Small Screen Big Frights: Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Horror on Television
Horror has always had an important part in my life, and growing up with 80s and 90s films helped shape the horror-obsessed 30-something-year-old I am now. But when thinking back, there are some TV shows that had the same effect on me then as they do now as an adult — so I thought it was only fair to give them all their due in a series I like to call Small Screen, Big Frights.
So on with the first show. though aimed at children, was probably responsible for nightmares and childhood trauma for kids everywhere.
Are You Afraid of The Dark? (1992-1996)
Living in England in the 90s, satellite TV was the new cool thing, giving us access to more than the four channels we had grown up with. The cool thing for me was having channels that were just for kids, but in 1993 more channels were added, including Nickelodeon. Loaded with more U.S shows than I could handle, I was in 12-year-old heaven; especially when I saw one of the listed shows was called Are you Afraid of the Dark?. My horror senses started to tingle and I eagerly tuned in to the first episode entitled "The Tale of the Phantom Cab", a story about two brothers lost in the woods who stumble across Doctor Vink, who takes them on a ride in a cursed cab until they can answer his riddle:
“What’s weightless, can be seen by the naked eye and when put into a barrel makes it lighter?”
(It’s a hole, in case you were wondering).
After this I was hooked, and my afterschool regime changed so I could watch it every night.
The concept of the show revolves around The Midnight Society, a group of teenagers who meet up in the woods and take turns in telling scary stories to the others around a campfire. The tales often involved urban legends, such as Zeebo The Clown, and gave cautionary tales to the viewer, much like Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. While aimed at kids, the characters in the stories were genuinely scary (people with missing mouths or witches who keep laughing) and they were above what you expected from a kids TV show. Even the opening theme was disturbing.
The show also had some stars who would go onto become huge, like Ryan Gosling, Neve Campbell, Elisha Cuthbert, Aaron Ashmore, and Hayden Christensen. I always found Are You Afraid of the Dark? more enjoyable than Goosebumps and even though that has two movies to its name, there are still rumblings of an AYAOTD movie (and I will be first inline to see it). You can enjoy full episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on YouTube and see how great the 90s were for children's TV horror.
Now I must head out into the woods and try and set up a society of my own — see you all soon with the next installment of our journey through TV horror.