Greetings, Glancers. Now that Amazon are imminently going to hike their ‘DVD by Post’ prices, it may be time for me to cancel my subscription. As it’s a devious turn by them I may also cancel my streaming subscription, which means no more (legal) access to AYAOTD. And that means no more posts in this series, unless Netflix picks up the show. Then again, I can probably find most of the episodes on Youtube. My first post about AYAOTD was three years ago and I’ve only covered a few episodes since then, so I should have no complaints, but I’ll try to watch another bunch and get my thoughts down before I cancel my subscription.
Today’s episode features some of my favourite things – horror, obviously, and heavy metal. Lets take a look at the blurb:
Andy Carr and his family have just moved into their uncle’s old house, which they inherited. While helping his mum unpack, he descends into the creepy basement where he hears strange noises. Although his sister accuses him of being afraid of the dark, it is actually the Dark Music which makes his worst nightmares come true.
As soon as I read the blurb I thought the Dark Music was going to be some sort or experimental rumbling (the sort of which I make on my exceptionally worthless Youtube channel: Sorry) or generic heavy metal. I was right. But before we get there, the episode opens with the usual banter, this time focussing on hard lad Frank freaking out with Eric for leaving him to trudge through the forest in the middle of the night by himself. It’s that old trope that every tough guy character has a hidden, silly fear – it’s why there’s so little crime, war, hate in the world because behind every hard ass is a little sissy. While all this is fun and games, should kids really be wandering through woods in the dark by themselves? I know I did, so we’ll let it slide. It turns out that Frank is afraid of the dark, finally answering the question posed by the show’s title. Coincidentally, our protagonist Andy (a normal name, way to go America!) is also afraid of the no-light. In the spoken intro he seems like a good kid on hard times, with divorced parents (possibly absent – nope, there’s one hiding behind some boxes) and other assorted bad luck. However it looks like it has all turned out for the best as an uncle has died and left them a large suburban house. Everybody wins!
Andy crashes into the neighbourhood bully – you can tell he’s scary and bad because he wears skull t-shirts, has long hair, and loud guitars screech any time he appears on screen. I never grew up in America, but in my experience metal kids were the outcasts or the people who simply didn’t care what others were doing or thinking, and had no interest in interfering with them. I should know as I was one. I don’t think I ever met a bully or tough guy who knew anything about metal, and in my limited experience the bullies I saw were all entitled or naturally large or clearly had something not quite right with their brains. Anyway, he seems to be pissed because Andy and his family have moved next door and are related to someone he is happy has died. Maybe the uncle was creepy, or smelly, or an ISIS.
Speaking of vagaries, neither Andy nor his mother actually knew this uncle. Andy never met him and his mum last saw him when she was a child. So why would he leave his home to them? Were they his only remaining relatives? We get a brief look at Andy’s annoying sister and confirm that the acting in this episode isn’t great. The scene in the basement is creepy enough, moody, dark, quiet, and we get an old timey radio and half expect Orson Welles to come booming from it. When Andy finds a radio station with metal (is this the Dark Music?) a creepy locked door opens behind him and the least threatening voice ever wafts out from beneath two glowing red eyes. If a murderer had his blade to your baby’s throat and began to speak in that voice, you would kind calmly remove the blade from his grasp, take back the child, and usher him softly out of the house lest his face feel the wrath of your bruising slaps whose force would be greatly diminished by your giggles.
So not only does the uncle leave his home to relations he didn’t know, but he leaves them a Haunted House? That’s kind of a dick move. Did Andy’s mum (or her parents) perform some slight against the uncle that we’re not aware of. I’d only give a haunted house to my enemy. Also, Uncle Niles? Did we hear anyone say his name was Niles before the Campfire Interlude? Are people actually called Niles? Is this him?
