Are You Afraid of the Dark? 1.7 -- The Tale of the Captured Souls
The gang waits around for Kiki, who finally shows up sporting a rad vintage camera. She takes a Polaroid of each member of the Midnight Society, and ominously tells them that some native tribes hated having their pictures taken because they thought that the camera would capture their souls.
Danny and her parents arrive at a bed and breakfast for an idyllic lakeside getaway. The sole employee of the B&B appears to be a super creepy teenage boy named Peter Kirlan III, whose parents are “on a cruise.” Fishy things start to happen--Dannygets her finger zapped anytime she touches one of the B&B’s many antique mirrors, her face starts to break out, and her mom and dad start looking like they’ve aged a few decades overnight. Eventually, plucky Danny discovers a secret lab in Peter’s bedroom. Turns out he’s been sucking the souls out of his guests through the mirrors, which are all wired with cameras, to extend his life. Danny manages to bust into the lab in the nick of time and reverse the process, saving herself and her parents, but also causing Peter to rapidly age into the old man he truly is. Before she and her family leave, Old Man Pete tells Danny to enjoy her youth.
After finishing her story, Kiki takes one more shot of the Midnight Society, including herself.
E: OMG--Kiki for the win! She totally rocks this one and uses a prop in a way that is actually effective instead of just obnoxiously showy. And is she sitting is Gary’s chair??? Is Kiki the first to kick Gary out of his chair and rightfully claim it as the storyteller’s chair? Also, how refreshing is it that this episode features a mostly black cast? Danny and her family are a black family on vacation, which was one of the things that made Jordan Peele’s Us so groundbreaking, but here was Are You Afraid of the Dark? doing it back in 1992.
T: That’s actually the storyteller’s chair, although Gary sat in it in both pilots even though he wasn’t that week’s storyteller. I feel like he calls it the Gare Bear Chair though.
E: The soundtrack in this one is also bonkers. Organ music! It goes so perfectly with the mad scientist vibe that Peter has going on. Speaking of Pete, where did they find that actor? He’s such a perfect mix of off-putting and endearing. And who gave him that bowl cut from hell?
T: The organ music is so unexpected but somehow works. It clued me in on what this story is. Originally, the pseudoscience of it all made me think of Frankenstein, but it’s a retelling of a different monster all together - IT’S A VAMPIRE STORY! There’s the mirror connection, Peter’s real appearance being captured on film, and the fact that he remains young by sucking the life out of others. Plus, that organ is evocative of Nosferatu.
E: I can’t decide who wins the best line contest in this episode because there are two absurdly fantastic ones. First, there’s Dad’s “I kinda like ’em” remark about the mirrors, which he says while staring up at one hanging above the bed and exchanging a giggle with his wife. Oh Dad, sliding barely concealed parent sex jokes right into the middle of a kids’ show. LOLOLOL. Second is Danny’s phenomenal bad guy tell-off -- “You messed with the wrong girl, Petey Boy. And DON’T call me Danielle.” *ALL THE APPLAUSE*
T: It’s the little things that really sell this for me and make Peter my favorite villain in the series so far. When he catches Dani snooping in his room, he keeps eye contact with her while he takes the photo out of her hand – very subtle, effective choice.
T: How do you think that first ball throwing scene began? Was Peter sitting there and Danny and her dad started playing around him, or did he plop himself down like a weird lookyloo cat who wants to be near people but remain distant?
E: Haaaaaa! I’m totally going with option numer two.
T: The grave markers are so dark. Peter’s straight-up murdered 21 men, 15 women, 34 kids, and 10 dogs! He’s incredibly greedy, too. Think about it--he could just suck someone’s youth, age slowly, and then do it again in several years, but he’s killing frequently to keep himself a permanent teen.
E: Damn, that is dark. Makes me really worry about Pete’s psychological well-being. I mean, who wants to stay a teen?? And I don’t know quite what it is about tally marks, but I find them creepy in almost any context. Like, someone could use them to count the number of M&Ms they’ve consumed today, and I’d still find it creepy.
T: Last but not least, how about some love for Danny’s parents? Both actors play their parts as relatable parents and keep the comic relief present without hamming it up. And the rapid aging bit really works.
QUEER OR NOT?
E: Pete definitely has a queer vibe going on, right? Even his attempt to talk Danny into staying young with him forever feels a little forced to me or, at least, more about companionship than sexy times. Like, I can picture him asking her to braid his bonkers hair, but not trying to make out with her. Also, I just rewatched Paris is Burning on Netflix and I can’t stop picturing him vogueing.
T: Don’t forget Peter “admires female strength.” Speaking of queer coded--Kiki! A tomboy tells the story of a lonely child (the vast majority of AYAOTD? episodes center on a duo) who struggles against gender conformity.
E: Yasssssss, you’re so right! My god, that makes want to weep tears of pure nostagia for the early-90s. *gets verklempt* Things are obviously better now, but there were people out there trying so damn hard.
T: Also, let’s not forget the episode opens on Gary looking super cool in a hat and hitting on Eric. His age calculation is the math nerd equivalent of, “Hey there, what’s your sign?” Eric doesn’t get it because he’s pissed at Kiki for breaking the Kristen Tardiness Rule.
TRIVIA, USELESS TRIVIA
E: How rad is this!? Ethan Tobman, who plays Creepy Pete in this ep, is now a very successful production designer who worked on Beyonce’s Lemonade and the absolutely heartbreaking Room, starring my girl-crush for life, Brie Larson.
T: Intriguing. Proving the casting director right, Maria Taylor (Danny) became a successful sports analyst.
E: Whaaaaaat? So cool!
T: According to Gary (and my math), this episode occurs on December 4th, and Eric is supposed to be fourteen.
MODERNIZE ’90s CANADIAN KIDS
E: Almost everything about this one strikes me as pretty timeless. Danny is the kind of spunky protag who would be beloved these days. Maybe this ep was just ahead of the curve?
T: Agreed. This type of story, a family vacation gone wrong, couldn’t be more timeless.
JUST GIVE IT A NUMERICAL RATING ALREADY
E: I love this one but I don’t want to start giving perfect tens out like candy or, you know, Polaroids. So I’m going with 9.5 OUT OF 10 CAMPFIRES.
T: Neither of us have handed out a single 10 yet, but I’m starting now. I can’t think of a single negative critique. 10 OUT OF 10 CAMPFIRES.