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 AnviliciousAesop. 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.
Actor Allusion: In "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float", Kaj-Erik Eriksen (Zeke) also tried to save someone from drowning in the Goosebumps episode "Welcome To Camp Nightmare".
Adults Are Useless: The amount of adults that aren't the villain or victim and actually contribute in a meaningful way can pretty much be counted on one hand.
One of the aversions appears in "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float," where an old janitor saves the episode's protagonists from being drowned in the pool by the Monster of the Week. It turns out that he used to be the lifeguard back when the pool first opened, and the little brother of his then-girlfriend drowned on his watch—he tried to save the kid, but the monster pulled him away. Of course, he then goes into a state of shock when the monster reveals itself in horrifying fashion in the climax of the episode, but given the past trauma this thing inflicted on him, that's understandable. And he comes charging in at the last second to save one of the protagonists again, giving the other one the chance to hit the monster with the chemical mix that ends up destroying it once and for all.
Aerith and Bob: One thing the show is frequently teased about is the fact that some of the names they gave the kids in the stories were downright weird. Some of the more strange names included Weegee, Dayday, Clorice, Jam, Perch, Rush, Jersey, Koda, and Bostick. Maybe they were more popular in Canada.
To be fair, some of those were nicknames - Rush was short for Russell, and I think we can assume Weegee was a derivative of Luigi.
Ambiguously Gay: Sardo. Just look at him: Earrings, effeminate mannerisms, high voice, quasi-obsessive tidiness...Everything about him screams of Camp Gay.
And I Must Scream: Several examples, including Susan in "The Doll Maker" (until Melissa found her), Karin at the end of "The Thirteenth Floor" (she literally has no mouth and is stuck in a suspended animation-type state, although her species doesn't seem to need a mouth to communicate), Ross at the end of "Pinball Wizard" (trapped in the pinball game), and Cutter in "Cutter's Treasure" as Cutter's punishment of eternal life stuck guarding his treasure.
Artifact of Doom: The clown's nose in "The Laughing in the Dark", the titular Twisted Claw, the Curious Camera.
Artistic License - Statistics: In "The Tale of the Zombie Dice", the shop owner and the kids play a 'game' where you roll 2 dice, each with 1 skull on it, 3 times (6 die rolls), and if one skull appears, the roller loses. While the shop owner does agree to roll the dice instead when the protagonist asks him to, neither of them acknowledge (and most likely the writers didn't realize) that the game is NOT fair. If you roll 6 dice, your chances of getting a specific side on any of them is 66.49% - meaning that BY DESIGN, the roller loses about 2 out of 3 times. Since he set the game up presumably knowing those odds, the shop owner should have been a LOT more reluctant to roll the dice.
Art Initiates Life: Inverted in "The Tale of the Unfinished Painting", as Mrs. Briar traps her students inside her paintings once they are finished with them. The only way to free her students from her paintings is to destroy the paintbrushes they had used to finish them.
Also inverted in "The Tale of the Oblivion", when a boy has some charcoal and an eraser, nothing happens when he draws something, but when he erases it, it goes to a pocket dimension called "Oblivion". It even works if he just writes the name of something and then erases it. For example, to prove it to his sister Shelly, he writes "Shelly's Underpants", then erases those words. The boy travels to Oblivion to retrieve something important, and finds out his magic writing tools were once used as weapons against those who sought to abuse their power.
Betty and Veronica: In the episode "The Tale of the Dark Dragon", when it comes to Shelly being the Archie, Keith/KC is the Betty and Gary is the Veronica. However, later it turns out that when Keith is the Archie, Shelly is the Veronica and Mariah is the Betty.
When it comes to the Midnight Society: Samantha is the Archie, Gary (the leader, very calm and composed) is the Betty, and Frank (impulsive, loud, foil to Gary) is the Veronica.
The Blank: "The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor", "The Tale of Many Faces".
Catch Phrase: Sardo has two: "It's Sar-DO. No mister, accent on the 'do." and "All right, but I'm losing on the deal." The second one gets lampshaded in one episode, when an old acquaintance of Sardo gives him a box containing a genie for free and says "For once Sardo, you really are losing on the deal."
Dr. Vink has "It's Vink, with a vah-vah-vah" and "I am not a nutbag." He often busts out the second one even when no one calls him a nutbag.
Gary declares each meeting closed at the end of the episode with the same phrase, and of course all of the society members introduce that weeks episode with the trademark phrase: "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story..."
