viewer think because it's not what one sees what's really is going in Lucas' mind.



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