Are You Afraid of the Dark? DVD Review (Paramount Pictures)

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Are You Afraid of the Dark? has the honour of being a Canadian series that hit it big not just in Canada, but in the United States as well. It ran from 1990 to 1996, and then came back for seconds from 1999 to 2000. Then it disappeared for quite some time before a movie was announced from the writer of IT, Gary Dauberman, to be directed by D.J. Caruso. However, the film never came to be and to take its place was a three-episode mini-series reboot of sorts in the fall of 2019.

The newest Are You Afraid of the Dark? has Rachel Carpenter (Lyliana Wray) joining the secret Midnight Society, which consists of Gavin Coscarelli (Sam Ashe Arnold), Akiko Yamato (Miya Cech), Graham Raimi (Jeremy Ray Taylor of IT fame), and Louise Fulci (Tamara Smart). Rachel tells her story about a haunted carnival run by the evil Mr. Tophat (Rafael Casal), who haunts Rachel’s dreams in a few sequences that reminded me of A Nightmare on Elm Street for kids. After Rachel is done telling her story, the next day the same carnival shows up to town and a random ginger kid goes missing (oddly enough no one seems to care. Ginger bias much!). The Midnight Society know something strange is afoot and begin to investigate the carnival to try to save the town and rid the world of the evil Mr. Tophat. Dun dun dunnnn!

The new mini-series premiered on Nickelodeon over three nights, and it turned out to be a ratings success. Although I have a feeling that the success of the show is thanks mostly to people feeling nostalgic for the original or younger people checking it out for the first time. The story, spread out over three episodes, isn’t anything special. I would have rather had three different tales for each episode. That way you don’t run the risk of boredom setting in, which it most certainly does with this rather humdrum story. There are some interesting elements. They mostly come in the form of a few nods to other horror films and directors, the most noticeable being the name of the town – Argento – and the characters’ last names. The show also feels a bit like Stephen King’s IT at times (probably because of Jeremy Ray Taylor). Finally, there is some practical effects work that should impress a few people. Does it make up for the poor acting from pretty much everyone? Not really. Sidenote: why does Brandon Routh appear in a super small role?

As for the DVD, we get into a pickle depending on where you live. If you reside in the United States, you’ll be getting the DVD and as a bonus feature, you will get three fan-favourite episodes from the original series. Those episodes are Original Series Season 1, Episode 2: The Tale of Laughing in the Dark, Original Series Season 4, Episode 8: The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner, and Original Series Season 5, Episode 1: The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float. Now if you by chance do not live in the States and live in Canada as I do, you are poop out of luck when it comes to the bonus episodes, as they are not included on the DVD due to the lovely issue of rights and who owns them. In Canada YTV and The Family Channel own the rights, whereas in the States Nickelodeon owns them, hence why there is no issue including them on the US DVD. It certainly sucks and makes recommending the Canadian release difficult. In my useless opinion, you would be better off importing the US release. Of course, I say all of this assuming you liked the show.

After hearing that the series as been renewed for a second season, I’m hoping they learn from their past mistakes and decide to tell some different tales. As for this one? Definitely check it out, but go in with low expectations. And if you absolutely must own the DVD, be sure to pick up the US release for those extra episodes.

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