If you grew up in the 90s’ then you probably remember “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. The horror anthology series ran on the Canadian television network YTV before getting its fame on Nickelodeon. After a short hiatus, the series made a comeback for a one year revival before returning back to the shadows. Though it’s now dated with its early 90s’ slang, like “Zeeb”, it will forever be remembered as a show that scared the living shit out kids. A film was in the works, but earlier this year the film was removed from its slated theatrical release date and was then revealed to be a limited series on the network it originally aired on. The entirety of part one dropped on YouTube October 9th, with the next two parts scheduled to be released the following two Fridays.
New kid on the block Rachel (Lylian Ray) is adjusting to her school, a nightmare to any child in their youth. On top of that, she has been haunted by a mysterious man she calls Mr.Tophat. The nightmare is surprisingly vivid for Nickelodeon, easily making it terrifying for adolescents who aren’t used to horror. One day, Rachel finds a cryptic note in her locker. After a series of tests, she is given an opportunity to earn a spot in the Midnight Society, a group of teens who meet up in the middle of the night to tell scary stories. She chooses to tell the story that haunts her dreams, the Carnival of Doom.
Without going too much into the details, the story offers some eerie ambiance for young viewers, but isn’t very scary. Especially when compared to the opening scene of the episode where Mr.Tophat is stalking Rachel in an abandoned warehouse. That isn’t to say that it’s a waste of screen time. It seems to be more of a setup of what is to come in the series. Visually the show resembles more on the cinematic side than the typical television show you would expect on a children’s network. Looking into the creators behind the reboot, none seem to have ties to horror except D.J. McHale who was the creator of the original series. The sequences highlighted in the debut of the series are promising for what is to come in the three-parter. I’d be happy if it stays on pace, but as a fan of horror, it would be great for it to go darker.
I wasn’t expecting the show to be nightmare fuel, which may explain why I was pleasantly entertained throughout. The new Midnight Society are all great in their given roles. “It” alum Jeremy Ray Taylor is one of the first members we meet. His germaphobe tendencies might seem to go against the principles of the group, but it’s established through dialogue and actions that these kids aren’t just fans of horror but like to be scared. Usually, one actor takes the limelight and out acts their comrades, but here everyone gets a moment to shine. Lylian Ray might be the next breakout star if the show continues to hold its quality. She’s able to be both a weirdo and a kid with confidence that any youth strives to be.
October 18th can’t come soon enough as part one ends on an intriguing cliffhanger. I’m optimistic about this mini-series and hope that it creates curiosity for future freaks who may one day consider themselves an honorary midnight society member.