Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Pinball Wizard

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Greetings, Glancers! Since the series disappeared from Amazon Prime, I haven’t bothered trying to catch up on any more episodes. I see on the stats though that the old posts get a few views every so often so it’s time to kick off my ‘hilarious’ reviews once more. Looking at the title and the synposis, I have no memory of this episode. Does it feature a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball? I sure hope so. About that synopsis though:

Ross is a latchkey kid and spends his time after school playing pinball at the mall. Mr Ohlsen, manager of the arcade, leaves him there alone and warns him not to play the ‘Mystery Machine’. Temptation gets the best of Ross and he plays it anyway. He becomes absorbed in the game, loses track of time, and soon finds that he is locked inside the mall.

You see, this is promising. Malls and horror go hand in hand like zombies and chopper blades. And to that the fact (as I’ve probably mentioned here before) that I’ve always loved the idea of being trapped in a mall overnight – as a kid it was one of my dreams. It still kind of is. American Malls, I should add, are a hell of a lot different from the crap we have over here.

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All these are dead

While you have fountains and playing areas and multi-levels and hundreds of stores, all I had growing up was a large supermarket (or one on either end) with a few minor stores dotted around it. Everything would be on a single level, and instead of fountains we had tramps pissing in the corner. My favourite destinations were the Toy Store, naturally, and the doughnut joint where you could watch the doughnuts being made, splatting into the fryer, travelling up the belt, and being covered in sugar. For a while there things got better, with higher quality shops and better options – now though it’s just pound (dollar) shops and pointless clothes places. Who buys clothes, seriously?

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I rarely do

Regardless, who wouldn’t want to be stuck in a mall overnight. Ignoring being caught by the authorities, think of all the awesome antics you could get up to and all the food you could devour. If there was an arcade, of course you’d have to spend some time there. Which takes us back to the episode. We open as we generally do, with the campfire weirdos prepping for another night of just-pubescent terror. David is playing on his Gameboy (90s, yo) while Betty Anne watches, until Eric turns the game off. Shockingly, David does not use the Gameboy as truncheon to sprinkle shards of Eric’s skull into the fire. Fake Rufio (Frank), Kirsten, and Kiki all discuss videogames for a few moments until Gary shows up to tell his tale, reminding the viewer that in real life we can’t simply hit the reset button when shit goes south. And so, our Tale begins.

We get some nice opening shots of the mall which make 90s me jealous and angry about not living in America. Does anyone know what Mall this is and if it has appeared in any other media? It looks familiar. Ross is our (anti?) hero, hunting for quarters and dimes in the mall’s fountains and he is accosted by what appears to be a homeless person wrapped in luxury bedding. After being interrupted by an indoor-shades-wearing security chump, while sinister thumpy piano music plays, Ross checks out a super-soaker with two giant bronze dildos adorning its surface. Ross goes to speak to Mr Olsen, where we learn that Ross is doing an awful Sylvester Stallone impression. Is this supposed to make him look tough? Italian? It’s a very awkward performance. Olsen tells him to get out after he uncovers a mysterious new pinball machine. What the hell is this store? It looks like a Cobbler’s – there are no furnishings or paint on the walls or decorations of any type, just some old timey cash register and a fiery pinball machine.

Olsen has a change of heart and decides to leave Ross in charge for a while so that he can grab a late lunch. In true forbidden fruit style he reminds Ross not to touch anything, especially the new pinball machine. Can you see where this is going? In Ross’s defence, he does last about four seconds before abandoning his duties and going on a silver ball hunt. He appears to shove his hands down his pants to check his own balls are in place first. Note to employers – if this guy enters your offices, do not approach him or make contact in any way. The mystery machine has a cartoonish court jester as its central relief, surrounded by other regal emblazons. Inexplicably, Ross begins touching his genitals again while saying ‘wow’, and then sticks some money in the slot. As he plays, we get a shot of Olsen hanging around outside, listening and grinning. It’s all highly dubious and seemingly perverted.

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Any excuse

A hot girl enters the store looking for her music box to be returned and Ross thinks to himself I have some silver balls I’d like to return to your music box. This scene is very awkward too, at least this time it’s deliberate. She leaves and, you’ve guessed it, Ross rushes out back to touch himself again. After a brief montage of gaming cliches Ross realizes he has somehow been left in the store alone and the Mall has closed. Things take a creepy turn as Ross panics and receives mysterious, prophetic phone calls. Two Gestapo or MIB jump-scare into view and terrify Ross with their detachable limbs. A whole unit of these mindless fucks appear, but it seems they can’t pass over water – must be white-walkers or Baptists or something.

Hot girl appears once more, shrieking about keys and tiaras, while an extra from Prince Of Thieves struggles to hold her without touching her boobs. At least Ross appears to be somewhat resourceful, shoveling handfuls of water towards the MIB which makes them dance out of shot. Is Ross in the game? Has the game come to life? Nobody knows. Still, there’s some good jump-scares and weirdness and old school game noises to enjoy. The musical cues and music in general are pretty funny. He grabs a magical tiara then chases hot girl down a Workers Only entry, only to be jump-scared by Grotbags. That was actually a pretty effective and well timed scare – we’ve had a few of these in this episode, so kudos. I can imagine kids being freaked out by all this – on a personal note, I’ve always found high pitched cackling, the likes of which the witch emits here, to be deeply disturbing. You know those moments you have in the house in the dark where you think something is standing behind you or about to grab your foot as you tiptoe upstairs? It’s high-pitched wails that do it for me – I imagine myself entering a room and seeing a shadow figure rush towards me, wailing, and my sphincter sneezes.

Next up we have more awkward scenes with Ross and Sophie about keys, music boxes, tiaras, an executioner, the witch, thrones – Ross is as confused as us. Things get more confusing when Ross gently rolls a handful of marbles (clearly pinballs) towards the witch. The witch sees them coming but rather than step to the side, open her legs and let them roll through, or simply stand still and watch them bounce of her feet, she somehow does the whole Home Alone back flip onto her arse. There’s a torturous ‘chase the slow moving Tiara’ scene, more weird stuff happens, and just as it looks like the game has been won the bad guys come and send Ross back to the ground floor. Ross learns from his mistakes, grabs the supersoaker, and heads off to battle. After some furious squirting the enemy is vanquished and hot girl is crowned – yay! Just time for a twist ending and some more chatter from the campfire weirdos.

