I have been dying to watch the 2019 miniseries reboot of Are You Afraid of the Dark? for ages. Though apparently, time has flown since then. I didn’t realise the second season was already released! But we know at this point that being late to the party is my MO.
What can I say? It was well worth the wait. The first episode of this reboot did everything exactly as it should. From the subtly updated theme to the bright characters and fun storyline – it’s all true to the spirit of the original while very much being its own, relevant thing.
Rachel is the new girl at school. She’s decided that making friends is out of the question before she even arrives through the school doors. But there’s more to her than being meek and quiet; she’s being haunted in her dreams by a figure that she calls Mr Tophat.
At school, she’s distracted by her dreams and her fascination with scary stories. She soon catches the attention of several students around school. One boy, Graham spots her H.P. Lovecraft book and later fishes one of her sketches of Mr Tophat out of the bin.
Soon after, Rachel finds an envelope in her locker. On the note, a group called “TMS” ask Rachel a question: vampires or werewolves? After hiding her response for them in the school, she receives a series of these notes asking similar questions until she’s finally invited to a spot in the woods.
While visiting the woods, a group of masked children request she tell them a story for their next meeting. Rachel has a few days to come up with a tale, but she gets true inspiration from her nightmares of Mr Tophat.
Her tale, “Mr Tophat and the Carnival of Doom” tells the story of a little girl who goes to a carnival with her parents. While there, the girl sees horrific things like a man with no eyes and scorpions crawling out of his clothes. But her parents don’t believe her. Neither do the two girls that she tries to warn away from Mr Tophat.
The following day, the little girl sees on that news that the two older girls had disappeared. Only, her parents don’t remember the carnival. And soon, neither does the little girl.
Rachel’s story earns her a place with The Midnight Society. It’s a cute group of kids. I would have loved to have had these kids as friends when I was a child (or hell – even now!). But while everything seems to be all fun and games, the Mightnight Society soon learn that something sinister has come their way when their classmate disappears and a carnival comes to town.
Part One had everything I wanted. It’s very much in the spirit of the original show but forges its own path by creating lives for these characters outside of their stories. It kind of reminded me of “The Tale of the Silver Sight” (2000), which shows the members of the Midnight Society trying to find the original members of the society.
The writers did the right thing by choosing the carnival setting. It’s not only a classic scary setting, but it looks great on film. I can’t wait to watch the kids explore the reality of the carnival.
There are plenty of horror references that are probably meant for adults, but I think it’s done in a way that will intrigue children. Certainly 13-year-old me would have been lapping this up and taking notes. Hand down, I would have aspired to be Akiko, the aspiring zombie filmmaker.
It might have taken three years to get here, but I loved the first episode of this reboot. The carnival setting is fantastic and the baddie is really fun. Obviously a lot of love and care went into this. Can’t wait for episode two.