I could say a lot of things about the footage shown today at the Miramax panel for Troy Nixey‘s debut film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. But I’ll let co-writer and producer Guillermo del Toro have his say: “the movie is serious as a fucking attack of gonorrhea!”

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a remake and update of a 1973 TV movie that quickly became one of del Toro’s favorite films when he was young. As an adult he bought the rights and in the late ’90s scripted a new take with Matthew Robbins. That script was eventually directed by former comic book artist Troy Nixey, and today’s panel in Hall H at the San Diego Comic Con marked the first time any footage has been seen by the public. And it was pretty great stuff.

Guillermo del Toro and Troy Nixey were on stage with Nick Nunziata, founder of CHUD and one of the producers on the film. They showed two things: a teaser, and the prologue to the film. The teaser was light on footage, though what we saw looked excellent: shadowy and dark, but not murky. Still, too quickly cut to really tell much. One thing came through: this is a creature feature in many respects, and the kicker shot proved that point quite well.

The film follows a girl who encounters strange, terrifying imps after she moves with her family to a large, old house. The second piece of footage shown was the film’s prologue, which takes place in 1918 and explains some of the origin of the imps. (The word ‘imp’ may not really do these creatures justice, as they’re brutal as hell.

The prologue sees a maid going into the basement of the large house to answer the call of her employer. But a trap has been laid, and she tumbles down the stairs. As she lays helpless on the floor, the employer goes rather nuts. I won’t reveal the nature of his violent action, but everyone in Hall H cringed. Except perhaps dentists. He’s doing this in the service of something that has taken his child, and he’s hoping to appease the imps, but things don’t really go his way.

The footage was gorgeous and creepy, and the horrific stuff actually hit hard. Guillermo del Toro (who did most of the talking) called the film a mixture of  fairy tale and horror, but what we saw definitely fell more towards the horror line.

Of the film, del Toro said,

We are not taking anything away from the original, and we are not fucking chickening out… we wrote and originally shot the movie for PG-13, and could do that without compromising the scares…But we were given a badge of honor. The MPAA came back and gave it a non-negotiable R for ‘pervasive scariness’.

The studio backed the R, and del Toro seems thrilled. In his amusingly vulgar manner, he said,

Movies are like a pirate ship: the more R the better. Horror has to have balls. And those balls have to be sweaty and ripe…this one is hard-hitting and scary like a motherfucker. (laughs) Sesame Street: the word for today is ‘motherfucker.’ The ending of this movie hits you like a motherfucker.

I’ve been told the teaser will arrive online in a week or two, and we’ll highlight it then. In the meantime, here’s the studio’s official synopsis for the film:

Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison), a lonely, withdrawn child, has just arrived in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) at the 19th-century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the sprawling estate, the young girl discovers a hidden basement, undisturbed since the strange disappearance of the mansion’s builder a century ago. When Sally unwittingly lets loose a race of ancient, dark-dwelling creatures who conspire to drag her down into the mysterious house’s bottomless depths, she must convince Alex and Kim that it’s not a fantasy—before the evil lurking in the dark consumes them all.

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