If there’s a message here, it seems to be that videogames are evil and for losers. Presumably as it’s the last episode of the season, Campfire Ross looks directly into the camera and says ’till next time’. Yeah, don’t push your luck, son. Some of the weirdos don’t even return for Season 2. Anyway, this was an inconsistent and weird episode that had good ideas and some good scares, but was let down my poor acting and too short a running time to really explore what they wanted to do. Still, for any kids watching this at the time it would have been a decent enough end to the season.

Lets take a look at the roster from today’s episode. Joe Posca starred as Ross and has some good, mostly bad moments, and according to IMDB he only managed two further credits – as Puerto Rican boy in some TV movie and Drew’s Teammate in some TV series. The hot girl – Sophie – on the other hand was played by Polly Shannon who has had a pretty bright career as writer, producer, and actress. She has been in a bunch of TV movies and series including Leap Years, La Femme Nikita, and The Girl Next Door. AJ Henderson (Olson) makes his second appearance in AYAOTD so we won’t talk about him again. One of the interesting things about the episode is that a few of the actors play dual roles – the bed mummy at the start is also the witch, the security guard is also the Sheriff, and the Wrestler, Nutcracker, and Executioner are all played by Normand James – he of the unnecessary D. He plays three roles here, but that’s all he ever did apparently. Tom Rack has had a long and varied career though, aside from his dual performance in this episode he has also been in many shorts, TV shows, done voice work and bigger movies such as The Human Stain and 300 albeit in minor roles. He also returns in a later AYAOTD episode. Finally, Witch/Mummy is played by Nathalie Gautier who performance her seemed to be her last, having previously been in a small number of unknown movies like Mind Benders and Night Of The Dribbler.

Let us know in the comments what you though of this one. Next time up, it’s The Tale Of….. Sweet Dreams!

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Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Sorceror’s Apprentice

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Long before Harry Potter, but long after Grottbags, there was another Sorcerer’s Apprentice – young Dean, star of today’s episode of AYAOTD. We deal with magic and obsession, a well worn trope in fiction seen in everything from the seductive nature of The Dark Side Of The Force, to the addictive calamity witnessed in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Lets see what Amazon’s blurb has to say about this one:

Dean has trouble at school – especially with chemistry. His best friend, Alix, seems to be the only one who understands him. One day an archaeologist visits the class and brings along a bewitching snake which entrances Dean. Soon thereafter Alix begins to notice changes in his personality.

We’re in familiar territory as the episode opens with the group heading to their usual spot. On the way though they find a grave where two of our more ethnic members play a prank. Betty-Anne is telling tonight’s story, one which seems to involve skulls, or headless corpses, or skeletons or something, given the way she’s fondling that bone between her hands. We go back to 1966, some museum-looking school where a time travelling kid (they’re wearing 90s clothes) drops a bucket (?) into a puddle (?). I don’t know, it’s not very clear. We flash forward to Present Day and meet Dean, an unusually attractive young chap who doesn’t appear to be popular and isn’t great at school work, as explained by the pitbull teacher’s battleaxe face and grumpy one-liners. I had my fair share of witches in school – what is it about a career in education that can drain all the moisture from one’s face and replace it with a medicine ball-shaped Gorgon texture? Dean sort of looks like a cross between River Phoenix and Michael Pitt.

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We then meet Alix (America) who, for some reason happens to be Dean’s friend. Likewise I also had girls who were, for the same ‘some reason’, my friends. I really feel like today’s story is speaking to me. Or maybe I’m too lazy to think of another angle to write from today. What the hell pictures did she have in her locker? It appears to be – A random Cosby; a saturated black and white still of a woman terrified beneath a tree; two cartoon skiers chasing a heart down the slope of Mount Fuji; the face of the bad guy from Ghostbusters II cut out and placed on the body of stylish 90s business women. That’s quite a collection. We never had lockers in my school, just schoolbags packed with everything you needed for the day, and that was usually dumped in a corner once you got in. Something else we rarely had in school was special guests – in this episode a redhead archaeologist comes to speak in Dean and Alix’s class, bringing with her a wide array of artifacts. One such artifact is a giant cobra sceptre which once belonged to a reputedly evil sorcerer – perhaps he who wields the sceptre will absorb the sorcerer’s power.

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Euphemisms

This has so far reminded me an awful lot of an early Buffy episode, and that’s no bad thing. The school setting, the friendship, the weird teacher and the weird artifact – these are all things that pop up in Season 1 Buffy and while that Season is seen as the worst, I still have very fond memories of watching them for the first time as a 14 year old when they first made their way to BBC 2. Dean’s interest has been piqued and he speaks with the teacher and pokes at some of her toys. She speaks in ambiguous terms so we immediately ask ourselves if she is evil. Once Dean lifts the scepter, he becomes entranced and heads into the school basement (more Buffy nostalgia). Cut to the next scene and Dean has suddenly transformed into a Beat poet rebel, complete with turtle neck and attitude, mystifying his unnecessarily angry teacher, and upsetting Alix. Dean has basically become Xander in The Pack, with cool new friends and unfortunate decision making. At this point we’re almost halfway through the episode and nothing remotely scary has happened. It is however interesting and has a coherent vibe and good performances.

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As we’re halfway through this post, here is something else to hold your interest

 

There is one funny scene here as Dean speaks to the floating head of Goth, performing a resurrection ritual in what appears to be a trash can. Alix watches from about four feet away and Dean sends his acolytes after her.

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Not These Guys

For some reason Goth speaks with an English accent, and then for some reason Dean begins speaking in an English accent. And then for some reason, I begin laughing in a Jamaican accent. Goth isn’t a particularly imposing figure, and while there is a Palpatine/Vader dynamic going on, his face when he laughs resembles a worried and weeping Vinnie Jones.

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Alix decides, against all known codes of honour and wisdom, to ask a teacher for help, but the angry teacher is already under Goth’s power. This bit actually unnerved me a little, because when the teacher laughs, her front teeth almost look like they turn to fangs – a little like that moment with Bilbo in Fellowship Of The Ring. However, they are apparently her normal teeth. It feels like the closing moments as Alix is chased by the acolytes (one of whom may be the begotten offspring of Robert Smith), but there are still 10 minutes remaining.