Chekhov's Gun: In the episode "The Tale of the Hatching", the school's principal goes berserk when Augie's watch starts beeping with a high-pitch sound. Augie notices that the tones used for class changes have a range of frequencies- but that they are all rather low. Another boy gets into trouble for playing a video game. Augie plays a tape with a high pitched sound in order to destroy the eggs, since he realized that the eggs and creatures disliked high-frequency sounds.
Clingy MacGuffin: The Curious Camera and The Super Specs in the episodes of the same name.
Don't Fear the Reaper: Played with in "The Tale of Station 109.1." The station was a set-up to give ghosts that somehow got stuck on Earth a way to cross over to the afterlife. A couple of the people seen are terrified and forced to go in, but an old man that had been looking for "home" welcomes the opportunity. The station manager Roy (played by Gilbert Gottfried) explains why:
"It's only horrible if you've led a bad life. If you led a good life, it's the best thing goin'."
Downer Ending: Quite a few, but the "Tale of the Chameleons" especially.
It should be noted that most episodes had (somewhat) happy endings.
Not that it didn't play with the idea. In "The Tale of the Dark Music," after the monster in the basement eats the neighborhood bully, he gives the protagonist a new bicycle (said bully had previously thrown his old one under a street sweeper). The monster then says that he'll give the protagonist anything he desires as long as he keeps feeding him people. This is considered a happy ending, even though the final scene is him smiling evilly as his annoying little sister is shouting at him. (The epilogue undercut with the narrator saying he didn't actually feed her to the monster, only put a good scare in her. No one believed it.)
Drinking Game: In "Zombie Dice," Jay Baruchel's character defeats the villain in a G-rated version of one.
Early-Installment Weirdness: In "The Tale of the Twisted Claw," the Midnight Society appear noticeably and startlingly younger than in the previous episodes. This, of course, is because "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" was the pilot, shot a year before production on the original series. When the first season aired it became episode number four (presumably to account for Frank's presence at the meeting). Gary mentions a "lights out" time in the open, suggesting that the original show concept was for the kids to be staying at a summer camp.
Also the first season has a few things happen that are out of place with the formula of later episodes. One opens with the very end of a story, segueing into the start of another. "Laughing In The Dark" opens as the story does and only shows the Midnight Society when Kristen interrupts Betty Ann. "Super Specs" also shows a scene with Gary and Kristen during the day in his father's store. All episodes eventually kept the formula of the kids meeting up for an introduction and then the story. Also the first two seasons cut back to the Midnight Society in the middle of the stories each episode while later seasons only show them at the start and the end.
Eldritch Abomination: The Gremlin in "The Tale of the Curious Camera." It's an entity within an old-fashioned camera that destroys, kills, or causes misfortune on whoever it shoots. It can hop between cameras, take direct control of machines, and eventually possesses a computer.
When it comes to the Midnight Society, Tucker was the Foolish Sibling to Gary's Responsible Sibling as well.
Fountain of Youth/Vampiric Draining: In "The Tale of the Captured Souls", Peter uses his secret laboratory's mechanism to drain the souls of visitors and kill them by Rapid Aging in order for him to stay young and alive forever. And he is even attempting to kill off Danny and her parents Doug and Sally with the same mechanism.
Framing Device: The entire series was a bunch of kids telling stories around a campfire.
Free-Range Children: Many of the adventures of the story wouldn't be possible if parents kept better track of their kids. Plus, the Midnight Society apparently having permission to wander into the woods late at night.
Gainax Ending: The final scene of the last episode, where it is shown that Gary's grandfather was telling "The Tale of the Silver Sight" to that generation's Midnight Society. Did the events of those episodes really happen, or was it just shown with familiar characters and a modern setting we know for our convenience? He could not have possibly known all the names of the Midnight Society members yet to come or that he'd have grandchildren for sure.
Hoist by Her Own Petard: In "The Tale of the Vacant Lot", Marie wanted Catherine's ring, but she couldn't give it to her since she values it so much. But in the end, to spare her sister the curse she decided to give Marie her ring saying it doesn't mean anything to her anymore. Once Marie got the ring, the curse on both Catherine and her sister were lifted. And Marie is forced back into her position again. As Catherine told her sister, "she wanted too much".
Played with in "The Tale Of The Vacant Lot", which crosses it with The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday. You can buy anything you need from it, but if you don't have the money to pay for it, the proprietor will take something else in exchange. She steals the protagonist's outer and inner beauty, turning her from an kind, attractive girl into a hideous Jerkass. Don't worry, she gets better at the end.
