After a couple of okay episodes offering not a lot in the way of chills, we enter darker territory. For reasons no-one cares about, a lot of broken adults claim to be scared of clowns. In a world where spiders, crocodiles, giant freak show jellyfish, murderers – basically- in a world where Australia exists, clowns are of little consequence.
Regardless, clowns have always been a staple of horror fiction, from Falstaff to Pennywise, so it seems reasonable to feature murderous undead clowns in a children’s television show. Lets see what Lovefilm has to say about the episode:
‘Two 12-year old boys, Josh and Weegee, and Kathy, 10, come upon a spook house, “Laughing in the Dark”, at an amusement park. Even though it is rumored to be haunted by Zeebo the clown, Josh declares he will go through the spook house and bring out Zeebo’s nose as proof that he completed the mission. Josh soon discovers for himself the truth about the mysterious Zeebo’
The first point to note for the more nerdy types in my audience is how the episode starts –
Rather than opening with our campfire losers as usual, we start with the story first, panning around an Amusement Park and zooming into the maniacal face of a raving loon.
At this point we cut to the campfire where we learn that Kristen is freaked out by clowns which leads to considerable ribbing from the group. Kristen seems to be getting a lot of attention in these early episodes, maybe she will turn out to be a zombie FBI agent sent to infiltrate and eviscerate the gang for the safety of the nation.
After this brief interlude, we return to the story. Josh, Kathy, and Weegie (America) are exploring an Amusement Park and stumble upon a Funhouse which is supposedly haunted by a dead, cigar smoking criminal clown. Weegie and Kathy are too scared to enter so Josh dutifully mocks them until the sinister owner pops out to spook shit up further. And lo and behold, it’s our old friend Arun Tager from the pilot episode. He’s playing another weirdo, but this time he is more convincing and subtle – a Carney who’d sooner steal your kidneys than your money.
At this point I must ask my American readers – do you all have bizarre themed bedrooms, and no parents? Weegie appears to sleep in an ice-hockey rink, and after 3 episodes we’ve only seen 1 parent (Aunt Dottie) who was completely oblivious to the devious antics of her spawn. Anyway, after we are treated to the ice-rink bedroom, we are sweetened by a scene more cringeworthy than walking in on your decrepid geography teacher fiddling with himself in the supply cupboard. Josh chases Kathy out of her house in his mocking way in a scene that belongs in Hades rather than in anything human eyes should ever have to witness.
Luckily, everything else in the episode is of better quality. There is a fair amount of tension and atmosphere once Josh enters the funhouse, and this develops well for the duration of the episode as Zeebo stalks the teenager. The section where Josh is at home at night (parents absent) is particularly strong and may scare younger viewers.
One thing to mention is the different take on the arrogant teen trope; in the pilot, the arrogant teen does nothing but moan and punch empty air, while in the second, the arrogant teen is a ringleading tossbag
In both episodes, it is the younger, nicer character who saves the day, but here Josh has to resolve the situation himself, using his owns smarts and bravery.
I’ve always loved Amusement Parks and have always envied people in the US for having such a readily available supply. Where I’m from we don’t have many, if any, but we do have other ways of amusing ourselves –
Any Amusement Parks I visited in my youth consisted of insect infested candy floss (cotton candy), vomit swamped puddles, an as yet unaccounted for stench, tramps, and one of those virtual reality rocket ship rides which goes up, AND DOWN!
Any ghost train I’ve ever been on was a trip through darkness while hobos spat in my ear and cut-out cardboard skeletons tragically flopped forwards out of their cardboard box tombs. One particular ghost train consisted entirely of a man in plain clothes who wiggled the four rubber Witch fingers he was wearing at me – that was apparently enough to justify the £4 entrance fee. I never got near anything resembling a funhouse until I visited one in Scarborough in my early teens and loved every high budget second of it.
Maybe I am lenient on shows which feature funny mirrors, mazes, and other spooky family fun. We see a variety of these sorts of devices during the episode, including the final room of many doors, one of which is the exit, the others hiding toxic horrors
The scenes based in this room could have had a few jump scares, but instead they focus on lingering tension.
I have to say that I don’t remember ever seeing this episode, and I should add that it is the best out of the three I’ve reviewed so far. The series is getting better and hopefully this trend will continue. As always, I will conclude with a few comments on the cast. As already mentioned, Tager returns and does a good job in a couple of short scenes. He isn’t over the top, and is balanced enough that we are 50/50 on whether he’s involved with the evil clown, or just playing the part of a creepy carny. Christian Tessier, who plays Josh, has the most impressive resume of any guest star we’ve seen so far. Admittedly that isn’t saying a lot, but Tessier has been a consistent performer since his debut. Indeed, since 1988 there are only 2 years that don’t feature a credit to his name – 1997 and 2009. He has been an important fixture in many series – You Can’t Do That On Television, The Tomorrow People, and Battlestar Galactica to name a few. He can also claim some pretty big films to his fame – The A Team, The Day After Tomorrow, and Underworld: Awakening. Weegie, played by Daniel Finestone, only has 1 other credit to his name, appearing in a few episodes of the animated series For Better Or Worse, while Tamar Koslov (Kathy) has made a career out of voice work for the animated series Arthur, as well as popping up in a few small movies.
Next time round the campfire we’ll be facing a trio of spooky delights with Halloween, Witches, and wish-granting amputated limbs. Night night.
Ready for more terror? Here: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-twisted-claw/