Author: Krista Culbertson

Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E10 “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun”

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the premier of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Nickelodeon. So happy American birthday, AYAOTD! And really, what better way to celebrate than by watching a classic episode, which is actually one of the more unusual tales.

Disclaimer: I hate leprechauns. So I was really dreading watching this episode.

When your parents are too lazy to turn off the television when Leprechaun 3 is on and you’re four-years-old, you’ll probably get a bit scarred. I still can’t sleep on my back properly after watching a Leprechaun saw a man in half alive.

But thankfully, “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun” doesn’t include terrifying leprechauns with bad skin. This tale is a rather sweet one and the first thus far to bring me to tears (though it certainly won’t be the last).

Unlike most episodes which use the Midnight Society to simply bookmark the ends of the episode, their scenes are actually important to the tale. It’s Eric’s first time to tell a tale, and it’s a personal one.

He begins by telling the Midnight Society that his grandfather had passed the week before. His grandfather was Irish, and a great teller of traditional stories. Eric pulls out a tricorne hat he says belonged to his grandfather. And to honor him, Eric dons the hat and says he will share his grandfather’s favourite tale: “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechan.”

Jake is a young boy who dreams of being an actor. His first ever role is in a play called The Will o’ the Wisp. Though he’s not particularly great, he admires his co-star – Erin. After he takes a tumble during a scene, Jake tells the director Lucy that he wishes to be as good as Seamus.

She tells him that Seamus drinks a special tea that gives him his inspiration. Jake thinks the tea would also help him, so Lucy gives him a list of the ingredients in the tea, though they are unusual ones that Erin uses from his own stash.

Undeterred, Jake goes to a local greenhouse for help. There he meets the Irishman Sean O’Shaney, who is the gardener at the greenhouse. While friendly at first, Sean becomes angry when he sees the list of ingredients that Jake hands him. Sean tells Jake to leave, and the boy leaves without his tea.

At the following rehearsal, strange things begin to happen to Jake. During his scene with Erin, his voice begins to change after he takes a sip from a pouch thrown to him by Eric. Apparently no one gives shit that Jake has suddenly hit puberty and speaks like a 40-year-old man, but it certainly shakes Jake.

He returns to Sean in hopes of getting help. Reluctantly, Sean agrees after Jake explains the strange things happening to him the more he rehearses the play. Sea actually becomes eager to help once Jake explains the premise of the play and recites some of the lines from his scene with Erin:

“Yours be mine and mine be yours.”

The next day, Sean attends one of the rehearsals for Will o’ the Wisp. Sean becomes shocked when he sees Erin on stage with Jake. Obviously recognising the man, Sean insides the ropes for the set, and it falls – stopping Erin in the middle of his lines. But for Jake it’s too late. As he runs off stage he sees that his ears have become permanently pointy and elf-like.

Sean tells Jake that he’s been drinking a glamour during his scenes with Erin. The glamour is what is causing Jake to turn into a changeling. And according to Sean, the change will be permanent the next time Jake takes the glamour.

To convince his friend, Sean takes Jake into the basement rooms of the theatre where Erin lives. They set off an alarm to distract Erin and begin searching the rooms.

They discover a shrine of sorts with Jake’s photo. They also see a frog, that Sean later explains was once a human. But before they can get any further, Erin returns and the two friends hide under the bed. Erin begins to make himself comfortable and it’s revealed that his has horrible skin, pointy ears and a disgustingly hairy back.

When they finally escape Erin’s room, Sean tells Jake that Erin is a Banshee. Erin is nothing like an actual Banshee from Irish lore, but we’ll go with it anyway. Erin needs a human soul every seven years to turn into a changeling. Jake thinks he can backout easily, but Sean tells him he can’t survive as half of a changeling. But thankfully Sean has a trick up his sleeve.

On the opening night of the play, Sean takes Jake aside and tells him the steps to beat Eric. First, he has to be brave so Sean gives Jake some rather disgustingly big spiders to eat. Then he says Erin needs a taste of his own medicine (the glamour, but with Sean’s added magic). And finally, Jake must spellbind Erin by not losing eye contact with him.

