Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost

Should ghosts really be lonely? Think of all the perverted things they could be getting up to

After a shaky first episode, I was apprehensive about the next one; if this was dodgy too I’d probably give up on the series

Although some of us are addicted to punishment
Although some of us are addicted to punishment

For this to succeed, the acting needed to be greatly improved and there had to be an interesting story. This one again focussed on ghosts, but featured two female leads. Lets see what lovefilm has to say about the episode:

Everybody is psyched about summer vacation except Amanda Cameron, because she has to spend the entire summer with her obnoxious cousin, Beth. Amanda is willing to do anything to join Beth and her group of friends, including the initiation: Amanda must sleep all night in the haunted house across the street. Even though Amanda does not believe in ghosts, what she finds in the house changes the past and the future. She might be able to change her fate for the summer after all…

From reading that, I had vague recollections of a girly, ghostly attic, but I must have been thinking of another episode. After watching this, none of it sparked any memories so it’s possible I’d never seen it. The story was fine; girl goes to stay with her annoying cousin who wants nothing to do with her, cousin tasks girl with staying in a haunted house, cousin gets comeuppance. I was half prepared for a silly conciliatory ending where both girls learn to respect and love each other, but luckily things don’t go that way. The episode goes for the more honest approach of ‘once a twat, always a twat’

The episode does have a few missed opportunities though which would have made it more memorable, and perhaps powerful. Firstly, why didn’t cousin Beth and her cadre pull any stunts on Amanda when she was in the haunted house? Did Beth know it actually was haunted? Did she think Amanda suffered from some deep-seated psychological trauma and that a night in a new house would cause an immense shitstorm freakoutorama? No, they leave Amanda to her own devices, and she would have spent an easy, uneventful night in peace had it not been for the pesky appearance of a meddling ghost.

Secondly, the episode does a good job of building tension but the pay-off isn’t worthy. Amanda finally comes into contact with a spooky little girl ghost, she screams, cowers in the corner, and covers her eyes knowing that she’s seen something unspeakably awful.

When she looks, the girl is so tragic that Amanda takes pity on her and tries to help. They could have still followed the story in this way, but went for a big scare too; Amanda pulls away her hands and for a second we see that the room is empty. With the camera close on her face she begins to get up, but suddenly the ghost girl’s head pops into view from the side and we all scream. It may not have fit with the ghost’s desires, and it may have been an obvious, telegraphed scare, but it would have worked damn it.

The general tone of the episode is much improved over the Hilton-esque (bland, messed-up, sweaty in all the wrong places) ways of the pilot. I’m glad to say the cast is much better too. Laura Bertram, who plays Amanda, is a fine young lead, and just about balances the sensitivity and strength required without becoming too whiney or stupidly empowered. Laura Levin (Beth), on the other hand, is like Buzz Crocker all over again. Told that she has to be the grumpy, spoilt, bad-tempered, bossy cousin, she snarls inanely, pouts in an over-the-top fashion, and generally shows no tact or restraint. It’s not quite the unholy mess of the previous episode, but it’s not far away.

Jennie Levesque, who plays The Lonely Ghost, has little to do but is creepy when she needs to be, sympathetic when called to be, and overjoyed when reunited with her mother. The mother, or nanny, played by Sheena Larkin, gives the strongest performance, standing out as someone I’d like to see more of. Again it’s a small role with only a few lines, but she makes every second count. I’m used to well acted bit parts in similar shows such as the wonderful Eerie, Indiana and Larkin has given me hope that this series will deliver.

The final point to make on this episode concerns the wraparound. Yes, a couple of Midnight Society members get a little character growth of their own. It begins and ends with a tender, young teen romance moment with Dave offering Kristen a gift (not of the mouth variety). We have to wait until the end of the story to see her open it. Could there be love brewing in our little group of losers? I’m interested to see if this progresses and what else is in store for the rest of our group.

Before I douse the flames of today’s blog with the water of closing my Kindle, let’s have a glance at the careers of the guest stars. Laura Bertram played Amanda and is the only recognizable name on the roster, having already starred in such popular series as Ready Or Not and Andromeda. On the other end of the scale is Laura Levin as Beth. Levin is to acting what poverty is to a Wall Street Banker, so it’s hardly surprising that she only has a few more minor credits to her name (including a few episodes of Ready Or Not). Pauline Little as Aunt Dottie has had a long career in minor TV movies and series and has lent her voice to some classic cartoons like Sharky And George and Samurai Pizza Cats while Jennie Levesque as The Ghost has only shown up in a few roles in minor series and small movies. Sheena Larkin, as Nanny (who I’ve just found out hails from my very own Belfast – I normally hate people from here on the big screen (due to a crippling lack of talent)), has made appearances in the odd blockbuster such as The Sum Of All Fears and Affliction. Her mainstay though is in smaller movies, although she does pop up in the Are You Afraid Of The Dark movie.

Overall, this was a large improvement over the pilot and I have hope that this improvement will continue as the series progresses. Our next episode deals with one of those misunderstood painted freaks, The Clown. Sleep tight.

Thirsty for more? Look at this:

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