Present for the Don't be Afraid of the Dark panel are director Troy Nixey and Guillermo del Toro who produced and co-wrote the film.
Del Toro talked about the original film, which was a movie that scared the heck out of him as a child, and he's wanted to make this film for a while. Make it contemporary but don't touch what made it work. They showed the trailer for the film, which honestly was pretty damned scary. It opens with a black screen and just the creepiest whispering voice I've ever heard saying there's no reason to be afraid of the dark. A lot of quick cuts of people being terrified and it ends with a little girl crawling under the covers - so you know she's going to find something at the end of her bed, and BAM! there it is for a split second: some gnarly, pale looking creature.
Del Toro encourage filmmakers to send him scripts and videos - he said it may take a while but he WILL get back to you.
He also said they shot for a PG-13 by avoiding sexual content and language, but the MPAA came back and gave the film an R to pervasive scariness. Instead of being angry, Del Toro took that as a badge of honor and was quite pleased. When he asked if anything could be done, they asked him why would he want to water down such a perfectly good horror film? He dropped a lot of f-bomb (said if there are still any kids in here, it's too late) and he went on to say: "Horror has to have balls and those balls have to be sweaty and wrinkled."
They also showed the prologue opening of the film, which takes place in Victorian era 1819. The scene was very rich, visually and effectively dark and scary. His goal was to just make a genuinely scary, scary film.
He will be working with HBO to make a horror story anthology for cable that doesn't depend on gore, but will still be truly scary. He said he grew up with Night Gallery and there isn't really anything like that on television right now.
He's about to announce a horror film very soon which he will direct that he's really looking forward to doing. He's really into making really, intense, truly scary movies - nothing half way.
He said that if you bring something creative to a remake, it's OK to do it. If it comes from a marketing decision, it's f-ed up. He said a problem with remakes is they're bigger budget than the foreign films they've based on, so they have to be "safer." With the original films, they're low budget so there's not as much of an investment and they can take more chances with the story and presentation.
According to Del Toro, the reason a lot of movies are so awful is fear - the fear of pushing the envelope or doing something different because the movie might not do as well.
Regarding The Hobbit, he had over 90 % of the first film designed and 50% of the second film. He hopes Peter Jackson does it and does it soon because he's eager to see it done.
Don't be Afraid of the Dark opens on January 21, 2011.