During their scene together, things seem to work out for Jake until he loses his eye contact with Erin. The banshee turns Jake into a toad, seemingly ending the story. But Sean appears in Leprechaun kit and battles it out with Erin. The crowd enjoy the show, believing it to be a bunch of good tricks.

Sean pulls a rat-like tail from his bag that stuns Erin. Sean offers a trade, and throws the tail at Erin, which turns him into a pail of black grime leaving only a toad behind. Sean uses his magic to return his friend to human form. And as a final treat, gives Jake his tricorne hat.

So was Eric’s grandfather really Jake? Maybe.

The episode wraps up when each member of the Midnight Society give Eric a comforting hug. This is, unfortunately, the first of only two tales that Eric shares. The last will be next week’s episode. And incidentally, the real reason I still run up the basement stairs as a full-grown adult.

Wicked Wednesday: Waxwork (1988)

It’s been a long week, kids. One of those weeks where I couldn’t give a damn about watching anything or writing anything or doing anything. So picking a movie this week needed to be done carefully. Thankfully this week an angel has been sent to me.

While perusing Shudder’s website, the artwork for Waxwork immediately caught my eye. AND Lo and behold – it stars Zach Galligan! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Galligan on several occasions, and the man is a seriously nice guy. But just to make things a bit sweet, Bobby Briggs himself Dana Ashbrook also stars. Nothing like two attractive men in a horror comedy to make me feel like getting some work done.

But the cast is really something else on this (according to me). The Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman. Plus icons David Warner and John Rhys-Davies.

Mark (Galligan) is a member of a group of young snobby yuppies at this school. The kids are vain, vapid and disgustingly rich. Strangely really likeable, but mostly pretty dim.

Case in point: On their way to school one day, Mark’s friends Sarah (Foreman) and China come across a building with a new waxworks museum. A man (Warner) appears to them and invites them to a midnight party – but they can only be a group of six. The girls seem wary, but when they tell their friends, they all decide to go together.

When the gang arrive at the waxworks, the building does its best to be as intimidating as possible. Two of the friends, James and Gemma, piss off before they even get to the door. But with Fearless Leader Mark in the lead, the four remaining kids get to the door, which is opened by a dwarf.

The dwarf leads them into the house, where they’re then ushered into the waxworks. Inside the vast room they find various displays each containing a famous characters of horror: evil babies, man-eating trash cans and alien pods (a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

As soon as the group start to look around they head off in their own directions. Poor Tony (Ashbrook) steps over the barrier and into a display and suddenly finds himself in the middle of the woods wearing an awful wig and the leftovers of a high school production of Sound of Music. He enters a nearby cabin and speaks to the man inside, trying to figure out how he got to the woods to begin with.

At least Tony doesn’t have to wonder for too long. The man in the cabin turns into a werewolf and bites Tony just before a pair of men enter and shoot the werewolf with a silver bullet. Eh, but it’s too late for Tony – who they also shoot.

In the waxworks, a figure of Tony appears as he did in the ‘other world’.

But of course no one notices and it’s China’s turn to step over the velvet rope (has no one taught these children how to behave in a museum?). The display China enters is a rather vampire-filled affair. And while she does hold her own killing off quite a number of the fanged-beings, China herself succumbs to the evil and turns into a wax figure.

Meanwhile, Sarah and Mark think that their two friends went home together without them. They head home completely unscathed – though minus a couple friends.

In the morning, Mark realises that his friends have disappeared. He begins his own detective work and heads to the police. Inspector Roberts for help, and the inspector points out that 13 people have gone missing in less than two weeks – a rather alarming number for the quiet town. He reluctantly joins Mark to the waxworks where everything appears to be normal.

It’s not until the inspector returns to the station that he realises that all of the waxwork victims look like the missing people. He decides to return with his partner, but the idiot tells the partner to stay in the car. Roberts manages to get a sample of China’s cheek and finds black tissue underneath. While he tries to leave, he’s pushed into the mummy display and ends up trapped in the tomb – thus becoming a part of the display.

