Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Twisted Claw

After a run of good episodes it seems like we are getting into the swing of things. This episode is a retelling of the classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ archetype and is spiced up by being set at Halloween time. I spouted a bit in my last post about my love of spook houses and the like, so it only seems fair that I share my love for Halloween this time. You see, most of my readers, or ‘glancers’, as I prefer to call you, are from the US. Now, you guys know how to ‘do’ Halloween in the same way that we know how to ‘do’ stupidity

This one left school before he learned how to dress himself
This one left school before he learned how to dress himself

It’s always been one of the things I’ve been most jealous of. Being a fan of all things Halloween from an early age, Halloween was  the only time of the year when I felt part of something in a festive way, what with all the scary movies on TV, plotting plans for the night with friends, and hanging around in the dark. It’s just not that big over here, and depressingly less so each year. Here, fireworks (or firecrackers for my US Glancers), which I used to buy or make myself, are seen in the same light as Holy Water Shots would be seen at a Vampire Disco


Apparently because guns and bombs are a daily fact of life here, using fireworks is an incitement of War. Long gone are the cackling nights of glee as my friends and I broke the sticks off bottle rockets before lighting and chucking at each other; the smell of ash on my thumbs from self-made match/caps bangers (which occasionally exploded in my hands whilst making them) lingers no more. Kids don’t trick or treat for fear of every neighbour being a paedophile, and there are NO Halloween related shows on TV; a once respected and loved event has lost its way and become forgotten like a frantically plucked-off condom under a bed.

Which no one would dare try to retrieve
Which no one would dare try to retrieve

So basically, I always get excited when I see Halloween being given proper, reverential treatment, whether it be a Treehouse Of Horror episode, an Are You Afraid Of The Dark episode, or a news report of invisible Mummies being spotted running away from a blob-like zombie werewolf.

'Bringing a fresh twist to truth'
Focks – ‘Bringing a fresh twist to truth’

With this in mind, I was pleased to see some Halloween fun in this episode, though it was restricted to bogroll chucking, shaving foam car attacks, and costumed trick or/and treating. If I have a point (and I never do) it’s that the show is really trying to tap into the spirit of youth, without being childish or disrespectful. In that way, it’s disappointing that we get a break in the episode for a completely unnecessary scene where The midnight Society members explain what is happening in the story as if it wasn’t plainly obvious (‘so, they each made a wish, and SOMETHING BAD SOMETHING SSHNUMTHANG!’)

Lovefilm tells us this about the show: ‘At Halloween, Kevin and Dougie decide they will break with the tradition and visit the scary house of Miss Clove, known to everyone as the Witch. Instead of the usual candies they are expecting, Miss Clove has a special treat for these daring young boys… an ugly, Twisted Claw. Although the Claw is supposed to grant the boys’ wishes, they find this evil Claw brings them more than they anticipate’

The story is fine and thankfully doesn’t force any moral on us as would be tempting for a kids show, and the acting by the two young leads is good. And shock of shocks, Jason Tremblay, who regular glancers may well remember as being terrible in the first episode, and ridiculed in my first review, pops up here as a seemingly popular school pupil who Kevin has always wanted to beat in a race. To be fair to Tremblay, he’s fine until he opens his mouth. His role consists of smiling, running, falling over, being attacked by a ghost mutt, and then reacting to the rapturous pain which comes from falling over on grass mid-jog. He is meant to be injured seriously enough for an ambulance to be called (?) but fails to convince anyone of this by gently caressing his shin and cooing that ‘it hurts’. I was more convinced by Rivaldo in The World Cup when he went down in a heap clutching his face after someone gently lobbed a ball towards his waist.

A nation sighs with pride
A nation sighs with pride

Enough with the negatives. We get another unique intro to this episode, starting in the midst of one story (which ends on a cliffhanger as Eric doesn’t know how to end the story). Maybe the writers were brimming with ideas at this point that they threw this tidbit in for fun, or maybe the main story was too short and needed padding. Either way, we get to see a little more of our campfire losers.

We see one of our favourite tropes again – the tough guy, sensible guy dynamic, though it isn’t as forced as before. I was preparing for another round of absentee parents, but both mum and dad appear here. It is worth noting that when there is trouble, Dougie wishes for his Granda rather than his parents. The parents don’t do much, but dad does get the funniest moment so far in the series  – he walks into the house at the end of the episode, casually sees Kevin hiding under a coffee table, nonchalantly says ‘hi Kevin’ and walks on like it was the most normal thing in the world.

The parents are also involved in one of the episode’s missed opportunities; the kids inadvertently wish misfortune upon Dougie’s parents and immediately he gets a call from the police to say there has been an accident. Dougie hangs up in a panic just short of letting us hear that his parents are dead. Ghost parents and children are fine in a kids TV show, but a character actually dying is a big no-no. What could have been a truly memorable, frightening moment is frittered away, but of course Nickelodeon never would have let such a scene see the light of day.

In another missed opportunity involving Grandpa, there is no excuse for not going for the jugular. After apparently raising Granda from the dead, he pulls up in his car, but that’s it. There’s a scene just before Granda’s car pulls up where one of the kids is standing beside the living room window – this was just crying out for a moment similar to the episode of BTVS where Dawn resurrects her mum; a creepy, zombie shadow could have lumbered past the window leaving the pair a screaming mess. It would have made for a much more tense finish with the boys frantically looking for a way out while zombie Granda tries to break the door down.

I didn’t remember this episode, which means that I either never saw it or that it didn’t leave much of an impact on me. The Midnight Society seemed genuinely shocked and impressed by it though. It was another decent episode with another tough/normal dynamic, and may be something entertaining to show your kids next Halloween.

True horror always has a face. And it's always this one
Because they’re probably not ready for real horror

Before I sign off, let’s have a glance at the careers of those involved. Lets start with the kids – Dougle, played by Noah Plener. With only 11 acting credits to his name, including a few guest spots on series such as Mutant X and Tales From The Cryptkeeper his biggest role was as Frankie Ramone in the series Ready Or Not. He’ll pop up again in AYAOTD later. Kevin is played by Maxwell Medeiros and as far as I can tell it is the only thing he has ever done. Ann Page, who plays Miss Clove had been around much longer, but only has a handful of credits in TV Movies and minor shows. Dougie’s mum, played by Linda Smith has had a longer career, but again mostly appearing in TV movies I haven’t heard of, although she does shoe up in The Beastmaster, while Dougie’s dad (Paul Stewart) has had a similar career but has made the transition to a few bigger name films like The Art Of War and Affliction. Finally, the most illustrious career goes to Gordon Marsten as the coach, an actor with close to a hundred credits, in films like Source Code, The Day After Tomorrow, Gorillas In The Mist and providing voice work in classic like Swamp Thing, Captain N, and, um, Garbage Pail Kids.

In our next episode, it’s one I do recall – we’ll be begging at the table for Pedigree Chum in ‘The Tale Of The Hungry Hound’:

Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams

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