Afraid of the Dark: Mark Peploe Directs from Script, Co-penned by Bertolucci

Unlike most thrillers that aim at exciting our basic instincts, Mark Peploe’s Afraid of the Dark targets the mind and the eyes.

Unfortunately, judged by those terms, the movie is more effective visually than intellectually; I will not be surprised if some viewers criticize the picture as pretentious and overreaching.

Thematically, this film, a British-French co-production, is about the nature of vision, or seeing. How and why we see things the way we do, and how, under some bizarre conditions, those ways of seeing can turn into unexplainable manifestation of aggression, insanity, crime and even murder.

Which brings to me to the film’s title, which is much more accurate in its French version, “Double Vue” (“Double Vision”). Perhaps American distributor Fine Line was concerned that the French title might sound in English as an actioner.

The offbeat psychological suspenser centers on a bright kid named Lucas (Ben Keyworth), who’s blessed with an overly vivid imagination and lives with his father cop (James Fox) and blind mother (French actress Fanny Ardant). Lucas is afraid that his mother will become a victim to a psychopath who’s terrorizing London with a series of razor attacks on blind women.

Mark Peploe, who co-wrote scripts with Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor”) and is the brother of Claire Peploe (Bertolucci’s wife) has been wanting to direct a film for some time, but he might have chosen the wrong material for his debut.

Cerebral thrillers with strong Freudian overtones trying to delve into the inner working os the mind, such as “Afraid of the Dark,” are tough to pull off without becomning too ponderous.

Indeed, “Afraid of the Dark” comes across as a ponderous (borderline pretentious) European art film. Nonetheless, considering its limited budget, the movie has elegant production values courtesy of Bruno De Keyser’s sharp imagery and Scott Thomas’s editing.


Lucas (Ben Keyworth)
Frank (James Fox)
Miriam (Fanny Ardant)
Rose (Clare Holman)


Running time: 92 minutes

Distributor: Fine Line Features
Director-writer: Mark Peploe
Producer: Simon Bosanquet
Camera: Bruno De Keyzer
Editing: Scott Thomas
Costumes: Louise Stjernsward
Music: Jason Osborn
Production Design: Caroline Amies