We have just enough time to get more oddly framed shots of the Campside Weirdos as they discuss acid and Alix’s predicament. Alix is being taken by Robert Smith, Dean, and the rest to a swimming pool within the school which has inexplicably been left abandoned for 25 years. Dean speaks in an English accent again – is this just something Americans (and Canadians) do when they want to sound sinister? I know that we have a history of English villains in Hollywood films, but to me the generic English accent always sounds tame and wussy. My accent though – if an English person heard me shouting they’d likely vacate their bowels and hide under the nearest tarp. I’m sure the purpose of Dean’s accent is to show he is becoming more like Goth, but it still feels jarring and silly. Goth returns in a watered down Hellraiser vision. There is some terrible make-up and costume work on Goth, but Alix and the returned-to-normal Dean stop his rise by pouring chlorine into the pool. Why there is a vat of chlorine sitting open beside the pool is anyone’s guess. Presumably Dean brought it with him for the ritual, but why the hell would you bring the one thing which will stop your master from rising? Hugs and giggles ensue, I stretch my leg to crack my knee, and we get a quick ‘twist’ ending. Why can’t the teacher perform the ritual herself? Why does it have to be a kid? Why a specific kid?

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Euphemisms

I thought this was a pretty good, engaging episode, albeit light on scares or tension. Without the two good leads though, this may have felt light and flat. There is actually quite a few speaking parts in this episode, so lets have a look and see how much more speaking these peeps have done in their careers. Behold! Dean was in a previous episode – The Tale Of The Prom Queen. If you’ll remember from that post, I asked posed the dilemma ‘I wonder if he’ll look like a scumbag’ referring to his future appearance on the show. I’m pleased to solve that puzzle today by answering that yes, he does kind of look like a scumbag in this episode, but only when he’s acting like one. Elsewhere he gives a very good performance, accent aside. We’ve covered Matthew Mackay’s career before, so lets move on. Alix (Staci Smith) seems to only have one other credit to her name, a year before this episode in the splendidly named movie Prehistoric Bimbos In Armageddon City. 

Only one of the Acolytes is credited and I’ve no idea if it’s Robert Smith or one of the others – played by Chris Nash who has at least 1 Producer, 1 Director, and 1 Composer credit to his name. As an actor he has been around in movies, TV movies, and TV shows from the early 80s to the late 90s including Freddy’s Nightmares, Wraith, and Satisfaction. Many of these movies featured early appearances from Hollywood big hitters, but for whatever reason Nash has yet to reach those heights. I’m not even sure he was one of the acolytes – according to his age on IMDB, that would have made him 31 playing a young teenager. On the other age of the age scale is Goth, an ancient Egyptian or something, played by Stephen R Hart whose size and voice have ensured that has been a respected voice and screen actor since this episode – his first appearance. Since then, he has been in Silent Hill, The Mortal Instruments Series, and voices ‘ Canada’s daily opening rant’ which I can only assume means he stands atop of some Canadian landmark and shrieks a few words or paragraphs about politics, war, famine and other such topics. Finally, the two teachers – angry woman, played by Jane Gilchrist, and Dr. Oliver played by Emma Stevens. Stevens has appeared in lesser known movies and shows including The Audrey Hepburn Story and Beyond Borders, as well as voicing in the Assassin’s Creed series. Gilchrist has had a similar career, appears in a later AYAOTD episode, I’m Not There, and Big Wolf On Campus. 

There you have it, another episode in the bin. Next up we’ll be heading down to the arcade to stumble across sticky carpets and avoid the wizened old pre-divorcee wasting his hard earned quarters on Pacman in The Tale Of The Pinball Wizard. Sweet dreams!

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Let us know what you thought of this episode in the comments and for more reviews of AYAOTD, check here:

Irish Freaks          Freaks Next Door            Freak Boy                 Graveyard Lurkers

Bark Bark Goose           Little Old Lady       Little Old Girl          Laughing Freaks

Uber Freaks                    Grunties                  Eyes Painted In Ye?

Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Super Specs

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Welcome back to the campfire, boys and girls. Come closer, the fire’s fine and we’re just about to tell another tale. Take a seat, there’s no point standing over there in the shadows by yourself. That’s it, get comfy. Today’s story is one of those good old harmless voyeuristic stories that boys love to think about – what would you do if you were invisible? What would you do if you could stop time but still move around? What would you do if you had X Ray Specs? Naturally the immediate answers are both perverted and criminal but as this is a kids show I don’t think we’ll be peering into crowds of young women to see what’s underneath, or camping outside the bedroom of the object of your desire. Here’s what we will be doing:

In a junky magic shop Weeds, a wimpy trickster, jokingly casts the spell of ‘Second Sight’ with the help of a DIY voodoo book. Some magic dust accidentally falls on MaryBeth, his more sophisticated girlfriend, and on a pair of ‘Super Specs’, guaranteed to give X Ray vision.

But before we get that far, we get a unique look at our campfire weirdos by daylight, as we open on Gary and Kristin messing around in Gary’s dad’s magic/novelty shop. You know the sort of place – usually only ever found in beach-side towns, only open during the summer months, and filled with all manner of pranks, gags, props, and toys from playing cards to whoopie cushions, from spiders petrified in sugar cubs to curling lumps of plastic shit. Gary explains that this is where he gets his ideas from while Kristen says that people have been saying his stories have not been scary recently. It seems he needs to up his game. And so we cut to Gary’s introduction  of a story about magic and the people who either believe, don’t, or should. Weeds (America) is an incompetent magician who has just started going out with MaryBeth and on their latest romantic outing have purchased a pile of crap for April Fool’s Day in a magic shop run by the sardonic Sardo. I’ve never understood why anyone would actually buy X ray Specs, at least other gags in these shops have a purpose. I’ve had many an hour of fun with fart gas, whoopie cushion, and in school we even had a bit of a sneezing powder racket going for a few months until there was some sort of medical mishap and someone got expelled. Pranks from that point on were more subtle, such as everyone swinging their ties over the left shoulder, or the good old ‘lock your class inside the gymnasium and set fire to it’ stunt.

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MaryBeth puts on a pair of super specs and seems to see a shadowy figure lurking in the background, but she takes off the specs and thinks no more about it. Weeds meanwhile makes his way around school putting drugs into the food of young girls – hilarious! He also puts one of those jumbo fists into a locker which flops out gently grazes the nasal area of another poor victim. The guy’s non reaction to this unfortunate event is similar to how your facial expression may change when you flip a page in a book, making it all the more bizarre when Weeds runs up, laughing and saying ‘you should have seen your face’. This time MaryBeth sees someone in a Burka when she wears the Specs. I do like the idea – it has a creepy vibe more close to something like It Follows or The Eye than They Live. The soundtrack has some strange moments too, with synthesized beats like a lighter Carpenter piece. Like many stories of old, no matter how MaryBeth tries to get rid of the specs, they keep finding their way back to her, and the more she wears them, the more she seems to see things that aren’t there. Or is the world when wearing the specs the real one? We embark on a creepy first person walk through her house where she is stalked by three black-clothes wearing spooks which seem to be getting closer to her the more she wears the specs. Curiosity aside, time has shows that these things cannot harm her if she isn’t wearing the specs, so the solution is pretty easy – don’t put them on, everyone wins!