Frank has done a runner from the rest of the campfire group, possibly to return in the form of a jump scare. Back with Andy, Christine, and oblivious Mom and we get an interesting scene of Andy inexplicably throwing his newspaper at the bully metal neighbour. I don’t think anyone would have that much on their mind that they would completely miss their personal bully sitting on the doorstep of the house they were delivering a newspaper to, but hey ho. At least we find out that the bully’s dad is Hulk Hogan, which probably explains one or two things.
The kid playing Andy looks familiar, like an unbegotten twin of Nick Stahl. Another question – how did Andy get a paper round job when it looks like he moved in to the house the same day he was doing the job? Anyway, we get some more information on Uncle Niles – he miraculously became wealthy but was never popular with anyone due to his oddness. During this delightful reminiscence we see Andy’s less than incredible talent for art, and Christine’s bizarre girl gamer skills. That ain’t no Xbox she’s playing either. I have no idea what she’s doing with that game pad, but she doesn’t appear to be pressing any buttons and instead wringing it between her hands. This is followed by another basement scene with some truly epic guitar. It takes an exceedingly creepy turn though thanks to the appearance of a talking doll who wants Andy to come play with him. Experience teaches us that all talking dolls must be burned on sight.
It seems that for some reason music is causing, or otherwise linked to, spooky goings on in the basement and to the episode’s credit these scenes are generally very well done. Certainly a younger kid will be scared by these and even the target audience of the show should have felt some chills by the weirdo circus man/skeletor jump scare. I’m not sure what the message here is – music is evil? Andy works it out, gets fisted by the bully, and decides to take revenge by locking the bully in the basement. I’m not sure what the message here is – kill all bullies? Also, if I was in a basement and someone cranked up the metal I’d probably just start headbanging, not scream and run around terrified. At least not before the monsters came from the scary room.
We finally get a Hellraiser-esque resolution and a spontaneous dark ending (followed immediately by a kid friendly cop-out) before returning to the wraparound where Eric is left by the dying campfire, alone in the dark. FRANK JUMPSCARE!
It’s an unusual episode in that it raises a lot of questions of which few are answered, it’s morally ambiguous for a kid’s show, and it tries to pack too much into the early stages without actually advancing the plot. It should really have been characters-spooky house-spooky things happen and get worse-we find out why-ending, instead of all the other crap. Having said that, it does the few basement scenes well, but needed to spend more time focussing on those and found a way to deal with the plot without the need for an annoying sister and neighbour.
As always, we end with a look at what the episode’s performers have been up to. Graham Selkirk is okay as Andy – I’d said before that the acting was poor in this episode and it mostly is. But everyone does their job with minimal fuss and without too much embarrassment. Selkirk’s performance here seems to be the only credit to his name. I often wonder what happens to these kids who presumably go through a gruelling, possibly luck-based vetting and audition process, to finally earn a spot, and then vanish from the face of the business without another single performance. The sister makes her second AYAOTD dark appearance, though here she is mostly invisible, ironic as her first appearance was as the Ghost in The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost. I remember she did well in that episode, and here she is convincingly annoying. She only has a few more unremarkable TV credits to her name. Rounding off the family is Kathryn Graves, whose appearance as the mother is her sole credit. I’m beginning to think the director simply picked random people off the street for this episode. Or maybe he was their uncle.
Leif Anderson plays the bully, Koda (America) and has had plenty of work on a variety of TV shows and movies – nothing major, but has appeared in the likes of Storm Of The Century, I’m Not There, and On The Road. Ian MacDonald, as Koda’s dad has likewise had sporadic appearances in minor films which I’ve never heard of and the final two performers Fofi Tsatas and AJ Henderson as the Doll and the Circus Man respectively are polar opposites – Fofi has no more credits while AJ is a respected voice actor appearing in many series including The Mysterious Cities Of Gold, Young Robin Hood, Arthur and an upcoming episode of AYAOTD.
Let us know what you thought of this episode in the comments, and don’t forget to check my other AYAOTD reviews elsewhere on the site:
Next time around we’ll be making a mockery of my pseudo-heritage in The Tale Of Jake And The Leprechaun. Sweet Dreams!