An ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK Anniversary Post: One Classic Episode For Each Season
Yep, get ready 90's kids, we are about to be that meme you see everywhere.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? debuted this day on Nickelodeon twenty six years ago. Now if you aren't familiar with Are You Afraid of the Dark? (or more colloquially AYAOTD?) then you're missing out. The Canadian teen thriller aired on Snick, which was Nickelodeon's "after hours" programming that was targeted towards an older audience. Alongside shows that focused on more teen situational comedy, such as Salute My Shorts and Hey Dude, as well as infamous teen sketch comedy All That, AYAOTD was essentially Nickelodeon's version of Tales from the Crypt.
Every week, we had our core premise of a group of friends, self dubbed The Midnight Society, who would meet around a campfire and tell a scary story. They ranged in style, from science fiction to folklore to classic horror tropes, and most of the series did a great job at creating terror on a small budget because of passion and knowledge of the genre.
It's hard to find now. You can buy it through VUDU or find some ripped DVD's online, and The Splat will also occasionally run reruns but for seven years, Are You Afraid of the Dark? served as a gateway for the horror community. It was something that genre fans could watch, cherish and love and burgeoning horror hounds could find and then use to help dive head first into the world. From the second the title sequence started, you knew that this was for more than just kids.
Also, this very website is named after an episode of the series. With a movie in development and us monster kids missing it every day, here is a very deserved list of a definitive episode for every season of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
THE TALE OF LAUGHING IN THE DARK
Come on. I mean, COME ON! Even that title is creepy as shit. LAUGHING IN THE DARK. No one wants to hear that! This was a tough one to choose because season one has some truly great episodes for a premiere season (Tale of the Super Specs, Tale of the Lonely Ghost, Tale of the Pinball Wizard) but the series kicked things off in a fashion that they knew would strike terror into the heart of everyone. That's right, tapping that primordial fear of clowns. The story told features some punk kid named Josh who tries to prove he's a badass by stealing the nose off of a clown in a nearby funhouse. Zeebo. Zeebo the clown. You can bet your bottom dollar I would gladly accept any name calling thrown my way before stealing anything from an inanimate clown who supposedly haunts the funhouse who is also named Zeebo. You know what kind of psychopath you have to be to haunt a FUNHOUSE? Needless to say, things don't go as smoothly as planned. It turns out, Zeebo might not just be confined to the funhouse. This one will legit have you terrified.
THE TALE OF THE MIDNIGHT MADNESS
This series really knew how to have some fun with the horror fans. When an old theater is about to go out of business, Doctor Vink (who becomes a bit of a regular) shows up and offers them the chance to screen an alternate version of the original vampire classic, Nosferatu. Things are not quite what they seem though, as this vamp may not be doing his stalking exclusively in the film. This is a great episode, with a lot of winks at classic horror and some real meta instances that are super fun for film buffs and monster kids.
THE TALE OF THE QUICKSILVER
AYAOTD? excelled in all sorts of stories but one thing they really nailed was the idea of a classic ghost story. In "The Tale of the Quicksilver," two brothers move into a house that has a dark history. Playing around with the ideas of unresolved spirits and haunted history, this episode was definitely frightening but perhaps was one of the best stories they ever told as well.
THE TALE OF THE GHASTLY GRINNER
Like I'm NOT going to pick this episode. This entry is just a blast. Like so many other episodes, the writers and team prove they understand the audience and cater exactly to horror and comic book fans alike. While the episode does a lot of fun things with comic books, the Grinner himself is a frightening character that would give The Joker a run for his money. From the excellent costume to the grotesque mouth leaking, this episode delivers in every facet.
THE TALE OF THE DEAD MAN'S FLOAT
Okay, definitely do yourself a favor and also watch "The Tale of Badge," which is a truly fun folkloric romp and "The Tale of the Night Shift," a horrifying vampire story based in a hospital, but it's hard to ignore the awesomeness of unique aquatic horror. I'm sure we all enjoy aquatic horror as much as the next person, but let's face it, it's all sharks and sea creatures. "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float" is a nightmare scenario in which a ghost is confined to a school pool, the rotting stinking corpse of a body never found. It needs to be celebrated for it's creativity and make up.
The Tale of Vampire Town
Boy oh boy does Are You Afraid of the Dark? know how to craft a vampire story. Season six has quite a few entires that deal with technology which become instantly dated (I'm looking at you, episode based on giga pets) but "The Tale of Vampire Town" remains an instant classic. Once again, dealing right into the hands of monster kids, "Vampire Town" follows Adder who is a self-proclaimed vampire hunter in a world very much like our own. When he discovers that his new town may indeed be home to the undead, Adder must become what he has always pretended to be. The vampires in this episode are frightening but even better is the mid-episode twist and then in true Serling fashion, another twist right at the end. This one will leave a mark.
The Tale of the Silver Sight
I'm kind of cheating here. "The Tale of the Silver Sight" is a three part episode, essentially a movie, and was the reboot of the series in 1999 after a couple of years off air. Bringing back two original cast members, Gary and younger brother Tucker, we see a new Midnight Society faced with a real life horror. It's all about breaking down expectations and was an absolute love letter to the fans who kept the show chugging along for seven years. It's a mystery, it's a ghost story, it's got a creep ass carousel and references to the first six seasons. It was a fan's dream.