MaryBeth goes back to Sardo, they work out that Weeds messed around with a spell which somehow got fused with the specs which is allowing some cross-dimensional banter. Sardo weasels his way in to helping the kids, and into their homes, and he begins to cast a spell to counter what has happened. Unfortunately the spell fully opens the gateway and the creatures flood through to our world without a need for a spec-wearing conduit before shit goes full Dali. We close on a twist ending and Gary wins back his crowd. It’s an interesting story that could have had more creepy moments if they’d focused on the main story instead of cutting back to Weeds and his escapades. Plenty of good ideas here though which should have any imaginative kid asking questions of their own reality and filling them with inspiration for similar stories.

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Lets take a look at the cast and what they have been up to. Eugene Byrd (Weeds) has had a very successful career, starting out in the mid 80s and working on hit series today. Before AYAOTD he had been a recurring guest on The Cosby Show and went on to star in Chris Cross before moving on to adult roles in movies and shows such as Bones and Arrow. On the flip side, Graidhne Lelieveld-Amiro (MaryBeth) only has one further credit to her name – a single episode of a TV series called The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo. Long-term fans of AYAOTD will know that Richard Dumont’s Sardo is a recurring character throughout the series, coming back to another seven episodes over the years. Dumont has had a long career primarily as a voice actor throughout a string of cartoons starting in the early 80s as well as making his way over to Video Game voicing, in things such as Mysterious Cities Of Gold, Beyblade, and the Assassin’s Creed series. The rest of the performers in the episode have much smaller roles, including friends of Weeds and MaryBeth – Patty (Carol Anne Gascon), Katherine (Annette Bouzi), and Mark (Errol Tennenbaum) – none of these three appear to have another credit to their names. Without spoiling anything, in the twist ending we have three more performers – Paul-Emile Frappier, Tarah Anick, and Rachelle Glait. Glait would appear in an upcoming AYAOTD episode, as well as movies including The Day After Tomorrow and Who Is KK Downey while Frappier appeared sporadically in TV shows through the 70s – 90s including The Littlest Hobo and Goosebumps before dropping off the map. Anick does not have another credit to her name.

Overall then, a promising episode with a good premise and ending which doesn’t quite scare enough as it should, but should play a trick on younger viewers nevertheless. For more reviews, check here: Irish Freaks          Freaks Next Door            Freak Boy                 Graveyard Lurkers               Bark Bark Goose               Little Old Lady               Little Old Girl     Laughing Freaks                    Uber Freaks                        Grunties

Next up we’ll be staying in the world of magic with The Tale Of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Sweet Dreams!

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Nightly Neighbours

Greetings Glancers! Today’s tale of the macabre deals with two of the sexiest v-words of them all – Vampires and Voyeurism. It’s a story that borrows heavily from movies such as Rear Window, Fright Night, and The Burbs, but can it hold a candle up to those classics?

Lets take a look at Amazon’s blurb on the episode and see if anything sounds familiar: Emma and DayDay Toll have some new neighbours who seem a bit out of the ordinary. The eerie family, a couple and their anemic-looking son wear only black and are never seen during the day. A workman informs the kids that they are from Transylvania.

So far, so clichéd. So, once again we have a dynamic duo with a bit of sibling rivalry thrown in for good measure – AYAOTD staples – I wonder if the parents will be scarce. Naturally, we have an inexplicable character name in DayDay (America). I jotted down notes about this episode months ago, and when I saw ‘DayDay’ I assumed that the auto-correct had flipped its shit for a second and converted something like ‘David’ into this monstrosity. I should have known… I should have known.

Reading the blurb, it’s another episode that I didn’t recall seeing, although when I watched it some minor things sparked vague memories, such as the actors involved. With a shrug of our shoulders, let us commence with the review.

We open, as with most episodes, on our campfire losers sharing some banter. In these few moments we learn quite a lot about the individuality of each character, but they raise an interesting question which I have often pondered over – why do we tell scary stories at night, or why do scary stories feature night-time so heavily? The answers are obvious and true – we have an innate fear of darkness, it’s often more scary when you can’t see what is (or might be) in front of you, and darkness lends itself beautifully to atmosphere. A hush falls in the night as you listen to a lone voice telling a spooky tale – there is nothing else to see in the surroundings, the only thing to focus on is the voice and the story, and the only distraction is your own imagination. However, as far as horror movies and TV shows go, the vast majority of stories are conducted at night-time – with the most frightening moments, and with conclusions most often coming once the sun has gone down or the light has been extinguished. When I was young, experiencing my first horror films from between my fingers, or cautiously over the top of a book, I always dreaded the moment when night would fall; that was the moment I would take a sharp intake of breath and tense my body, as I knew something horrible was sure to come. What Kristen says though, should surely also be true – if a story is truly scary, it shouldn’t matter when it is told, or whether it happened at night or day. If we look at the true horror stories of our lives – most occur during the day, from terrorist attacks to traffic accidents, to losing sight your child in a crowded place or visiting a loved one in hospital. There are only a handful of supernatural stories on the big or small screen which take place mostly in sunlight, and it’s always been my wish to create something terrifying which takes place during those hours we traditionally feel safest – where can we hide if we are just as tormented by things that go bump in the day?

Here?
Here?

It’s a moot point though, as our episode concerns itself with those Vitamin D dodgers of the undead – vampires. Vampires, sexy as they may have once been (before they became all Sparkly and mopey), are governed by strict rules, none more so than the fact that sunlight kills them. But what is more dangerous – a bloodsucking demon that can only attack under certain conditions at certain times, or a person with an over-active imagination, someone prone to paranoia and mistrust, and with a will to submit to their possible delusions and hunt down their own truth whatever the cost?