How Did You Know? I Didn't: In "The Tale of the Dream Girl", Johnny trips on a gravestone after being startled by his sister Erica. He sees that it belongs to the girl Donna. Erica asked if he was sure it's hers. Johnny is positive, she's the only Donna Maitland. Erica asked how did he know it would even be there. Johnny said he didn't. But Erica believes deep down he already knew. Since he was Donna's boyfriend, and they were both killed by the train.
Hypno Trinket: In "The Tale of the Hungry Hounds," a girl finds a horse-riding jacket worn by her aunt that possesses her into feeding the dogs that she left to starve when she died.
Informed Flaw: Kiki makes a lot of jibes at Kristen, referring to her as "Miss Perfect" and saying things like "she's worried about breaking a nail" - implying Kristen is some kind of Alpha Bitch. This is at complete odds with Kristen's actual personality and just makes Kiki seem like a Jerkass.
Initiation Ceremony: In order to join the Midnight Society, the initiate is given a "trial" session where s/he has to tell a sufficiently scary story. After the story, the current members of the Midnight Society all vote on whether or not to invite the new member to join; in order to be accepted, the vote must be unanimous.
Insistent Terminology: That's SarDO. No 'mister', accent on the 'do'. Lampshaded in one of the later episodes where someone actually says his name right, and he launches into the correction anyway, stopping short with surprised when he realized someone pronounced his name right.
Internal Homage: Zeebo the Monster Clown is appearently the writing team's favourite character: in later episodes, "zeeb" is a common insult, people reference his carnival ride and such. Heck, the guy even has a couple of video games dedicated to him in-universe. Interestingly, almost every single one of these Call Backs come from a different writer.
It Is Not Your Time: In "The Tale of Station 109.1", the hooded ones take Chris to the afterlife after his brother Jamie and the homeless old man (Daniel Carpenter, whom Chris is mistaken for all along) arrive too late to save him. Fortunately, it is discovered that the hooded ones realize that the little boy is too young and that it is, indeed, not his time to die, so they toss him back out alive.
Just Woke Up That Way: The Tale of the Hunted, in which after a girl named Diana finds a necklace in the woods and has a strange dream about a wolf known as The Blaze, ends up in the body of a wolf to learn what it feels like to be hunted down like an animal.
Kick the Dog: Of the 80 victims that Peter (Season 1, Episode 7) killed with his life-draining machine... 10 of them were dogs.
Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Betty Ann herds away the rest of the club when Gary and Sam are having a moment at the end of "The Tale of the Night Shift."
The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: "Sardo's Magic Mansion" was a recurring setting in several episodes. Unlike many examples of this trope, however, Sardo did not appear to make the magical items in his shop, or often that he was ever even aware that he was selling anything that was actually magical.
Also appeared in "The Tale of the Vacant Lot," a Deal with the Devil episode, where the more magic stuff a girl bought from the owner, the uglier she became.
The toy factory in "The Thirteenth Floor".
Mad Artist: Vink takes this role often in his appearances. In "The Tale of the Midnight Madness," he's a mad filmmaker who, when the manager of a theater he's helped immensely refuses to give him one night each week to show his films, brings the vampire in one of his films to life to get revenge. In "The Tale of the Dangerous Soup," he's a mad Supreme Chef who uses a magic statue to scare people and turn their fear into a liquid he uses as the key ingredient in his soup.
Making Use of the Twin: "The Tale of the Chameleons" which gives its protagonist a clone impersonator, uses identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry.
The Mirror Shows Your True Self: In "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", the antagonist is an old witch/beauty shop owner who uses illusions to maintain the appearance of youth, but mirrors reveal her true age. When the protagonist investigates the witch's house after her friends who work at the shop go missing, she realizes something is wrong when she can't find any mirrors in the house.
Also, in "The Tale of the Captured Souls", Peter avoids mirrors or getting his picture taken by a camera. Danny (the heroine) soon finds out through the mirror monitors in his secret laboratory that he is really 100 years old and that he has killed off vistors by Rapid Aging using the laboratory'sVampiric Draining mechanism.
Monster Clown: Zeebo the Clown and the Crimson Clown. Although neither of them were really going after the protagonists for kicks: Zeebo just wanted his nose back after it was stolen, and left the kid alone after he gave it back and apologized, while the Crimson Clown was simply scaring his kid straight.
The Ghastly Grinner, an evil jester who stares into people's eyes and leaves them grinning, drooling idiots.
More Than Mind Control: In "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", Ms. Valenti uses the titular device to entrance her beauties showing them their desires to be beautiful. Cindy is able to defeat her by having a purer heart and just wanting her friends back.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: She tries to hypnotise Cindy with the mirror as it will show her heart's desire, assuming it is to be beautiful like Laurel and Vicky. Instead the mirror shows Cindy how to stop her - by throwing it on the fire.