But Mark’s trip with Roberts isn’t a total waste. During their visit, he recognises the man who runs the waxworks. He invites Sarah over and the two dig through his grandfather’s things in the attic. Mark eventually finds a newspaper detailing his grandfather’s gruesome murder, which includes a picture of the only suspect – David Lincoln, who looks suspiciously like the man from the waxworks despite not ageing a day in decades.

Mark and Sarah then enlist the help of Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee), an old friend of Mark’s grandfather. Sir Wilfred explains to them that Lincoln was Mark’s grandfather’s assistant. He had stolen a part of a collection that Mark’s grandfather had made.

The collection is unusual. Each item is a trinket from 18 of the most evil people of all time. Wilfred believes that Lincoln has sold his soul to the devil in order to raise these 18 beings back to life and bring on the apocalypse. And in order to raise the dead, Lincoln needs eighteen victims for his figures.

The kids head to the wax museum to set the remaining victim-less exhibits on fire. Conveniently there are two left, which means both Sarah and Mark each get pushed into an exhibit.

Mark finds himself in a black-and-white graveyard surrounded by a hoard of zombies. Though he eventually is able to escape the other world when he tells himself that the zombies and the world he’s in isn’t real.

He then jumps into the remaining exhibit where Sarah is being tortured by Marquis de Sade (and really seems to be enjoying it). He shows Sarah that what she’s experiencing is also fake, and she eventually decides to leave the faux French world with him.

But despite their best efforts, their idiot friends Gemma and James choose that moment to get their courage and enter the waxworks. They both immediately jump into the exhibits and die – meaning all 13 victims have been acquired.

Suddenly the exhibits come to life: both the victims and the evil beings. No fears, though, as Sir Wilfred arrives with a motley group of old men to help Mark and Sarah out.

As the group finishes off the evil beings, a fire starts in the waxworks. Seemingly only Mark and Sarah get out of the burning building alive… or are they?

And really, what a pleasurable, silly way to end this film.

They didn’t quite nail the pacing of the story, I think. Waxwork is quick to the kills, but it makes the mistake of getting rid of the two most memorable characters (China and Tony) straight away. While Galligan and Foreman are sweet, they don’t exactly have the bite that allows them to carry the movie by themselves, and that’s down to the screenwriting more than anything.

If anything Waxwork offers a unique premise in the slasher genre. There certain aren’t a lot of “let’s go to a wax museum and get murdered” films out there, so there’s that. Granted House of Wax exists, but I’m discounting that because it was released 35 years prior and is a different kettle of fish entirely.

But god did I love Waxwork. It was just the right amount of silliness and self-awareness that I love. You couldn’t have arrived any sooner, Zach.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E9 “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

I’ve said this before, but I love Betty Ann’s stories. Her tale this week verges more on the mystical fantasy than true horror. It’s a tale that, according to Betty Ann, that has spanned centuries. The tale begins in 1966, with a girl with a cobra tattoo trying to hide from some men trying to chase her. She hides something in a basket, and lowers it into water of the school pool.

In the modern day, “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is about Dean and his friend Alix. Dean isn’t good at much. He doesn’t participate in anything and doesn’t have any friends besides Alix.

Like a normal teenager, Dean doesn’t think he has the power to change any of his luck himself, but instead thinks he’s doomed. This is one of those eye-roll 90’s cliches where the name character is cute but we’re meant to believe he’s a loser. But either way, Dean gets pretty bad grades and is desperate to do better.

One day, an archaeologist named Dr Oliver visits the school and teaches Dean and Alix’s class about several of the artifacts she has. It’s one object in particular that catches Dean’s attention. Dr Oliver shows the children a golden sceptre in the shape of a cobra that apparently belonged to a Babylonian sorcerer.

According the inscription on the sceptre, the sorcerer Goth enslaved people to do his bidding, but following Goth would bring the follower good fortune. After class, Dean asks archaeologist if he can have a closer look at the sceptre. As he stares into the cobra’s eyes, they light up and Dean falls under its spell.

Dean, now in a trance-like state, does into the basement of the school and pulls up the basket that has been forgotten for decades. He removes the hidden object from the basket and takes it with him.

In the following days, Dean gains a new confidence. His hair is better, he sits up straighter, he gets better clothes. He becomes Bobby Briggs. One day during a science exam, he turns in a blank test and puts the teacher under a spell that gives him an A+ for a grade.

