Monday, July 28, 2008

TV: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

For a certain group of people, the following opening will instantly flood their minds with nostalgia:

To tell you the truth, when I was six years old and I first saw the show's opening, it scared the bejeezus outta me and I changed the channel in panic. Later on in my youth, though, I screwed up enough courage to actually watch an episode and found a good half-hour horror/sci-fi anthology series that often had stories that were as memorable as the big boys.

Airing every week on Nickeolodeon's famed "SNICK" primetime lineup, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" featured stories from the Midnight Society, a group of kids who are so cool they can sneak out into the woods at night to tell stories to each other. A lot of these were inspired by or taken wholesale from previous works - various episodes of "The Twilight Zone," for example (hey, if you're going to lift, lift from the best).

What really made the show great was that every story featured kids or at least young adults in the lead roles. There's an aspect of helplessness that a kid feels in a supernatural confrontation that deepens the horror beyond what would normally be possible. Of course, this is balanced by the fact that the series was never gory or even violent, preferring shock scares and story twists to buckets of blood.

The show wasn't always good. A majority of the episodes are cheesy today, especially without the patina of childhood memory. The best ones, though, like "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark," still hold up:


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