No Immortal Inertia: "The Tale of the Captured Souls" (Season 1 Episode 7) features a Big Bad named Peter who uses a machine to take life force from other people (and even animals) to stave off the effects of aging. The protagonist saves her parents by sabotaging his lab and giving back the life force he took from them, ultimately forcing him to spend his last remaining moments as a helpless, lonely old man.
Also, Candy Warren at the end of "The Tale of Locker 22".
Our Vampires Are Different: In "The Night Shift," a vampire need only awaken and feed once every fifty years or so. The vampire's weakness is his coffin; destroying it will destroy the vampire itself.
"The Midnight Madness" features a standard vampire with a twist: He magically steps out of a print of Nosferatu. "The Nightly Neighbors" suggests the usual Hollywood vampires throughout; the twist there is of an entirely different sort.
Our Werewolves Are Different: In "The Tale of the Full Moon," the werewolf is actually a harmless man living with a unique disability. The moon has no effect on his transformation...which makes the episode's title rather curious. Also, in addition to silver, his weakness is red roses. Don't ask us.
Poor Communication Kills: The aliens in "The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor" cloud have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had told Karin she was an alien early on instead of waiting until after they were forced to leave the planet.
Portal Book: Appears in "The Tale of the Bookish Baby-sitter" and "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner."
Real Life Writes the Plot: The actors of the original series all left to go to college (which was written in the series), which is why the later episodes have new people (except for Gary's brother, Tucker).
Recurring Character: "Sardo" and "Dr. Vink" were the pet characters of their particular Midnight Society storyteller, so whenever their turn came up there was a good chance you'd see them put in an appearance. If you'd been paying attention, then, the implications of a story they announce had been a collaborative effort were immediately apparent.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gary is the Blue Oni to both his younger brother Tucker and his friend Frank.
Running Gag: Vink, not Fink—with a "va-va-va." And he is not a nutbag. (As he is fond of reminding people, whether or not they have called him a nutbag.)
Any one of Vink's, erm, endeavors is called The Wild Boar.
Subverted in "The Tale of Cutter's Treasure". Rush, the boy lead, calls him Dr. Vink (instead of Dr. Fink, like every other episode) the first time, and even Vink has caught on that everyone thinks he's a nutbag.
Interesting that the one time he actually helps a protaganist is when the protagonist gets his name right on the first try.
Also, it's "Sar-DOH"! No Mr., accent on the "do". And he's losing on the deal!
Scary Black Man: The title character of The Tale of Cutter's Treasure is without a doubt one of the most intimidating villains in the entire show. Especially impressive, considering that, despite being a ghost, unlike many of the show's big nasties he looks perfectly human.
Scary Librarian: The Quiet Librarian, who sucks sound into a magic box (including human voices).
Secret Keeper: In "The Tale of the Dream Girl", Erica knew her brother Johnny is a ghost, and was the only one who can see him.
Shaking Her Hair Loose: Didi in "The Tale of the Prom Queen" when she reveals that she is the ghost of Judy Larson.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Many examples, e.g. "Pinball Wizard": "Enjoy your free games, you'll be playing them FOREVER! BWAHAHAHAHA!"
Shout-Out: "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society" is a direct reference to The Twilight Zone, in which stories were always "submitted for your approval."
The high speed tracking shot used in "The Tale Of The Frozen Ghost" is possibly an homage to the Evil Dead movies.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Features in many stories, especially in stories by Gary and Tucker, who also demonstrate the trope.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Vange (tomboy) and Megan (girly-girl) in the last two seasons. The earlier episodes had Kiki as a tomboy but her two other female contemporaries Betty Ann and Kristen (later Sam) weren't that girly.
Vain Sorceress: Two of them. First "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror" where she turns young girls into dogs to steal their youth and beauty. Then "The Tale of Many Faces" where a theatre actress steals the faces of all her own performers and wears them as masks.
"What Do They Fear?" Episode: "The Tale of the Dangerous Soup" starts with the Midnight Society confessing their worst fears, including heights, dogs, birds, and, yes, the dark.
Would Hurt a Child: In "The Tale of the Captured Souls", of the 80 victims that Peter has killed using his Vampiric Draining mechanism, there were 34 children! And he is bound to add Danny to the list of the children!
Let's face it, this show would be way less scary if this trope weren't frequently in play.
Hoist by His 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 till 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?
Mad Artist: Orpheo's obsession with putting on a successful magic show probably qualifies. Turns out it was Mary trying to prove she a competent magician.
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.
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.
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.