In case you missed last months meeting of the Midnight Society, we stoked the fire and toke a ride in a phantom cab, explored the darkness of a funhouse and helped a spirit find her way. As we delve further into the shows propensity for scary stories, we’re treated to one generously evil trinket, a haunted jacket and a pair of spooky specs that are sure to make you rethink some of the items lying around your room. Will the things that go bump in the night return to raise hairs or will the terrors of the dark remain undisturbed till next time? Join us, and see whether you’re really afraid of the dark!
Submitted for approval…
The Tale of the Twisted Claw
Season Number: 1
Episode number: 4
Air Date: September 12, 1992
Midnight Member: David
Plot: Out on All Hallows Eve, friends Kevin (name) and Dougie (name) spray shaving cream in the face of rumored witch Miss Clove (name), causing her vase to fall over in the pursuing prank. The next night while trick or treating, believing their prank to have gone unnoticed, the two decide to knock on Miss Clove’s door in an attempt to shake up the annual monotony of the seasons candy stockpiling. In traditional witch fashion, the two friends receive a blackened, contorted vulture’s claw that grants wishes to those that posses it. Unbeknownst to them, with every desire comes disastrous consequences, leading Kevin and Dougie to wish they weren’t so scared of the dark.
Are You Afraid: There’s an inherent dread in the central idea of wishes gone bad, their outcome remaining tucked into the shadows until they reveal themselves as something sinister. Here, the two friends wishes produce an unsettling encounter with masked hooligans and an ominous black dog that merely offers a glimpse into the claws capabilities. No, the real terror of the episode beckons in the form of an ill-thought remark when Kevin wishes Dougie would just lose his parents, prompting an immediate phone call from the police department. What follows is the shows first real foray into tension and trepidation, culminating in a spine-tingling burst of horror that makes you wish every episode were this effective.
Horror Nods: Its story of a wish granting appendage is lifted from the short story The Monkey’s Paw by author W.W. Jacobs, which dates back over a hundred years and in the subsequent century has seen a paw-full of adaptations. And even though the episode originally premiered in Canada as the shows very first episode two years prior, it does contain an eerily similar, featureless mask from an obscure 1992 slasher called Star Time, which sees a down and out TV addict terrorize the streets of Hollywood. And after Dougie wishes for his grandfather back, a mysterious black tinted car pulls up on a wave of fog that’s reminiscent of 1977’s demonic joyride The Car, which sees a persistent and seemingly unmanned vehicle terrorize a small desert town.
The Tale of the Hungry Hounds
Season Number: 1
Episode number: 5
Air Date: September 19, 1992
Midnight Member: Kristen
Plot: Kristin (Mia Kirshner), who wants nothing more than to ride horses like her late Aunt Dora (Mia Kirshner with her hair down), enjoys exploring the attic where her mother (Ais Snyder) keeps her childhood memorabilia. One rainy afternoon with her cousin Amy (Jennifer Gula) visiting for the summer, the two discover a dusty locked black chest. Unable to figure out the combination, Kristin and Amy attempt to pass the time communicating with the spirits of the dead using a Ouija board; an activity that her mother use to do with her sister. In doing so, they discover the combination to the lock, revealing her aunt’s old riding gear still coated in fresh grass. Enamored, Kristin puts her Aunt’s red riding coat on, which quickly engulfs her in a plume of steam, transforming her into Aunt Dora who must feed the hounds in order for her spirit to rest peacefully.
Are You Afraid: Unfortunately, no. Mia Kirshner is a wonder to behold, embodying the dual roles of Kristin and Aunt Dora with a true youthful grace, though there’s little that goes into making The Tale of the Hungry Hounds remotely scary. There’s a dream-like quality to the world Kristin and Amy travel to, as hazy woods and thick fog surrounds them after descending an alluring staircase that feels haunted. Though most of Kristin’s time spent as Aunt Dora is used as exposition, recounting her time riding horses that even the ghastly appearance of Giles (David Francis), the stable keeper who died of fright years ago can’t amass enough chills to warrant a tremble.
Horror Nods: There are plenty of well-known entries in the genre that involve canine terror, yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that most are far more ravenous than the hounds that haunt the episodes stable. Instead, The Tale of the Hungry Hounds pays most of its respect to the first and most well-regarded of Sherlock Holmes’ adaptations, the 1939 Sidney Lanfield film The Hounds of Baskerville, in which Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Watson (Nigel Bruce) must investigate the attacks of a centuries old hound on the people of Devonshire (equally fog laden). Here, Giles’ fright-induced heart attack parallels that of Sir Charles Baskerville (Ian Maclaren), who was discovered with a distorted face as if scared to death. There are also plenty of far off howls in the dead of night that both Kristin and Holmes hear, leading them to uncover the truth behind the titular hounds.
The Tale of the Super Specs
Season Number: 1
Episode number: 6
Air Date: September 26, 1992
Midnight Member: Gary
Plot: While at a magic shop called Magic Mansion, Weeds (Eugene Byrd), a prankster with a vested interested in practical magic, accidently casts a voodoo spell using crushed monkey bone that possesses a pair of plastic “X-Ray” glasses. When his girlfriend Marybeth (Graidhne Lelieveld-Amiro) tries the glasses on, she sees ominous black cloaked figures, and swears that Weeds is pulling an April Fools joke on her. Meanwhile, Weeds continues to use the magic dust he acquired from the shop, casting spells on classmates as well as a game of basketball he’s losing, and despite its effect, swears it doesn’t work. As the day wears on, Marybeth continues to be haunted by the presence of the cloaked figures, and must enlist the help of Sardo (Richard Dumont) before it’s too late.
Are You Afraid: This is where ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? begins turning the cogs of multiple genres, and it’s one of the series more engrossingly bizarre episodes. Shrouded figures beckon us with outstretched hands, loitering in the background instilling a tone that’s both captivating and chilling. And while some of the figures look like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Green Man, when seen playing a game of basketball together it creates a sense of comical unease, becoming difficult not to feel the shows horrifying extent playing out in vastly different ways. Plus, in a show that has up to this point played it safe in tidying up all the loose ends in order to give audiences a happy ending, The Tale of the Super Specs offers up the first and one of the most haunting endings of the entire show.
Horror Nods: Where would a tale about super spectacles be without John Carpenter’s genre toying They Live, which sees a Los Angeles transplant become the worlds unsuspecting savior after discovering a box of sunglasses that allow whoever wears them to see the consumerist, capitalist beings that hide under the guise of humans. Ditching the shows usual score of spooky strings and minimalist sounds, this episode goes all out in cranking the synth-rock to eleven, evoking the genre defying beats of Carpenter himself.
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