At the same time a handful of friends Tweeted and updated their Facebook statuses to celebrate the premiere of TeenNick’s The 90s Are All That lineup recently, I was stabbed with my millionth pang of regret that I still can’t afford cable television. As a 23-year-old with an entry-level job, a loan repayment schedule, some credit debt, and a cat to feed, my budget simply cannot account for pricey cable television bills. Thus, I make do with Netflix and an Internet connection, having learned in college the key to any broke couch potato’s comfort in a cable-less lifestyle is to embrace a wireless router.
Although not currently airing during the midnight to 4AM block, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, easily the most iconic series from Nickelodeon’s golden era, is slated to return to the airwaves in a future cycle of programming. But take it from me, you need look no further than YouTube. Therefore, I invite you to join me in revisiting ten classic, creepy Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes, if not from the comfort of a big orange couch in front of a television, then at least with the lights turned off (it aids the YouTube picture quality).
10. “The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors”
A new family moves into a house across the street. They dress only in black, are seen only at night, and the rest of your neighbors seem to be suffering from some unknown ailment—and wearing band-aids on their necks. Clearly, your new neighbors are either former New Yorkers, or vampires preying on the mail man. Would you invite them in if they came calling after dark? Emma and her brother Dayday wouldn’t, suspecting their new UVB-ambivalent neighbors are after a cup of blood instead of an innocent cup of sugar.
9. “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”
Are You Afraid of the Dark at its most disturbing, corn-ball, Twilight Zone-esque, the Ghastly Grinner almost seems to chastise Jack Nicholson for giving the Joker the couple ounces of sanity that he did. The pulpy, cock-eyed world inhabited by comic-book geek Ethan collapses when he releases the Grinner, a bad college-team mascot with a virulent cackle which he uses to put a smile on that face. The Lynchian atmosphere lends the episode a pervasive, unsettling tone.
8. “The Tale of the Midnight Madness”
The performance of Max Schreck in Nosferatu was fictionalized by the 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire where it was suggested the actor was in fact a real-life vampire. That doesn’t seem like an entirely outrageous claim. I mean—good God—look at him! That grotesque human-like monster of the silver screen continues to frighten audiences even today, and here saves a small theater from ruin—but with a price. When the enigmatic and no less menacing Aron Tager, popularly known as the recurring character Dr. Vink (“with a veh—veh—veh”), provides the movie theater with his private collection of classic films, business comes alive—and so do the characters on the screen. That’s no Jeff Daniels stepping out of the picture, it’s Nosferatu himself.
7. “The Tale of the Midnight Ride”
Although the Midnight Society purports to tell original stories around a campfire, the series frequently borrows from classic literature, myths, and urban legends, repackaging them for a younger generation that will hopefully engage with the source material at a later time. One of the most popular of American tales, Washington Irving’s story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, is retold here with a ‘90s flavoring. After encountering the ghost of Ichabod and directing him out of the Headless Horseman’s deadly path, two high school students unwittingly become the equine-riding killer’s newest targets on Halloween night.
6. “The Tale of the Dream Girl”
Are You Afraid of the Dark may be just a humble horror anthology series for the kiddies, but this episode served as inspiration for one of the great American horror classics of recent memory. Johnny spends his days tinkering with pin-setting machines at the local bowling alley, palling around with his sister Erica, and getting ignored by pretty much everybody else. Well, all except for this one predatory ghost-girl in a letterman’s jacket who keeps following him everywhere. Johnny realizes none too soon that he’s not the one who sees dead people—it’s his sister Erica, who does.
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