31 DEVIANT DAYS: Film Phobias - A

A is for Achluophobia - Fear of darkness.

Darkness has always been a crucial element in horror films. Usually, if a character in a horror movie has to go into the basement...the light bulb goes out or the switch doesn't work. Causing our "hero" to be susceptible to just about anything that can happen in the darkness. What a scary thought, huh? I remember being really young and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street  for the first time in my life. I snuck downstairs and turned on the TV and visions of a lamb, a girl in a nighty and a deranged lunatic with blades on his fingers flickered in front of me in the darkness. I stood there still in the shadows of the living room until the closing credits. Then, I turned the television off. That same darkness that surrounded me while I was watching the film suddenly engulfed me, taunting me as I stumbled my way to bed. The dark basically held me prisoner for the length of the rest of that night...into the rest of the week. I was afraid of the dark.

While many can certainly create a horror film within the darkness to stimulate a sensation of tension and urgency....there's only a few filmmakers that can use the dark for their own bidding. A way of creating an entire character with the darkness and using it against the viewer. Imagine being trapped in a dark room with absolutely no light. And as you struggle to feel your way around...you notice that you're not alone.

Here, in no particular order, are 5 examples of horror films that utilize the Darkness brilliantly...

The Silence of the Lambs

Agent Starling trapped in the dark with Buffalo Bill.

The Silence of the Lambs  is a classic example of an insurmountable fear of the darkness. Agent Starling is rendered vulnerable as her antagonist, Buffalo Bill, has diabolical fun with her while being in complete control of his surroundings. The scene is perfectly acted and flawlessly directed. I just never cared for the gun-cocking bit.


Angela's final moments in darkness.

The final moments of [REC]  are completely excruciating and uncomfortable for the viewer, as our protagonist, Angela, is robbed of her sense of sight and replaced with an escalating feeling of fright. Scrambling to escape her surroundings, she finds that there is something else in the room with her. Something completely beyond her understanding. And it is coming for her.

The Blair Witch Project

Children playing in the dark.

The Blair Witch Project  has given us many terrifying moments, including this one where our three filmmakers/explorers are in the darkness of their tent...only to be awoken by children playing outside...in the dark woods. It is a harrowing experience as the three characters are bewildered by what is going on around them within the unknown of the darkness.

The Sentinel 

Old man in a dark room.

A scene we've watched dozens of times. A young, beautiful girl with a malfunctioning flashlight feeling around in the dark. In the 1977 film The Sentinel, the terror in that scene is amplified by what she finds in that eerie darkness. A gateway into something I'm sure she wasn't prepared for. Also...old people in the dark scare the fuck out of me! There should be a separate phobia devoted to old people in the dark!


Michael Myers materializes from the dark.

John Carpenter knows his way around subtle horror and his 1978 film Halloween  is a great example of balancing the malevolence of the darkness in which to mine some truly creepy scares from. If you scroll all the way to 1:26:00, you'll find Laurie Strode discovering the evil that her brother Michael Myers has left behind...until he makes himself known. The scene where he seemingly materializes from the darkness is a brilliant example of what we fear the most...the darkness coming to life in which to take our life.

What are some other films that use the Darkness effectively? Join in the discussion below and give us more examples of scary films that provoke a fear of the darkness. And join us next time for more Film Phobias!

Thanks for reading,