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SDCC 2011: 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark' and 'Drive' Thrill at FilmDistrict Panel

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Jul 21, 2011 | 9:28pm EDT

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Ryan Gosling

FilmDistrict is responsible for two blood-pumping, highly-anticipated flicks this year: the Guillermo Del Toro written/produced horror-thriller Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and the action-packed race-for-your-life film aptly titled Drive. Del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark stars Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce in a supernatural story involving a family of ghosts that haunts the new home of Holmes' father and his new girlfriend. The high-stakes action-thriller Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, will find stars Ryan Gosling and Christina Hendricks speeding away from (and, likely, into more) danger after a heist-gone-awry results in a contract on Gosling's head. Both of these FilmDistrict productions brought exclusive footage to the Con and left us with a few answers about the films.

With Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, del Toro, director Troy Nixey and their cast bring an old-school, visceral horror story to life. The footage presented solidified that, combining scenes previously seen in the trailer for the flick with extended sequences that ramped up the terror. We got closer looks at the creatures through not only footage, but concept art and 3D model images of the creepy crawlers. Though terribly frightening, they are only about 3-4 ft. tall, but what they lack in size they make up in ferocity. With bloody red, protruding eyes and awkward boney body structures, they will certainly be amongst the more memorable movie monsters of 2011. Pearce and co. will have to face scores of them in their new home and the challenge will certainly be great.

Nicholas Winding Refn brought significantly more to the table, as audiences outside of Cannes haven't seen much of his first American film to date. We got to see the first trailer, which delivered story and thrills in equal measure. It showed quite clearly that this is a throwback to some of the violent films of the 70s and will be a bloody good time for all who are game. Albert Brooks' turn as a villain may well be one of the biggest surprises in cinema this year, while Ron Perlman promises to deliver one hell of a baddie as well. In addition to the trailer, we saw a scene in which Gosling and Carey Mulligan embrace one another in a passionate kiss in an elevator as a shady character (sharing the elevator with them) prepares to attack. Gosling's stunt driver makes short work of him though, first smashing his face into the side of the metal box before stomping on his face repeatedly, effectively turning it into mush. It was incredibly violent and, like all the footage presented in the trailer, brings to mind vintage Scorsese in the best possible way. Though he referred to it as an urban fairy tale of sorts (because of the character's archetypal traits and relationships to one another as well as how they all fit into the plot), this is an American gangster pic shot in a distinctly European style; something fresh for hungry cinephiles.

Though the footage screened was great, what I enjoyed most about this panel was its unorthodox style. Del Toro and Refn practically interviewed each other about their respective films and it resulted in some great quotes about their films, careers and methods that I'd love to share with you:

Del Toro on Refn: "I’m a huge admirer of Refn. His work is a combination of the cerebral and the emotional.”

Refn on filmmaking: "Directing is easy. It’s just inspiring everyone else to do their best and then putting your name on it."

Carey Mulligan on how she became involved with Drive: "I head seen Bronson and I watched Valhalla Rising and I emailed my agent and said I just want to work with someone like Nicholas. I went to his house and muscled my way in."

Del Toro on the Hollywood system: “The politics and power struggle of filmmaking in the US is strong, but it's an adventure worth having.”

Del Toro on the R-rating of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: "The MPAA is right actually. There are brutal moments in this film."

Ron Perlman on who he'd like to fight if could fight anyone throughout world history: "Dick Cheney"

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark hits theaters August 26 and Drive races onto screens September 16.

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