Series: Are You Afraid of the Dark?
If not, you're about to be!Are You Afraid of the Dark?
was a children's horror show made by YTV in Canada and aired on Nickelodeon in the US. The pilot of the show was broadcast on October 31, 1990. The original show lasted from August, 1991 to April, 1996. The show was then revived in February, 1999 and lasted until June, 2000.
The story revolved around a club of teenagers called the "Midnight Society" who meet around a campfire in the woods once a week to tell horror stories. Each of the members had their own quirk and storytelling style; one specialized in fairy-tale like stories, one specialized in Trapped in Another World
stories. The show was just your typical Speculative Fiction
/horror anthology series like The Twilight Zone
or Tales from the Crypt
for the early teen set.
The nature of the show's scariness can be likened to R.L. Stine's Goosebumps
novels (Stine's books themselves were later adapted into a TV series as well), only more well-developed in story and characterization and with legitimately scary content. Creative plots, readiness to completely eschew formula, and genuinely frightening imagery more than made up for the limited budgets. "AYAOTD" introduced many a child of the 90s
to some of their first Horror Tropes
, not to mention Sci-Fi
and the occasional dose of Kafka
While the original Midnight Society went through a few new additions and farewells over the seasons, a drastic change came when a new production team picked up after a three year gap in new episodes. The entire
cast was replaced except for Tucker, the previous leader Gary's little brother
, who now led the new Midnight Society. The entire flavor of the stories also changed, becoming less creepy and surprising, and more about leading up to an Anvilicious Aesop
. This Re Tool
lasted all of a year.
The show also had a tie-in video game, The Tale of Orpheo's Curse
, released in 1994. It was a DOS-based point-and-click adventure game (think Myst
, but with more character interaction). The framing device is that you are a potential new member of the Midnight Society telling a story to gain admittance; the actual game is the story, about a brother and sister stuck in a haunted theater, trying to break the curse on the place before they end up as the next victims.
No description of the series would be complete without mentioning its terrifying opening credits sequence
. If you grew up watching the show, chances are there was a time when you or a sibling would run from the room within seconds of it turning up on the TV screen.
This show provides examples of:
The video game provides examples of:
- Abandoned Area: A vaudeville theatre.
- And I Must Scream: The ghosts, the real Orpheo, possibly Elizabeth.
- Bag of Sharing: Averted; when the siblings are separated, they only have the items they individually picked up, and one of the puzzles is getting a critical item from one to the other.
- Big "NO!": Mary lets one out after Elizabeth is brought back from Limbo and all the ghosts are freed.
- Body Motifs: A significant number of puzzles involve eyeballs, fake or... otherwise.
- Cain and Abel: Orpheo's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Mary has always been under the impression that Orpheo loved her sister more than he loved her.
- Can't You Read the Sign?: There are five wardrobes in the basement. The fifth one says: "Do not open EVER!" If you try and open it, you will be dragged inside by a bunch of clothes.
- There's also another door that says you'll be sorry if you open it. You'll get caught by the Neanderthal Man if you do so.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Mary turned Orpheo into a wax statue and took on his appearance and identity.
- Dem Bones: One of the chase sequences involves a wax skeleton suddenly coming alive and attacking. The best way to defeat it? The same way you defeat anything made out of wax: apply lots of heat.
- Door to Before: One of the wardrobes is actually an Elevator that leads back to the wax museum.
- Escape Artist: One of the ghosts, Aldo. His mentor was Harry Houdini, and he studied to be just like him.
- Evil Sorcerer: Orpheo; subverted, as the evil, insane Orpheo is actually Mary in disguise.
- Fountain of Youth: There's one that the player can interact with in the room full of oddities. Each time the player looks at their reflection in the water, it has gotten a little older.
- Framing Device / Leaning on the Fourth Wall: You the player are a potential new member of the Midnight Society; "The Tale of Orpheo's Curse" is the story you're telling to determine your membership.
