If you’re lucky, one day you’ll get old. Your brain will become a cold, dark labyrinth of confusion and loneliness, and you’ll never be able to find your way out. Every first kiss, every birth, the names of everyone you’ve ever loved will evaporate from your memory. That’s if you’re lucky. Keep that in mind as “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” again probes the most fragile recesses of the human heart in 20 minutes or less. Okay, let’s do this shit.
Some fat farty kid of no consequence wants to join the Society. His name is Stig, and he has a bag over his head so he won’t know the secret location of the Midnight Society’s storytelling circle. They had to upgrade from bandana blindfolds to burlap sacks for better coverage, and if wannabe members do peek, it makes the whole rifle execution part that much easier. Gary with blood and brains splattered on his glasses is nothin’ to fuck with.
But tonight is Kiki’s night to say 10 extra lines (tell a story). Look, I know books could be written on Kiki, but here’s my theory on her persona. She’s not fucking around. She obviously has other places to be, but she has chosen be here. She’s telling this story to these jackasses for the same reason women get breast implants: for herself.
So, for “The Tale of the Jagged Sign,” the viewer has to understand a pretty complicated concept to really get what’s going on. Kiki and Girl With Bangs tag team this one, since clearly explaining it is a two-person job. Symbols—no, Tucker, not cymbals—are pictures that mean shit or whatever. Listen very closely: Kiki, who has to be at least 15 in TV years, just found out from a book that ancient Egyptians used symbols to communicate. Girl With Bangs is practically Kegeling tampons out of her snatch with excitement to add, “Yeah! They drew pictures instead of letters!” I think I’ve heard about those…whore-o-graphics. Hearts, stars, horseshoes, wieners drawn on bathroom stalls pointing at glory holes. Okay, everyone is up to speed. Let us proceed.
Claudia is the hundredth character on the show to have to stay at some boring relative’s house in the country for summer vacation because her parents are biologists or whatever. Kiki narrates, “Spending a few weeks at her Aunt Yvonne’s house in the middle of nowhere wasn’t Claudia’s idea of an exciting time.” Actually, looking at the girl, that sounds exactly like Claudia’s idea of an exciting time.
It’s an old folks’ home. Hey, Claudia, “Everyone is dying to meet you.” GET IT.
Friendship at last!
Claudia wanders into one of the old people’s rooms and sees a music box. Music boxes have no other purpose than to be really creepy to your surviving family after you’re dead; I’m going to rig mine to start playing by itself at random. This close-up of these birds gives me pause. I’m premonitioning.
Okay, so remember how your brain is going to devolve into a dank prison when you’re old? This lady is proof of tha—AHHHH what is that hand?
Okay, it’s some old lady’s hand. This lady is Marjorie. She pets Claudia’s head and says she has pretty hair. She has dementia. It’s sad. She used to look a lot like Claudia when she was younger, maybe almost to the point where someone might mistake Claudia for Marjorie. Anyway, weird. Keep your claws to yourself, lady.
Claudia, for probably the first time in her life, is too cool for her current scene and finds some neighbor girl named Kate to commiserate with about their terrible lives full of boredom and old farts and getting their first periods blah blah. Time for a hike in the woods! Look at all the majesty.
Claudia, rebel that she is, takes a path away from the main trail, which freaks out Kate. She’s afraid of heights (I can tell from her acting) but whitebitch keeps climbing up the fucking rocks—and stumbles upon a creepy symbol (remember, a symbol is a picture that means something) painted on the summit. Kind of looks like…some kind of…bird. Where have we seen such a bird-type shape before? Hmmm. Hopefully Kiki will explain it to me. I love seeing that light in her eyes when she realizes she’s made an idea click in the mind of another person. So rewarding.
What the hell is thish wordsh?
And then a hot Amish ghost dude appears. So…scared…but…suspenders…look…nice on you. Whitebitch thinks he’s probably just some high-school steampunk dude with a staring problem, but then he proves his ghostitude my invisibly drawing that same creepy symbol in the dirt at the girls’ feet (I guess with his finger or with a ghost stick—a dead branch?). OMFG.