Ironically, our story begins with one of the greatest scenes in horror cinema, and one which takes place during the day – the attack on Barbara and her brother in Night Of The Living Dead. DayDay (sigh) is watching it, when he is interrupted by his annoying older sister Emma. She berates him for being like their dad and watching TV all day instead of getting out into the world and making a difference. Our Emma seems like a firebrand, reeling against white bread routine and middle class suburbia, wishing for something or someone interesting to enter their lives. And just like that, new neighbours move in – at night, mysteriously clad in black, poised together like some off-the-books military organisation. As Emma and Dayday discuss, the newbs turn in their direction in unison – scary times! And with the space of four seconds, where Dayday announces that they’re definitely going to stay away from these new neighbours, they go over to say ‘Hi’!

We’re only a few minutes in so far, but it’s nice to see a decent pair of young actors again – the show continues to get better with regards to the performances of the youngsters. But look, it’s the mother! She’s bound to put in a strong display of acting qua- no – wait, she just backed away from the camera, knocked over the Postman, and disappeared, howling ‘I’m late’ with glee. So, no parents in this one then. That was some slapstick fun though. The mailman does say that he has already met the new neighbours – the same day he picked up an odd illness which has been making him tired and sick. Hmm, could the neighbours, from THE UKRAINE, possibly be involved? We get a mini epic of time passing while Emma becomes increasingly suspicious. We get our first truly creepy moment when the boy next door introduces himself, a genuinely creepy shot of him appearing in the background, complete with an equally creepy ‘hello’.

A bit like this

No sooner have we rid ourselves of that, we are next subjected to a nightmare sequence with a little too much of a pedo-vibe than we would have liked as the daddy next door slinks his way, BOB style into Emma’s room, across the floor, and onto her bed. Thankfully this is followed up by a dual melee attack of Dayday’s entire bedroom wall conveniently being painted as a map of the Earth, and Emma proclaiming that Ukraine is near all those places with ‘ania’ in their name, like Transylvania.

Captain Obvious is here - I'llllll get iiiitt!
Captain Obvious is here – I’llllll get iiiitt!

We flick back to the Campfire losers for a quick round of ‘who’s the most annoying’, with Kiki being the winner again, before Emma readies herself to entire the neighbour’s house. To the show’s credit we get a nice throwback to Rear Window as Emma prowls through their basement while the neighbours get invited into Dayday’s house by his useless mother (who looks like a cross between Carrie Fisher, and someone who is not Carrie Fisher). This is all quite tense, features odd music, and even some bizarre Leone-style close-ups of Dayday. It’s pretty funny too, the incredibly hammy accents and puns, though this is offset by vampire mom being hot. Dayday’s mum gives a strange performance, like an American, sleazy, Hyacinth Bucket.

In good old Lost Boys fashion, the kids arm up and return at daylight to dispatch of their neighbours. When disturbed, they decide to hide in the worst possible place, under a tall, narrow table where it would be literally impossible for anyone to NOT see them. Come on prop team, you couldn’t have found a more suitable table? Or thrown a piece of cloth of the top of it? It’s the most ridiculous moment in an episode full of them. Anyway, it all ends with a twist and WHAT THE BALLS WAS THAT NOISE COMING FROM THE BOY’S MOUTH!?

Unknown
Unknown

Another decent episode then, nothing too spectacular, but quite entertaining. Lets have a look at what the cast has been up to before and since this episode was created, starting with Emma, played by Suzanna Shebib who has the same odd lispy way of talking as Graeme Millington did in The Tale Of The Prom Queen. She gives a watchable performance, but according to IMDB she only has four other credits to her name – three other minor TV series in minor roles, and in Billy Madison as ‘High School Girl’ back in 1995. Young Dayday (Noah Godfrey) fairs marginally better, also gaining five credits but having a longer role in Babar. Harriet Dove played their mother in what appears to be her only screen credit, possibly meaning they pulled her off the street for a quick couple of scenese and slipped her a fifty. Two minor characters appear – the delivery man (Mark Camacho) and the frail mailman (Johni Keyworth). Keyworth has appeared in a number of never-seen tv movies, series, and done some work as a voice actor in equally unseen shows, but more importantly he is another who is set to appear in a future episode  –The Tale of The Thirteenth Floor while Camacho has appeared in many many shows and movies. He was President Nixon in Days Of Future Past, has voiced many videogame characters, and acts as Oliver in the long running cartoon series Arthur. He is also set to return in a future AYAOTD episode – The Tale Of The Shiny Red Bicycle. 

That only leaves us with the vampires – Mum (Francoise Robertson), Dad (Carl Alacchi), noise boy (Johnny Morina). Morina it seems was once an up and coming star thanks to an appearance in Kids Of The Round Table. However, it looks like he only made a few more films I’ve never heard of, including one with AYAOTD’s very own Kristen. Alacci is a fairly recognizable actor from over 70 movies and series including Omerta, The Day After Tomorrow, and 18 To Life. Oh yeah, he also appears in a future AYAOTD episode. I recognize Robertson from Sliders and SG1, and she has also appeared in multiple other series and movies, like Battlestar Gallactica and We All Fall Down.

So, another episode down. next up we treat ourselves to some METAL in The Tale Of The Dark Music. Until then, sweet dreams!

What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments, and check out the previous reviews here:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-captured-soul/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-prom-queen/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-hungry-hounds/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-twisted-claw/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-lonely-ghost/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-laughing-in-the-dark/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-phantom-cab/

Are You Afraid of The Dark? The Tale of The Captured Soul

Hello Glancers! Today’s episode deals with spooky ghosts, spooky kids, and spooky cameras! But don’t worry, Sadako is nowhere in sight.

Back to the well with you!
Back to the well with you!

I know a little something about the capturing of souls – you think you’re reading this of your own free will!? If you are, you’re more damaged than I thought. Lets dispense with the insults, twatbag, and see what Amazon has to say about this one:

Danny and her parents are planning to stay at a rented house for the summer, which is rather run down and spooky. Even more mysterious is their host, a sickly young boy, Peter, who lives there without any sight of his parents. Danny becomes very suspicious when her parents seems to be aging by the day as Peter looks healthier.

Aah so. The blurb basically gives away the whole story – that a little weirdo somehow (photosynthesis?) sucks the life out of older people, giving strength to himself.

My beautiful baby number 2
Da fuck you staring at?

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets cover the Midnight Society antics first. In a startling revelation of psychic ability, Eric and Gary discuss ages and aging, before the tomboy Kiki causes some amusing startled revelations of her own by blinding them with an old school camera.

My eyes! It's so OLD. MY EYES!
My eyes! It’s so OLD. MY EYES!