- Ghostly Goals: Prevent more innocents from falling victim to the curse, breaking the curse and ending their undeath.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Mary. Since Orpheo chose Elizabeth instead of her to be his assistant. (Of course, Mary decided to perform without practicing first.) Mary retaliated by resorting to Black Magic so that she would become the star of the show.
- Guide Dang It: The specters puzzle. Even walkthroughs are baffled. Luckily, clicking randomly often results in the puzzle being solved anyway.
- Hoist By Her Own Petard: Twofold, the first is Mary using a curse to get rid of her father and sister so she can be the star. This backfires, however, as the curse affected the whole theater and prevented her from doing the magic tricks properly, resulting in a lot of deaths for the volunteers (though one wonders why they would hang around after that many failures). The second is when the siblings finally break the curse, causing it to rebound on Mary and turn her into an old woman until she eventually dies.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: Mess up, and you get a cutscene showing the characters' Fate Worse Than Death, followed by a return to the Midnight Society campfire where the members vote on the story and give you hints on how to improve it.
- Jump Scare: So, you can interact with this wax statue. Will it give you a hint or just make a scary face at you? Or will it come to life and start chasing you?
- Killer Rabbit: In one instant, you can pull a rabbit out of a hat, which turns out to be a monster.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Yeah, even become a monster and come after you. You'll need an electrical appliance to trap it.
- Mad Artist: Orpheo's obsession with putting on a successful magic show probably qualifies. Turns out it was Mary in disguise trying to prove that she was a competent magician.
- Magic Items: To break the curse, you'll need to find Orpheo's five enchanted items: his hat, his wand, his cape, his medallion, and... his eyes.
- Magicians Are Wizards: A lot of Orpheo's former magic show was standard stage magician stuff, but then there's the teleportation booths and all the black magic Mary did.
- The Many Deaths of You
- No OSHA Compliance: The catwalks. Justified, as the theater predates OSHA and has been abandoned for decades, but that doesn't make it any better for the players.
- Off with Her Head: One of the ghosts, Felicia. She ended up losing her head when the guillotine trick was performed.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The theater ghosts are apparently created when magic tricks went wrong and killed them and are stuck as they did when they died (e.g. beheaded, stuck full of swords, drowned in chains), and they can only appear to the living for a short amount of time.
- Pensieve Flashback: In some cases, you'll come across places where you receive visions or riddles about how to solve the puzzles or where to find certain items that can help you out.
- Portal Network: The teleportation boxes, though usually they don't teleport directly into another box.
- Power Floats: One of the ghosts, Sarah. After the levitation trick went wrong, she found herself unable to touch the ground.
- Saw a Woman in Half: One of the ghosts, Roberta, was a victim of this trick. Her bottom half keeps drifting away on its own. Less fatally, Alex gets cut into three pieces at one point.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: One of the ghosts, Frederico. He has an excellent opera voice when performing on stage. He provides a riddle about how to reach Mary's room at the top of the theater (as well as one of the magic items). He also participated in a sword-throwing act, which, of course, didn't work correctly.
- Spiders Are Scary: Terry has a strong dislike for spiders. Whenever she sees spiders or spiderwebs, she gets disgusted.
- Stage Magician: Orpheo by profession, though there's definitely real magic involved.
- Stairs Are Faster: During the final chase sequence, you'll have to use the stairs to quickly reach the stage. Any other way, and you'll get caught.
- Stock Video Game Puzzle: Of course, being an Adventure Game, it's chock full of these.
- Teleporters and Transporters: The teleportation boxes.
- Unicorn: There's one in the mythical creature exhibit. When the mummy comes alive and comes after the player, the unicorn can use its horn to revert the mummy back to its original state.
- Wax Museum Morgue: Possibly. It's assumed that the wax statues have always been wax, but you have to wonder when you find wax molds in the shapes of the main characters...
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: You must accomplish your objectives before the midnight hour.
I declare this meeting of the midnight society closed