Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are you Afraid of the Dark? – The Tale of Vampire Town – review (TV Episode)

dvd setDirected by: Mark Soulard

First Aired: 1999

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 1 of the second run, later described as season 6.

fangsThe episode begins with the owner of the Wisteria Funeral Home, Carl Mueller (Michel Perron), closing up for the night and heading into a storm. Just out of the door the phone rings and so it is back inside where the call is from his wife asking if he is heading home yet! When the call ends he hears something in the home. He searches through, eventually coming to the embalming room and a tray has fallen. As he picks it up a corpse rises and knocks him out (all we see of the assailant are fangs). Ripping his shirt open reveals a cross that causes the vampire to flee.

reading the magazineWe see a journal being written about Wisteria, the vampire town, and the vampire master Dreyfus (Greg Dunley) who is allegedly buried in the town’s catacombs. The journal is being written by Adder (Kyle Downes). He is dressed in Goth type gear and has a magazine reporting the ‘vampire attack’ and mentioning Dreyfus. Mom (Danielle Désormeaux) and dad (Michael Rudder) are taking him to Wisteria as it is his turn to choose the family outing – dad would rather be at a game.

the despairing parentsAdder sees himself as a vampire hunter and dresses in Goth gear as he is trying to act like a vampire to catch a vampire. He only eats red meat, won’t leave the car until nightfall and has a vial of smelly liquid from Romania that is allegedly raven’s blood mixed with nightshade and mandrake – a vampire delicacy. Mom and dad leave him in the car and book in the local hotel, the clerk, Stanley (Richard Jutras), is less than impressed with vampire talk.

Kyle Downes as AdderWhen Adder finally comes in he asks Stanley about the catacombs and is told that they are sealed off. Stanley seems suspicious of the boy and when he goes to his room he phones Carl to ask about the attacker – could it have been Adder? There is an entrance to the catacombs in the inn’s basement and Adder sneaks down at night, unknown to him Stanley and Carl are following with stakes and mallets.

Adder finds a stone sarcophagus with a wooden stake sticking out of a hole in the lid. The coffin says Dreyfus and Adder is taking pictures when Stanley and Carl get there. To escape the men he pulls out the stake and throws it at them. Of course, when they have all left the room smoke begins to billow out of the hole – Dreyfus is being reborn. Soon Adder has a couple of vampire slayers and a rather thirsty vampire after him.

raven's bloodDreyfus looks not too well following his incarceration in the tomb and I liked the idea that he did not come back whole and handsome. Lore wise we have had reference to stakes through the heart, of course, Dreyfus can turn to smoke and we also discover that vampires do not cast reflections. Further to this we also discover that the raven’s blood concoction is a delicacy and is more tempting than actual human blood.

in sunlightAdder uses this to distract Dreyfus and open the curtains, which causes the vampire to be destroyed by the sunlight in a flurry of bad cgi. Talking of which, when Adder goes into the catacombs a couple of bats fly out – just bats, nothing vampiric about them – but they are total crap bat syndrome. Of course, a vampire attacked Carl prior to Dreyfus being reborn and perhaps, for once, we will not get the typical kid show happy ending.

The episode was okay but I found the town, with the electric light festooned catacombs too much of a stretch for an adult sensibility. I didn’t particularly buy the Adder character, perhaps Kyle Downes was lacking a little experience at that point in his career to carry the lead. Richard Jutras came across as almost Anthony Perkins meets Peewee Herman and I think that underlines the problem that they kept veering from the horror for a more comedic aspect that was unnecessary. Not as good as the Tale of the Night Shift, kids will undoubtedly get more from it than adults. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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