Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Review: The Tale of the Midnight Madness

I’m pleased to welcome Ross Tipograph to the blog, who has reviewed the “Are you Afraid of the Dark” episode “the Tale of Midnight Madness” for us.

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)

Directed by: DJ MacHale

First Aired: 1993

Contains spoilers

“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.

Vink returns to see how things are going. Mr. Kristoph tries to grease a new deal out of the overzealous Vink, and he’s crossed the line. Vink gets upset and leaves in a huff, ominously claiming “This story is far from over!” One night, Pete sits alone in the audience, watching “Nosferatu.” He starts falling asleep – Nosferatu walks out of the screen – and Pete wakes up. He tells Katie about what he thinks was a dream, and they hear Mr. Kristoph scream. They run to him. Kristoph is unconscious in his chair, neck bitten. The terror has begun.

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.

After some chase scenes, Katie and Pete reach the screening room. They turn on the projector and start the movie. Pete, having seen the creature exit the screen once before, enters the movie himself. He stands inside the image on the screen in black and white, a quite genius creative decision. Nosferatu enters the movie, lurking close. Pete’s a movie buff, however, and “knows how this ends” – he pulls open a curtain, daylight causes Nosferatu to melt and perish, and Pete exits the screen. Vink appears, delighted. He’s purchased the theater, and he can now wreak havoc every night of the week!

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.


Gabriel said...

This sounds great, going to try and hunt the episode down. One cannot have enough Nosferatu :)

Taliesin_ttlg said...


it is 'nice' to have some Nosferatuean action going on, much better than body glitter... ;)

Gabriel said...


I love that term! Sounds like Goth Nightclub, or a horror magazine etc or a vampire cult. I think you better copyright it before I 'borrow' it :)

Also what's with the Cypress Hill and Limp Bizkit? That's a long way from FOTN and Sisters of Mercy buddy!!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Borrow away :)

Re the cyprus Hill etc... feeling that way out this week (I had a spate of classic Goth last week, fotn, mission plus some cult and cure), and I am a creature of broad and varied tastes ;)

...and the limp bizkit really did sum up the feeling many of us had after yesterday's "steal from the poor to maintain the banks/rich" budget.

[To explain to those reading the comments I've been throwing some rock/rap type vids up on facebook]

Gabriel said...

No need to defend yourself, I have a special place in my heart for Cypress Hill's INSANE IN THE BRAIN :)

Yes - I've been seeing stories about your country's woes on the news. Some things never change!

Back on track, I'm going to be watching this Nosferatuean episode when I get back from KFM :)

Like Louis Armstrong playin the trumpet...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Now, you mention Insane in the Brain and all I can think of is the Simpson episode that featured it!!! lol

Zahir Blue said...

Wasn't a big fan of the show (it was okay...) but really enjoyed this episode. The whole alternate silent film vampire was just plain cool. The girl was cute, too.

Adore "nosferatuean" btw.

Oh, and I'm back online! Yay!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Zahir, glad you are back online (dropped you an email the other day. Don't know if you got it?)

Nosferatuean, I think, should be open to complete fair usage across the board :)