Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of Jake And the Leprechaun


Greetings, glancers – or should I say ‘Top of the morning to ye, ya blarney kissin’, spud cuddlin’ paddy’. No, I probably shouldn’t say that. I am of the Irish persuasion though, not via the good old ‘my grandfather’s cousin’s sister’s brother is from Cork’ but via the fact that I was born in, and currently live there. Not Cork, not even the South, but the war-torn, dreaded frozen North.

This place

So, if I was patriotic in any way or, you know, a dick, I could claim to have some sort of affinity with this episode. But I’m not, won’t, and don’t. Enough of the confusing half sense half sentences, lets see what the episode blurb tells us:

Jake, a young actor, has landed the lead role in ‘Will O’ The Wisp’, in which his character is slowed turned into a lepreachaun. Errin, the director and actor playing the leprechaun, seems to take an intense interest in Jake. A new-found friend, Sean, reveals to Jake that the events in the play are coming true! In the final performance the audience is in for the show of their lives.

Our first meta episode it seems. We have an odd, emotional opening where Frank’s story is replaced by one by Eric. Eric’s grandfather has died, and Eric explains how he was from Ireland and always used to tell stories from his homeland. This scene gives a chance for the cast to show their acting chops, sharing a different vibe than they usually do – they all do a pretty good job (though the attempts at accents are pretty bad). Worse though is the Leprechaun hat Eric whips out. Now, I’m not an expert but that ain’t no Leprechaun hat. Have these people never seen a Paddy’s Day parade? Have they never been to an Irish town, city or airport? It’s impossible to go any tourist spot on this island without being bombarded by garish greens and fluffy top hats.

Not even our toilets are safe

Our story begins with a campy Peter Pan/Robin Hood style fight. This is the story within the story. We’re introduced to a lecherous old Irish man (little girl, you should watch yourself around that one) who seems to be the main actor/director of some sort of play. Jake is our hero, a kid who wants to be an actor but it having severe doubts over his own abilities. So far, everyone watching is sharing those doubts. With zero warning we are suddenly in a different scene making it difficult to understand if this is part of the story within the story, just the main story, or some sort of hallucination – has Jake fallen asleep or been transported into a parallel universe?

Here Jake meets Sean O’Shaney (of course) who appears to be some sort of mystical… gardener? I don’t know, but he sells drugs and cabbages and crap and Jake wants to buy a specific list of ingredients for Erin – the director. Again we get a series of weird cuts and transitions to further blur the line between fantasy and reality, and somewhere along the line there is a creepy voice saying it wants the boy’s soul. Sean recognises that the ingredients have the potential for evil when used together and tries to save Jake. Because he’s nice?

Aside from the uncertainty between fantasy and reality, there is an unsettling and unfortunate peado vibe, especially in the scenes where Erin is trying to encourage and sooth Jake. And ‘erbs? What the hell is ‘erbs? There’s an ‘H’ in the word, boy – use it! In case anyone is confused by this point in the episode, Jake handily explains the plot for us just in time for him to unleash a ‘ilarious ‘ome Alone scream, just like Macualay O’Culkin. Up to this point everything has happened with an unusual speed, little or no actual plot, instead a series of loosely connected scenes. We finally get a little bit of tension as Jake and Sean creep into Errin’s room, but this is offset but Errin’s ‘ilarious exit when the fire alarm is set off. I mean, he just gets up and runs right past the alarm and out the door even though there isn’t a trace of smoke or fire in the enclosed space. Why didn’t he have a quick look around and turn it off? Why does it look like someone has stapled 12 wigs to his back? I thought Banshees were women who foretold death?

Beer. Beer does this.

We make it to the final showdown where again there is a fair bit of tension. It’s a bit of a risky plan turning a child into a leprechaun during a live performance in front of his (never seen) friends and family. This all builds up to an action packed ending, even with the bizarre panning shots of the crowd. I can see why this scene would creep plenty of kids out, but it seems too little too late. More hilarious cuts and shots follow (no idea why the audience haven’t totally freaked out by now) but it’s overall a poorly executed story, rushed and filled with too much junk, disappointing all the more because of the emotional intro.

Before we part, lets take a look at the cast who made up this missed opportunity. Benjamin Plener stars as young Jake, by and large giving a decent performance. Quite a prominent child actor and voice actor in his teens, Plener vanished off the radar in 2004 and doesn’t have any further credits to his name. Aside from voicing in Sailor Moon and appearing as part of the ensemble of hit show Ready Or Not, he appears in a later AYAOTD episode and three episodes of rival shows Goosebumps. Falling off the radar in more conclusive, and tragic fashion are the other two leads – John Dunn-Hill as Erin and David Steinberg as Sean. Hill died just months ago after a career spanning six decades where he appeared in many TV series and popped up in the odd blockbuster – you may know him from Secret Window, Omerta, or Z-Cars. Steinberg passed away in 2010 after appearing memorably in Willow and guesting on shows such as Ugly Betty and Zoey 101. Two other actors get a credit here – Jennifer Seguin as Lucy (who I assume was the girl that Erin was creeping on) and Frayne McCarthy as Carl, who I don’t remember at all. McCarthy has appeared in a number of TV movies and shorts over the years while Seguin has over 50 screen credits as actor and voice actor in TV, movies, and videogames like Mona The Vampire, the voice of the Animus in Assassin’s Creed and Caillou as well as popping up in a later AYAOTD episode.

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:

Nightly Neighbours     Captured Soul     Prom Queen     Hungry Hounds

Twisted Claw     Lonely Ghost     Laughing Dark    Phantom Cab     Dark Music

Next time up we’ll be living every teenage boy’s dream as we slap on a pair of X Ray Specs and head to town in The Tale Of The Super Specs. Sweet Dreams!



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