“Get on me.”
And then he pops up behind them and does the universal gesture for, “Come join me in the afterlife,” because ghosts can draw and move their hands and maybe whisper a single phrase over and over that’s too vague to be actually communicate anything effectively, but they can’t fucking talk. Anyway, he’s bangable, right? He would hold your hand and make you a mix tape if those existed before he got dead. Despite his otherwordly glow, Claudia still isn’t convinced he’s a ghost, but she and Kate both run back to the house.
And that’s where they find old lady Marjorie giving us further proof that she’s better off dead (so you won’t have to feel bad for her when she gets reunited with the steampunk ghost ((the love of her life she accidentally stood up the night they were supposed to run away together and who fell off that rock while he was waiting because he was painting that bird thing, the symbol of their love) and goes with him to the afterlife.) Yeah, spoiler alert. That’s what happens. But you already guessed that, right? It gives me such pompous glory.
So I will just wrap up this story with screen shots!
I see you seeing me.
Amish steampunk ghost turns his body into vapor (steam?), fogs up Claudia’s window and draws the symbol in the fog. Crazy. Shit.
“Don’t go back to the cliff, crazy bitch. Ghost + cliff = dead.”
“Does this thing matter to your old brain anymore?”
Oh snap. He’s back again, and Marjorie sees him this time, too. And then promptly forgets about it I guess, ‘cause she old.
Claudia goes back to the cliff, almost dies just like Amishghost. Kate conquers her fear of heights blah blah suspenseful filler. Bad form, Kiki.
Now the dude finally speaks. Use your words. “Why didn’t you come?” he asks not-Marjorie. “Some shit came up,” Kate explains. “Oh, okay. I’ll go get actual-Marjorie then,” ghost says.
Together at last! Time for third base.
The end. Truly a supernatural version of “The Notebook.” This episode was disappointing on a few levels, but as a whole it is successful at reminding us of something important: Life is sad, love is sad, and sadness is sad especially when a person is too out of it mentally to even realize why they’re so sad.
Submitted for your approval by Sarah
It’s hard to imagine a time when I was uninitiated—when, like Frank wearing a bandanna blindfold, I hadn’t yet laid eyes on the members of the
Breakfast Club Midnight Society or their secret clearing. Before this life-changing premiere of AYAOTD, Nickelodeon ran some promos for the show that seemed specifically designed to make 7-year-olds pee their Coolots with a mixture of fear and excitement. They had somehow convinced me that at 8:00/7:00 Central, a ghost would emerge from my television (which, by the way, was made of wood and had a fucking dial that you turned to change the channel). What actually occurred was just as good: “The Tale of the Phantom Cab.”
Frank has to audition to become a member of the Midnight Society, and his jean jacket has the sleeves cut off for better punching. Okay, so he’s aggressive, but it’s soon obvious he has what it takes to be a member—he can talk about supernatural things in the low, menacing voice that people use when they really care about fear. Okay, on to the tale.
Danny and Buzz were brothers. Danny was the cool older brother who did cool things like listen to speed metal and get toothy blow jobs underneath the bleachers at hockey games. Buzz was probably doomed to a life of soiling his sheets with urine and/or nocturnal emissions. Like many sibling pairs who would follow on this show, the older sibling is just relentlessly and irrationally mean to his younger sibling, but for some reason they’re taking a hike through the woods together—and shit soon gets crazy when Buzz announces that the compass is “whacked.” They’re lost.
How do I describe Buzz’s acting? He talks like he’s simultaneously drunk and on Ritalin. This kid’s stage parents had obviously just released him from his harness.
It gets dark and they’re still lost. Flynn, a conspicuously pale man, emerges from an absurd cloud of fog like a member of KISS and leads them to Dr. Vink’s cottage. So, they’re at the cott—wait, did I just hear someone say, “Dr. Fink?” You fucking bitches, I will jar your hands like nobody’s business—so they’re at the cottage, and Dr. Vink says he’ll help them get home if they solve this riddle:
What is it that has no weight, can be seen by the naked eye, and if you put it in the barrel, it would make the barrel lighter?
