"It's a great, unique and frightening movie," says Berney, who is delighted to be working again with Del Toro and plans to attach the Don't Be Afraid of the Dark teaser trailer (below) to the company's first release with Sony, James Wan's Toronto Midnight horror hit Insidious, starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. FilmDistrict is marketing Sony's female empowerment biopic Soul Surfer (April 8), whose trailer just debuted with Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark goes wide August 12, and Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Cary Mulligan, goes out September 16.
Industry observers had expected FilmDistrict to acquire more titles at Sundance. While Berney admired many of the films, especially Lionsgate acquisition Devil's Double, which featured Dominic Cooper in a breakout role, nothing was "wide-release material," he said. "It was great to cover it all and look at new filmmakers and actors." FilmDistrict is checking out the plethora of pre-buy possibilities as a large number of projects assemble necessary backing and release commitments before heading into production.
Produced by Del Toro and Mark Johnson, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake of a terrifying 1973 TV movie of the same name that Del Toro chased down rights to and developed over many years, trying to hang on to freedom from studio interference. He co-wrote the script with Matthew Robbins and hired animator-turned-director Troy Nixey, who had sent him a short to see. The film stars Katie Holmes as a young woman who moves with her boyfriend (Guy Pearce) and his daughter (Bailee Madison) to restore a 19th century mansion which has a very nasty underground surprise.
Del Toro encourages artists to send him things to look at—shorts or art work—as opposed to scripts, which he often doesn’t read. At Comic-Con, he talked about the genre of horror mythology this story comes from, like changelings: this one features an ash pit in a dark basement full of nasty creatures who try to pull people down into their world. One startling image haunts me: a young girl crawls under a sheet to see what’s moving--and a hideous head pops into the frame. Scary.