Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Ross is a film buff and Emerson College screenwriting major who writes about Halloween costumes over at Star Costumes. He can be reached at: ross (dot) tipograph (at) gmail (dot) com
Are You Afraid of the Dark? – The Tale of the Midnight Madness – review (TV Episode)
First Aired: 1993
“Are you Afraid of the Dark?” was a Canadian kids TV production where a group of kids, the Midnight Society, would gather in the woods to tell scary stories. The story would be the meat of the episode. The first run of the series was 5 seasons long and ran from 1990 to 1996, a new set of Midnight Society members were seen between 1999 and 2000. This was from season 2 of the first run.
After the routine Midnight Society campfire discussion of the story to come, the episode begins on an image of a classic but run-down movie theater: the Rialto. The majority of the story takes place in and around this theater. It’s a great atmosphere for this vampire-movie-oriented episode. Inside the movie house, a classic black and white movie has just finished. The lone audience member, an elderly woman, applauds. Leaving the theater, she passes Pete (Eddie Robinson), an usher. “Enjoy the movie, ma’am?” he asks. She scoffs and leaves the theater.
Pete is joined by Katie (Melanie Wiesenthal), his plucky co-worker, and the only other usher employed. She’s depressed because of their lack of customers and/or good movies to show, but Pete is more positive. They play these roles out through the episode, two stereotypical but entertaining characters. Keep in mind, this is a children’s show. Their manager is Mr. Kristoph (Harry Standjofski), the generic greasy Italian boss guy, who shares Katie’s grumpiness about their depressing jobs.
Pete learns that if they continue to lose profits, the Rialto will be shut down in favor of a bigger, tackier multiplex. One montage later – Pete campaigning outside with publicity for the Rialto – he’s back in the theater with Katie, customers still lacking. Just when all hope seems lost, in walks Dr. Vink (Aron Tager), a madcap recurring character in the series; he always plays some sort of villain or catalyst in the plot. In this episode, he’s a filmmaker with a very special film that he claims with save the Rialto, if they give him one night each week to show his movie. Mr. Kristoph accepts his offer, Dr. Vink hands over the film reel, and Vink disappears.
Eventually, the movie is shown to the public. The movie turns out to be “NOSFERATU”, the silent vampire classic from 1922. It’s a hit! The first crowd leaves happy, claiming they’re going to come back; they’ve never seen anything so scary! Meanwhile, in the projection booth, the now-used film reel glows eerily… Crowds flock to the theater to see the film, with Pete and Katie watching from the back. Business is booming.
Katie and Pete run out of Kristoph’s office, directly into Nosferatu himself (played here by Christopher Heyerdahl). If you ask me, this sequence is very non-child-friendly; the extensive make-up and prosthetics on this creature are blood-curdling. Kudos to the make-up and prop crew.
Though the ending may seem rushed and quick, it’s quite terrifying. Many fans of the series have said that this episode is one of the classics (out of almost one hundreds episodes total), always for reasons involving the creature. The acting by the two teenage leads is definitely sub-par, but the direction was creepy, and the atmosphere and story were cheesy fun. This episode owes its impact to the original vampire, Max Schreck, from the golden age of cinema. Schlocky fun. 7 out of 10.
The episode's imdb page is here.