ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? 1.4 - The Tale of the Twisted Claw
After Gary complains that the night’s almost over and the Midnight Society still hasn’t heard a complete story, David steps up to the plate.
On Mischief Night, friends Kevin and Dougie prank Miss Clove, the neighborhood “witch.” Like the silly boys that they are, they return to her house the next night to trick-or-treat. Instead of candy, Miss Clove gives them a twisted vulture claw and explains that the claw will grant them each three wishes. Dougie’s so shaken up by the experience that he wishes they could stop trick-or-treating and go home. Much to his and Kevin’s surprise, their night is cut short when they’re accosted by a band of masked teenagers. Was it the claw?
The next day at school, Kevin wishes he could beat cool-guy Bostick in a field day race. Then, during the race, a random dog darts out from behind a tree and takes Bostick down. Kevin is showing off his medal at Dougie’s house that night and accidentally wishes Dougie’s parents were gone. Dougie then gets a call letting him know his parents have been in an accident. To make matters worse, he then wishes his grandpa were there. FYI, his grandpa happens to be dead. Before zombie grandpa can make it to the door, Dougie makes the only smart wish there is when it comes to wishing – that they never broke the vase in the first place.
The Midnight Society is left nearly speechless by David’s story, and Gary ends the meeting with his catchphrase and a satisfied grin.
E: Hot damn--pretty much everything about this episode is classic, from the green glow of the claw each time it’s wished upon, to the black dog that pops out of nowhere, to the neighborhood witch’s badass cackle. I love that Miss Clove is not just a female Dr. Vink. She’s got her own brand of creepiness happening and her maniacal laugh is simply delicious.
T: Funny you compare Miss Clove and Dr. Vink because the actors are married. What a great name for a witch, Clove as in cloven hoof?
E: Married??? Shut the front door! That is my new favorite fun fact. And I didn’t even catch the cloven hoof reference. Look at you, gettin’ all literary.
E: But Kristen’s comment that David hasn’t told a story in a while? Whaaaaaat? Girl, he literally told the story in the last episode. Are we dealing with a time jump here?
T: That’s due to this ep being the pilot. That’s why it’s Halloween-themed and opens with Eric telling a creepy story as an intro to the audience. It’s a little surprising they didn’t do more Halloween episodes. They haven’t figured out all the character dynamics, which is why Frank gives David guff for being quiet, even though David initiates Frank since they’re real world buddies.
E: Maybe my standards for ‘90s TV are low, but I feel like we see an uptick in the quality of the acting with this episode. Neither Dougie nor Kevin are going to win an Emmy, but they’re both solidly watchable.
T: Exactly. Josh in “Laughing in the Dark” deserves everything that happens to him and I can’t root for him. Dougie and Kevin silly string an old lady, return to the scene of the crime (!), and she even warns them about the claw, but I still manage to root for them. You got to love Kevin’s line delivery--“He tripped, right? It was an accident, these things happen!”
T: The gramps bit is effective, but it comes out of NOWHERE. You need to seed that. Kevin needs to state, “Dougie, your gramps is dead,” as if Dougie isn’t aware because the audience needs the intel.
E: Ooooooh, fair point, though I feel like it still sticks the landing.
T: It really does (the tension with the fog is fantastic), but it’s more about the set-up feeling clunky. I will say that I sincerely hope Canadian police don’t really inform middle schoolers that their parents just died in a horrific car crash with an emotionless phone call.
QUEER OR NOT?
E: Is it just me, or is Kevin’s obsession with Bostick presented in the queerest way possible? Every shot of Bostick frames him as the devastatingly handsome athletic dude every guy and gal at the school wants to tangle tongues with.
T: I didn’t read it that way, but I love it! Yeah, he’s so obsessed but he’s not cognizant of why just yet. If this happened in another year or so, his Bostick wish would be very different...
MODERNIZE ’90s CANADIAN KIDS
E: The borderline acid-trip scene with the teenage punks attacking Dougie and Kevin is bananas by today’s standards. All those punks would be totes arrested and then suspended from school. Also, the landline phone that gets smashed in the final sequence needs a wireless update. Finally, Kevin’s joke about the Halloween candy being poisoned is clearly a reference to the pointless trick-or-treat panic that plagued the late-80s and early-90s. They’re putting razor blades in your apples, kids! But it’s okay. We live in much savvier times now. Don’t we?
Ha! Silly me. Here’s Momo to remind us that some shit never changes. Oh, Momo.
T: This one’s hard for me because it’s already a modernization (at the time) of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (1902). I’ve mentioned how so many of the stories were inspired by old tales, but this one, perhaps because it’s the pilot, is a direct retelling. Although I’d make sure the Dougie character isn’t dressed like an extra from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
TRIVIA, USELESS TRIVIA
T: That Bostick sure looks familiar…oh, right, actor Jason Tremblay played ever-angry brother Denny in “Tale of the Phantom Cab.” I’d like to think Bostick is Denny’s nickname since the characters are similar enough.
E: My god, you’re on fire with the obscure early-90s TV trivia this week. I totally didn’t catch that it was the same actor.
GIVE IT A NUMERICAL RATING ALREADY
E: Maybe the nostalgia is getting to me, but I feel like this might be our first perfect ten. What say you, Troyson?
T: Wowzers, a perfect ten? There’s nothing wrong with this one (except I still want the resolution to Eric’s cliffhanger!), but it doesn’t quite reach the heights to merit a ten for me. I was going to give this one a solid 8 but your enthusiasm and reframing the random Bostick scene bumped it up to 8.8 OUT OF 10 CAMPFIRES.
E: Okay, fine. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll roll it back to nice, round 9 OUT OF 10 CAMPFIRES.