We’ve already seen this running late followed by scare technique used in multiple episodes, so I don’t think anyone is falling for it anymore. After some further banter, Kiki introduces her tale, telling of how legends speak of the camera’s ability to steal a person’s soul. I don’t remember thinking about this sort of thing much when I was younger, but it seems like the sort of idea I would have found cool. Oh look! It’s not an all white guy show! Yes, Kiki’s story features an African-American family, a refreshing approach I guess. Danny, appears to be Kiki, her Mom, seems to be a generic TV Mom, and her Dad seems to be Little Richard.

A wop bam boom
A wop bam boom

But where’s the weirdo? Arrgh! There he is, uttering the immortally uncomfortable and ‘oooh Matron’esque ‘Well, Hello’. This delivery, and the whole performance will be discussed more later, just know that it is truly a sight to behold. As he leads the family around the house, a camp oddity wafting from room to room, they simply remark that he is a little odd. Later, we get some quality dad and daughter time as Danny and Little Richard throw a baseball around outside, leading to one of the most hilarious things ever filmed; the little pumpkin pie hair cutted freak failing to catch the ball, struggling to retrieve it from a bush, and then girl-throwing it back. Someone needs to loop that shit 50 times and upload it to YouTube, or at least gif it up. More laughs follow as he ducks the awesome blast from a camera as if he’s duck and covering from a nuke.

Besides hiding in a refrigerator, the only known way to survive a nuke
Besides hiding in a refrigerator, the only known way to survive a nuke

We inevitably end up in a creepy attic. What is it with this show and creepy attics? Mine was full of Lego, He-Men, Transformers – The only scary thing in it were the webs, dead spiders, and live spiders.

Unless you find this scary
Unless you find this scary

One thing is for sure – you don’t want to be left alone with the little creep – every word he utters has a salacious, sinister sexual undertone, his ghastly undressing eyes while he whispers charming odes like ‘I always admire a girl with great physical strength’. There’s an unfortunate peado vibe to the whole affair, the lines blurred because he may be a hundred years old, or still fourteen.

Next up we get an odd dialogue-free 2 minute sequence where it is revealed that Peter has cameras in every room and is watching the guests – a little like Sliver, but with less sex, and even more uncomfortable viewing. We see that he has some sort of contraption that messes with time and aging and SCIENCE which somehow prevents his aging by expediting the aging of others. It’s clearly too complex to explain or understand that has driven Peter mad, and he erupts into some of the worst laughing you’ll ever see.

After a brief interlude with the Campfire geeks, we return to the story. Peter has miraculously become good at baseball, but is still a complete weirdo. We can see that the group has aged, and Danny throws some water over her mirror, cock-blocking Peter. He emerges from his machine mid-flow, with some terrible, camp, flapping and coughing. This leads the intrepid Danny to investigate the local graveyard (obviously). This is where things get even more creepy and weird. It is suggested that peter is actually Peter III – born 1907 and still alive – why would you have a gravestone if you’re still alive? And who’s going to bury you there if you die in the body of a teenager?

Thanks Tmobstonebuilder.com!
Thanks Tombstonebuilder.com!

We then pan to the not-at-all-unsettling wooden grave markers of what appear to be children, which are presumably being used to tick off the number of corpses. By my count, this puts Peter into the upper echelons of US serial killers – as it seems that he has drained the life from at least 49 victims – a mass murdering maniac. Indeed, why don’t they just leave when it is clear they have aged 30 years in 2 days? Is it that they are trapped? They aren’t completely decrepid and would both surely have the physical and mental ability to realise something was wrong and leave, but they claim they are tired. Fair enough, they are older, but you don’t become so exhausted when you’re in your 60s or 70s that you can barely leave the house. Unless this is some unexplained byproduct of such rapid aging. Who knows. Aside from a few zits, the only effect the aging seems to have on Danny is that she becomes a worse actress.

She ain't no Lark Voorhies!
She ain’t no Lark Voorhies!

With only 6 minutes to spare, Danny stumbles upon the aging machine, sees Peter for who he really is, counts up the actual total kills in the graveyard (10 dogs!? the monster!), and James Bond’s the plot out of Peter. More laughable acting and flapping ensues, and Danny somehow manages to reverse the process by… flicking a switch? Why do cameras hurt him? Why can’t he look at his reflection? How is it reversed? Why does the house have a red roof? We end on a group shot of the Midnight Society.

A fun episode overall, with plenty of silly ideas and performances, this one isn’t particularly scary, but older viewers should pick up on all the creepy side antics. I don’t remember seeing any of this when I was younger, and aside from the performances, it isn’t a memorable episode. Speaking of performances, lets start with the big man – Peter – W….T…..F…. I honestly don’t know how I feel about Ethen Tobman’s performance. It is entirely camp, but veers improbably between absolutely superb and unbearably awful, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Working now as a Production Design, because of course he does, on such minor Hollywood films as Twelve, That Awkward Moment and a few TV series I don’t recognise, it looks like he has left acting for a more fulfilling career. Indeed, he only has 3 other acting credits to his name which aren’t worth mentioning, though he has directed and written a couple of shorts.

Likewise, with only 3 other acting credits to her name, Maria Taylor (Danny) has carved out a career in songwriting, performing, art, and voicework. Aside from being the host of some show called ‘What’s New In New York’ presumably detailing the antique dealerships of south Kansas, her other acting credits are minor. Her soundtrack work though has appeared in such movies and shows as xXx, Bones, The Devil Wears Prada and Grey’s Anatomy. Little Richard is played by Don Jordan, who you have likely heard either singing or providing other vocal work in many videogames (Assassin’s Creed IV, Far Cry 2). He did the singing for Homer Simpson in the Barbershop Quartet episode! He has acted in many movies and shows over the years, from Sirens to The Dead Zone (both TV series), and will pop up again in a later AYAOTD episode. Once again the performer with the least significant role has gone on to have the most successful acting career -Danny’s mum, played by Barbara Eve Harris. Harris has had recurring appearences in shows like Side Effects, Party Of Five, Prison Break, ER, and CSI.

Let us know what you thought about this episode in the comments. Next up, we’re sucking blood in The Tale Of The Nightly Neighbours. Sweet Dreams!

