August 28, 2020 Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Mini-Series Review)
Are you a ’90s kid? If so, you may recall a few sleepless nights courtesy of Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? Those terrifying twenty-minute tales may have been an introduction to Horror for many during its time. Thankfully, young people today won’t have to go without nightmares thanks to a modern revival of the classic show. Originally airing in October of 2019, Are You Afraid of the Dark? moves into the modern area with an entirely new and improved formula.
A new three episode mini-series, now it becomes available on DVD as of August 11, 2020 via Paramount Home Entertainment. A great item to add to your collection, it even comes along with three classic episodes of the original series…but can this re-imagining live up to its predecessor?
Those who watched the original will remember bit-sized Horror stories with each episode being a standalone tale told around a fire by members of The Midnight Society. That formula has been completely re-done for today’s contemporary audience. Now, each of the three episodes revolves around the same story and villain: Mr. Tophat and the Carnival of Doom.
When Rachel (Lyliana Wray: Maximum Ride 2016, Strange Angel series) moves to a new town, she quickly finds herself invited into the clandestine Midnight Society: a group fellow high school Horror enthusiasts who meet to sell scary stories. When Rachel submits her story of Mr. Tophat’s Carnival of Doom to fellow members Gavin (Sam Ashe Arnold: Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever. series, Brotherhood 2019), Akiko (Miya Cech: Always Be My Maybe 2019, Rim of the World 2019), Graham (Jeremy Ray Taylor: 42 2013, It Chapter 2 2019), and Louise (Tamara Smart: The Worst Witch series, Artemis Fowl 2020), they all soon find her tale coming true. When students begin to go missing, The Midnight Society must band together to unravel the mystery of Mr. Tophat (Rafael Casal: Def Poetry series, Blindspotting 2018).
We all know that carnivals are the ideal setting for some quality scares. Writer BenDavid Grabinski and Director Dean Israelite take the clowns, creepy rides, and circus performances to a new level by weaving these elements into the narrative. Mixing the human villain of Mr. Tophat with some more classic monsters.
It is not all just about scares, though. There is a positive message here, too. The Midnight Society’s shared love of Horror and scary stories brings together a group of kids who run in different social circles, but all must work together and use their individual talents to overcome a very real threat. The story itself is smart and touching, with each episode guaranteed to make viewers eager to learn what happens next.
The complete runtime of the mini-series is only 2 hours and 10 minutes. Just a bit longer than your average Horror flick. However, this longer formula is perfect for allowing the audience to become attached to these lovable characters, and gives plenty of time for the scares to feel earned, and for the triumphs to be meaningful.
Despite being aimed at a much younger audience, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is better than plenty of the big-budget Horror films that come to theaters. The characters are great, the story is entertaining, the production is solid, and most importantly…it’s scary! While the show is perfect for a teen audience, there is plenty for parents and other adults to appreciate, too.
No connection to the original series is needed, but there are a few nods that those ’90s kids will love. Grabinski and Israelite, in addition to Executive Producers Matt Kaplan and D.J. MacHale, clearly took great care with the beloved source material. If you find yourself feeling especially nostalgic, check out the selection of episodes from the series’ original run included with the DVD special features. Thankfully, Are You Afraid of the Dark? has already been renewed for a second season. Here is hoping that the team can build upon this strong foundation and continue making spine-tingling teen Horror. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives the newest edition of Are You Afraid of the Dark? 5 out of 5 stars.