Cut to the Midnight Society around the campfire. Actual dialogue:
Smug prepubescent male: “Wait a minute, wait a minute, no fair. You can’t put a riddle in a story that can’t be solved.”
Girl With Bangs: “Maybe it can.”
Kiki, clearly just joining the conversation: “Sounds like one of those riddles you can’t solve.” Thank you, Kiki, for aggressively restating that sentiment while wearing a backwards hat.
Back to Buzz and Danny:
They can’t solve the riddle despite Danny’s use of scientist finger, so Dr. Vink is all, “Get the fuck out or I’ll chop off your body parts.”
Buzz and Danny “beat feet back into the woods,” according to Frank, and they soon come upon a cab driving through the forest. As Buzz needlessly points out in the most annoying voice possible, “It’s a taxi cab!”
Aside: Remember when I said older siblings on this show irrationally hate their younger siblings? I take it back about Danny. For all of Danny’s threats to “smack” and “pound” his little brother, he barely ever touches Buzz, and that’s really too bad. Buzz needs to be pounded. He needs to be towel-whipped in the locker room. He needs to have his trumpet thrown into a canal after band practice.
Okay, so they get in the cab, and who should be in the driver’s seat but Flynn? Turns out Flynn couldn’t figure out how to invisibly make a barrel lighter, either, and Dr. Vink chopped off his hand (although it looks more like Dr. Vink sentenced him to an eternity of not being able to get his fist out of his sleeve). No more ten-and-two driving for Flynn. Somehow, in addition to the hand-chopping, Flynn for some reason got into an accident that same fateful night with his cab and, in his words:
Scary, right? I mean, his head is on backwards. (Now he has a backwards hat like Kiki.) Buzz and Danny shit their pants and have a finally-facing-my-fate scream that recalls this one from “Troll 2.” Compare:
As if their day couldn’t get any worse, it turns out they have to solve that goddamned barrel riddle and break the spell before Flynn repeats his “doozy” of a crash and makes them all explode. Dios mio.
Buzz struggles to figure out the answer as the cab careens through the woods like only a car on a Canadian television show with no special effects budget can: in fast forward. After a while, Buzz realizes, “Waait a second, there’s a trick here.” So basically he finally understands that he’s answering a riddle and not a simple question.
His finger gets another boner, but this time Buzz actually puts out. He knows the answer! He figured it out! He’s broken the curse! He’s…REPEATING THE ENTIRE RIDDLE OVER AGAIN LIKE THIS IS A GODDAMNED SPELLING BEE AS THEY BARREL TOWARD DEATH.
Ladies and gentlemen and bushes ghosts and severed body parts, it’s a hole—a hole in the barrel. A hole. A hole.
And boom, the cab disappears. Flynn goes to cabbie heaven, and hopefully the spirit of his pickled hand comes with him. Danny and Buzz are spat out onto the ground. The brothers are having a celebratory no-homo moment when a Jeep pulls up. It’s a park ranger who’s been searching for them. They’re saved.
Then they both grab the Jeep’s roll bar and swing into the back like it’s something they do on the daily. Everyone in the ’90s was just hopping into Jeeps all the time.
The story ends sadly, as Buzz never got the beating that a nerd of his caliber deserved. But they both survived. Whatever. Frank got a unanimous vote. Good job, Frank.
Submitted for your approval by Sarah
Why AYAOTD 19 years later? I’m in my mid-to-late twenties, a college graduate and now work a fulltime job. I feel nostalgic for the 90’s, when I was a carefree and jobless kid. A big part of the 90’s was staying up late and watching SNICK with my big sister. There was nothing more exciting than the anticipation of the latest episode of AYAOTD.