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? – The Tale of The Prom Queen

Greetings Glancers! This episode opens with a longer than usual piece of campfire fun, as Kristen, clad in a creepy old Wedding Dress, sneaks up on our group of losers while they sit around moaning that she is always late (you may recall she was late in our previous episode). ‘For effect’ she says, as she speaks in an English accent, proclaiming her version of the tale she’s about to tell, to be the one true version. There’s a thing where I’m from, where all children, once they reach a certain age, begin speaking with American accents when they are playing. Now, they aren’t imitating their favourite TV show, movie, or celebrity, they’re just playing some imagined game and use American accents. Boys and girls. I did it. My friends did it. And I still see little kids doing it now. Why is this? Also, do American kids do this, but with English accents instead?

Charmed, I'm sure
Good Day. I’m English.

Onto the tale, and we open on that staple of Horror Fiction – The Graveyard – as a girl leaves a bouquet beside a grave. It’s certainly at atmospheric opening, with no dialogue for the first minute, and a couple of nice jump scares which are well-timed enough to make cause a jolt in younger viewers. We meet our three protagonists – Jam (America), Greg, and Dede (America). Greg seems like a lovely fellow, aside from the hanging around Graveyard business, Jam has long hair and pronounces the letter ‘S’ as if his teeth have been replaced by clothes pegs, and Dede is full of secrets. The first thing you may notice is that the trio are much older than the usual cast who make up the story. I’m assuming as Prom is coming up that they are all around 17 years old compared with the usual early teens who make up other episodes. I don’t know how old the actor playing Jam was at the time, but he seems older than his character, his face having too many lines and looking like it’s made of leather.

Like looking in a mirror

He also has a bit of a manic look about him which may or may not be a sign of poor acting or attempt at a red herring. I’ll go for the latter. Anyhoo, lets take look at what Amazon says about the episode:

Greg and Jam, while hunting for ghosts, find a young girl, Dede,standing over a gravestone. Legend has it that a ghost appears each prom night waiting for a ride that never comes. The kids investigate to find that a young girl was the victim of a hit and run accident while waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up for their prom in 1956′

We soon get stuck into the plot, as Jam tells Dede, for no apparent reason as they have only just met literally 10 seconds before, the local Urban Legend about a girl killed in a hit and run. The girl, buried in her Prom dress returns to wander the graveyard every year on Prom Night, thanks to those handy digital calendars they started installing in coffins in the early 90s. For some reason there are a bunch of extreme close up reaction shots during this scene which always make me laugh uncontrollably, especially when there is a flick of an eye or a raised eyebrow to accompany it. The gang decide to find the grave, looking around the graveyard, checking old newspapers in the town library to find proof of the accident, which they find in 1956. Before they make it to the library they stop off for milkshakes, where this little exchange takes place:

Jam (offering the milkshake) – ‘You want the rest of this?’

Dede – ‘No thanks, I’m not hungry’.

Now, my experience of American milkshakes may be limited, and I know how you guys LOVE your food, but surely you don’t need to be hungry to have a milkshake. It’s a drink, right? Sure they may be thick with ice cream, but it’s still a drink. Or have you been make milkshakes from burgers all this time? Are all of your drinks considered a meal?

Soooo Thirsty….

At the library, the trio make the grim discovery that Judy, the girl who was killed, was waiting for her boyfriend Ricky to pick her up, but he never got the message. Hmm, i realise this was the 50s, but surely communication wasn’t that bad – you know you’re going to the Prom together, yet don’t tell each other when and where to meet? Silly boo. Ricky, in his grief, drove his car off a bridge, dying too. throughout this scene, we know someone is creeping up on the gang, but don’t worry – it’s only the inexplicable library tea lady. I’ve been in many libraries in my time and have never yet encountered one of these. The trio declines the offer of tea, having filled their stomachs already on milkshakes.

Poor Greg, it’s obvious you have a trouser bulge for Dede, and when you try to flirt a little with her, she responds with a resounding ‘KEEE!’ and wanders off. You’re about to get some blue balls, my son. That night, they group apparently get boating lessons, steal a boat, and perform a séance in the water near the spot where Ricky drowned. This leads to some Cthulu farts under their boat, or perhaps Ricky, and the group are chased onto the land where they collapse 3 feet from the water instead of bolting down the road, screaming. Jam, horrified for two minutes, switches quickly back to creepy mode saying they need to wait at Judy’s grave the next night.

In all honesty, the creepy stuff works pretty well in this episode, with most of te second half taking place at night, with building tension and a spooky atmosphere. As with most episodes, they miss a trick in one scene, where the trio are positioned facing the camera, with the backdrop of the graves behind them. A hooded figure appears in this scene, but only when Jam turns around and alerts the others to this presence. What would have worked better would have been the figure appearing in the background and approaching the trio while the remained unaware, facing the camera till the last moment. It’s another red herring, but is soon replaced by another spooky appearance – that of an old Chevvy. And with that, the twist is revealed! I won’t spoil it, but it isn’t that unsurprising, and while I’m sure most kids would be tricked by it, older viewers should have it all worked out (even though there aren’t any hints pointing towards it). Ricky looks like a right wee scumbag, and Judy would be safer getting out of that car.

Get out of your pants, and into my car
Get out of your pants, and into my car

The ghost Chevvy passing through the gate is actually a nice effect, not too shabby at all. We return to the campfire where the group are left suitably spooked by the tale. This was a fun episode, focussing on a familiar horror story, and with some decent performances, scares, and a nice twist. Speaking of performances, lets take a few moments to honour the cast of this episode. Katie Griffin stars as Dede, and aside from looking constipated in most scenes, does a fine job. Before I speak of her other roles, I must say that this lady has changed in the years since this episode was created – she looks a lot different from then. Anyway, Griffin has carved out an impressive resume over the last few decades, but HOLY BALLS SHE WAS IN ROBOCOP! One of my favourite movies ever, she appears in an uncredited role as ‘Young Girl’. I’m assuming this is in one of the adverts within the films, or in some ‘Stay Out Of Trouble’ background scene. Aside from a large list of TV movies and minor TV shows I haven’t seen, she is famous for a recurring voice role in Sailor Moon. Moving on from that, she has appeared in a number of other English versions of Japanese cartoons, such as Beyblade and Bakugan Battle Brawlers, but may be best known for Totally Spies where she voices for Alex.

The rest of the cast has had much smaller careers, with Andre Todorovic (Greg) having only 3 other credits, and Graeme Millington (Jam) appearing in a handful of other movies, his biggest role as Kyle in the TV series Black Harbour. Rounding out the cast, Irene Kessler stars as the Tea Lady and has an odd selection of 13 credits since 1978, while Amyas Godfrey (Jam’s Cousin) left media to become the head of UK Armed Forces Programme at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. Finally, Matthew Mackay (Ricky) joins the list of actors who appear in AYAOTD in more than one episode, so we’ll keep an eye out for him again and see if he looks less like a scumbag then. Most notably, he appears in the Irish Gang TV series Claddagh as The Assassin.

