By Grant Duvall
As someone who was born in the 1980's, Snick was a crucial part of my childhood. Snick was Saturday night Nickelodeon, presenting a semi-edgier version of children's television. The last show on at 9:30 at night was ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK, which was basically Tales from the Crypt for children, oftentimes featuring celebrities like Bobcat Goldthwait. The series has been rebooted recently, and as a 38-year-old man, it has not really been on my radar. Given the chance to explore a new episode allowed me the chance to see how this classic series headed into the modern era.
Gone are the days of self-contained stories, as the group of friends known as the Midnight Society, who used to be the bookends for stand-alone stories, are front and center in an almost Stranger Things type of way. Having not seen the other episodes, I was a little lost as to the full plot, but they did do a great job bringing the audience up to speed.
The episode begins with Connor Stevens (Parker Queenan), breaking into a shop of curiosities called Sardo's Magic Mansion, only to be dragged away by an unseen force. Luke, Gabby, Hanna, and Jai (played by Bryce Gheisar, Malia Baker, Beatrice Kitsos, and Arjan Athalye, respectively) are the rest of the Midnight Society, and they believe that Connor is missing from school as part of the story that he plans on telling at midnight. This was a nice choice for these kids who were obsessed with scary stories in the original series to still be doing the creepy campfire tales while having the plot revolve around them rather than cut to a random creepy tale. Will the Midnight society be able to find Connor before a creature known as the Shadowman can take him forever? You must tune in to find out!
The series has incredible production values. The series is filmed cinematically, and I felt as though I was watching a movie rather than a television series designed for the tween market. The soundtrack is suitably creepy, and the sound effects are creative, especially during the spookier scenes. Gone are the days of half-hour episodes. This show is a full hour which works nicely to not rush plot points. The child actors are great, acting effortlessly through some relatively complicated and frightening scenes. A huge highlight is Sardo, played by Ryan Beil. He is comedic and mysterious, giving fun energy to a dark series. Nicely, he tells a short story that ties into the main plot, which was very creepy. This tale, the tale of the Shadowman, was far more frightening than what I remember as a child on the original and was nice to have the mini spooky story element to be retained. The atmosphere and lighting are also far beyond the scope of what I was expecting. I would not be shocked if the directors on these episodes move on to full-on horror films.
Overall, this episode had some real teeth. As an adult I found some scenes to be scary and could only imagine that I would have freaked out (in the best possible way) as a 10-year-old. This one episode has convinced me that I need to watch the rest of the series to get a better handle on the story and to see where it goes. Just be mindful of your little ones if you have them as it may be too intense and make them Afraid of the Dark much like I was as a child.
Nickelodeon’s ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK: CURSE OF SHADOWS premieres Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)