While in college I was waiting in line for a burrito with my best friend and co-blogger, Sarah who said, “I’m cold.” I turned around, stared deeply into her eyes and repeated “I’m cold,” in my most serious voice. We went on like this for a few minutes and finally connected it to AYAOTD. I then found bootleg AYAOTD DVDs on eBay and the rest is history. Nineteen years later the show still holds up!
Favorite member of the Midnight Society? Gary was really the glue that held the group together. Sure, he was a bit nerdy, but who’s blogging about Gary two decades later?
Favorite episode? If I could only watch one episode again it would be, “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods.” I’m a sucker for unlikely friendships, summer camp and scary old women.
Scariest character of all time? The doll in the basement from, “The Tale of the Dark Music.” Her appearance is brief, but I actually screamed during the episode.
Secret AYAOTD crush? Sam.
What episode ending would you change? I don’t think the kids with the Super Specs deserved their fate. They seemed like a nice couple of youngsters looking for a good time and ended up trapped in a crystal ball. They are probably still there.
Favorite Canadian word? I knew something was up every time they said, “Sorry.”
Dr. Vink or Sardo? Sardo! He was such a loveable cheapskate and genuinely seemed surprised when his “fake” goods turned out to do exactly what he advertised. Also, my last name is unpronounceable too.
Best celebrity guest? Tia and Tamera. If you don’t know their last name this may not be the blog for you.
AYAOTD-created phobia? Crystal balls, 3D glasses, pinball machines, dollhouses, basements, hound dogs, clowns, prom, aliens, computer viruses, high school pools, high school in general, mirrors that make you old, people who are alive but are really dead and trick you, shiny red bicycles, prank calling, soup, lockets, scarecrows, curses, growing old, being young, death, being alive forever in a really stupid and unlikely place.
Why AYAOTD 19 years later? One of my most sincere wishes in life is to be part of a Midnight Society. I was already a somber, creepy kid at age 7. I experimented with different tactics—candles, headless baby dolls, sympathy for her plight—to get Bloody Mary to emerge from my mirror. I played in the woods surrounding my house and pretended to be the ghost of a girl who had gotten lost there and starved to death. During a thunderstorm, I left my parents a letter telling them I had been abducted by a vampire, then hid in the closet for what seemed like forever (they never looked for me). I was always very skeptical about the existence of those kinds of things, but that didn’t stop me from shitting my pants about them when the lights were out.
When AYAOTD debuted on Nickelodeon, I was entranced—especially by the fact that, somewhere, in some fictional Canadian world, there were people who liked being scared as much as I did, and who were united by the idea of supernatural things seeping into everyday life. I tried starting my own Midnight Society, but I mostly just got in trouble for starting fires in the woods. I’d still like to form a Society even today, at age 25. If anyone wants to tell some scary stories, break out a Ouija board or have a seance, I’m down.
Favorite member of the Midnight Society? Kristen, fashion visionary.
Favorite episodes? ”The Tale of the Prom Queen,” “The Tale of the Bookish Babysitter,” ”The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle”
Scariest character of all time? Ricky’s water bubbles during the “Prom Queen” seance under the bridge.
Secret AYAOTD crush? Gary.
What episode ending would you change? ”The Tale of the Vacant Lot.” That girl didn’t need to make a deal with the devil to wear her hair down and stop dressing like she got her clothes from a Seattle dumpster.
Favorite Canadian word? There is a subtle accent to hard e sounds, like they’re being over-pronouced, so I love when Frank says the phrase “beat feet” in “The Tale of the Phantom Cab.” That’s backwards-hat Canadiana for “run.” Also, not being aware of the Canadian accent at the time, I just thought that was how cool, flannel-wearing older kids talked.
Dr. Vink or Sardo? Vink. I prefer creep over quirk.
Best celebrity guest? Melissa Joan Hart will always have a place in my heart for her appearance in “The Tale of the Frozen Ghost.” However, I’m going to have to go with Ryan Gosling.
AYAOTD-created phobia? Bridges, specifically driving off of one to a watery grave. Watery graves in general.