What are your memories of this episode? I don’t recall seeing this first time around, but I’m sure many of you do. Let us know in the comments. Next time around, we’ll be dealing with Dash X lookalike Peter, in The Tale Of The Captured Souls. Sweet Dreams!

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? The Tale Of The Hungry Hounds

Reading the synopsis of this episode on Lovefilm (now Amazon Prime streaming) before watching, I remembered very clearly some pieces from when I first watched it many years ago. In fact, this is the episode I previously alluded to in a previous post as remembering. Having re-watched it now, I’m not certain why it had such an impact on me, especially when I’ve enjoyed some previous episodes more than I enjoyed this one – maybe it was the first I saw. It does have its merits, which we’ll get to, but overall it isn’t a particularly good show. Then again, when you’re a man of the world, they say you always remember your first, rather than all the hundreds which follow –

My first… the two beside her came soon after. Ahem.

A brief look online suggests that this is one of the most oft and fondly remembered episodes of the series, so it must come down to the performances, the atmosphere, and the visuals, because everything else is rather lackluster. But before we get down to business, lets see what the blurb has to offer:

‘During summer vacation, Amy visits her cousin Pam, who lives in the country. While rummaging through the old family possessions in the attic, they come across a picture of Aunt Dora, who died tragically at a very young age. To their amazement, she looks strikingly like Pam. The girls find a trunk from which a scratching sound emerges at the mention of Aunt Dora’s name’

So, as I mentioned above, the episode has some clear strengths – it has easily the best acting of the series so far, and it has a truly unique, unusual atmosphere – something more akin to Twin Peaks, Jacob’s Ladder, or a nightmare. There is a sadness ripe throughout, and this would have been a much more powerful episode had all the other vital elements been up to scratch. Sadly though, the story is a complete mess, with more hole than plot, and you’ll be left bewildered and frustrated by questions – it truly does seem to be a half-assed story which no-one understands, writers included. The basics are that Pam puts on her Aunt Dora’s old horse-riding jacket which simultaneously turns her into Dora, and opens a portal in the attic to the past/some other dimension, and the cousins/aunts/girls, try to right a past injustice before Al appears and makes some lurid wisecrack.

Horses eh? They used to say I was hung like a –

The whole thing seems to be about guilt, with Pam’s mother never forgiving herself for forgetting to feed the Hungry Hounds of the title – if this still doesn’t make sense, you should probably watch the episode (spoiler – it still won’t make sense). Just a note on that title – I used to live near a chippie called The Hungry Hound. Further up the road, there was a Hungry Hound II. Possibly there was some wacky inter-dimensional salt and vinegar goings on going on on that road. Regardless, both were tasty.

The episode starts with Kristen arriving late to the party, bringing her dog, Elvis, along for effect. This prompts some truly bizarre activity, including the completely absurd ‘my dad says Elvis is king’ comment, which arrives and leaves without prompting or follow-up. That was one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the series so far. Once the pleasantries are out-of-the-way, we meet Pam and Amy, cousins and friends. continuing the dual kid dynamic from previous episodes, this time the girls are actually good friends, and on a level with each other, though there is some basic city girl versus country gal fun early on which doesn’t lead anywhere. Pam loves to ride horses, but her mother tried to stop her at every turn, continuing the useless/absent parents theme of the series – early on Pam’s mother almost causes Pam to break her spine by honking on her horn as Pam is trying to mount a horse. When will these crazy parents learn that being overly cautious only leads inevitably to broken spines!?

Speaking of weird things – what’s with the weird midi file music? And why is the chest of riding gear in the attic covered by a shroud of smoke? Anyway, once the riding jacket goes on, the weird goes off, with a portal and stairs opening to another world and/or time. The image of those stairs was one which I could remember vividly, so kudos to the show for some brain-etching. The girls do a Red Riding Hood through a forest and end up in a graveyard, naturally. Pam goes for an Emmy with a lovely little speech about Foxes, hunger, and being ripped to shreds, and suddenly, a creepy old ghost appears – again, kudos for this startling and unsettling image. Unfortunately, his weird accent veers towards Irish and his voice has some cheesy vocal effect added, so the chills fade rapidly. So Giles had a heart-attack running away from the Hounds? Did Dora die when she fell off the horse? Was she eaten? The build-up to Pam/Dora opening the door is filled with tension for the young-hearted, but even the most timid child would laugh when we see the hungry hounds are a group of the least frightening, small, happy dogs you’re every likely to meet.

RIP THIS BITCH APART!

After somehow surviving this terrible onslaught, Amy makes it back to the attic, where it turns out Pam was hiding all along, behind a pile of jackets. Was it all a dream? Does Pam remember nothing? What was it all about? I’m still none the wiser about why Pam’s mother is so guilty and frightened of horses. Anyway, the curse is lifted and everyone lives happily ever after.

As I mentioned, the acting in this episode was the best so far, at least from the kids. Lets pay our respects. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Pam is played by a young Mia Kirshner, known for her adult roles in a variety of TV shows and movies – Mandy from 24, Kenya from Defiance, Jenny from The L Word, and the titular Elizabeth Short from the poor Black Dahlia. Her successful career is unfortunately not matched by her cousin Amy, played by Jennifer Gula. Gula only has 3 other credits to her name, nothing of note. Equally short-lived is the mother of the piece, played by Ais Snyder who appeared in tiny roles in a handful of 90s films, while David Francis, who played the ghost has popped up in minor parts in big movies like 300 and in bigger parts in a number of notable TV Series like Fortier.  He even returns for 2 more episodes of AYAOTD.

A strange episode then which, though messy, manages to successfully stay with you. Don’t forget to share your memories in the comments and check out my other episode reviews. Next up, we go back to school with The Tale Of The Prom Queen. Sweet Dreams!

Ziggy!

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

This
This

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’:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-hungry-hounds/

Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? – The Tale Of The Laughing In The Dark

 Picture8

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.

Australian clowns on the other hand….

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 –

Yes, she’s a subscriber

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.

Too Easy

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.

That’s what the FBI does, right?

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

Hiya!

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 –

????????????
Step right up!

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!

WOOOOOOOOWWW! It’s so real it’s unreal!

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

Still too easy

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/