Alix notices a change in her friend and tries to talk to him. But he’s over her now that he has a gang of minions to help do his bidding (or Goth’s, rather). Though this is typical hormonal stuff, Alix really knows something is wrong when she catches Dean stealing mercuric acid from the science room.

She follows Dean into the basement room where she spies on him an his similarly-clad friends mixing up a sort-of-potion in a barrel. But Alix is shit at spying and is nearly caught when she knocks over something in the room. After escaping the minions, Alix spies on Dean again as he calls forth Goth by playing the orb from the basket into the secptre’s mouth.

To Alix’s amazement, a head appears in the fumes from the barrel. Goth begins speaking to Dean, but is interrupted when Alix yet again knocks some stuff over.

Alix runs away from Goth and Dean and seeks help from her science teacher, but to Alix’s dismay – the teacher is also under Goth’s influence. The teacher asks Alix to join their group, but the girl leaves in fear. She is caught by Dean when she goes to the auditorium. While he initially seems like himself, he tells her that he enjoys all the fortune brought to him by Goth.

Later that night, Dean and his group are at the school moving barrels of mercuric acid. Alix is there trying to spy, but (shockingly) gets caught yet again. Dean tells his former friend that while he gave her one chance, he isn’t giving her a second. He tells his lackeys to keep her near.

Dean and the others head into the school with Alix. On their journey, Dean tells Alix the story of a girl who, decades before, was found in the pool room completely mad. The room was sealed off eventually, but Dean had managed to get the keys for them to enter.

They enter the pool room and Dean orders the others to start pour in the acid into the pool. In an attempt to stop him, Alix removes the orb from the cobra’s mouth, and the others collapse, apparently out cold. But Dean continues his spell anyway. Finally, Goth is raised from his purgatory (or whatever).

When Goth sees Alix, he decides to kill her after all of her meddling. Awoken by the threats on his friend’s life, Dean turns on his master. He attempts to go to Alix’s help, but is frozen in place by Goth. Dean shouts to Alix, telling to get rid of the sorcerer by pouring chlorine into the pool.

Alix does as she’s told and the sorcerer is sent back. The two friends collapse together. When Alix asks how Dean knew how to get rid of Goth, he tells her that it was something he remembered learning in their science class. Apparently the boy actually learned a trick or two.

After the friends and the former minions leave, Dr Oliver appears to pick up her staff. She tells Goth that there will be more chances to raise him as she’s hidden jewels for the sceptre in schools all over the country.

Betty Ann’s tale is a pretty familiar one, and that’s mostly because it resonates so much. Granted we all can’t raise ancient Babylonian sorcerer’s, but so many people turn on their friends in hopes of achieving something greater. And really, it’s not too hard to turn back to them if you’re willing to admit your mistakes.

In the span of these few episodes, it’s incredible how much the quality of the show has improved. The writing was a touch silly, but the acting was a far improvement in “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The look of the episodes is far less cheap-looking. And this episode proves the show is just about to hit its stride.

Highlight quotes of the episode:

“Al-IX.” – Dean. Every SINGLE time.

“Mystic River! I’ve done it!” – What Dean says when he raises a god (I think. This might not actually be a quote).

Wicked Wednesday: Ginger Snaps (2000)

It’s pretty rare that I write about cult films as big as Ginger Snaps, but I have to admit that this is one film that has always passed me by. It’s mostly down to the fact that I usually hate this era of film. The 90’s and early 2000’s were a gross time.

But there’s also something really intimidating about going into a cult film after it has been so hyped up. Maybe people are really bad at building up films, but it’s pretty rare that a film does what it says on the label (or rather, what everyone else says about it). Could it possibly live up to the reputation? (Spoiler alert: it does)

Sisters Ginger and Brigitte are a pair of social outcasts in their suburban, cookie-cutter town. They brood around school and enjoy pastimes like taking photos of each other in which they appear mutilated and dead. But they’re each other’s best friend. They even make a pact with each other to die together.

Their lives aren’t exactly great outside of their sisterhood. The school bully, Trina, makes a constant effort to attack them personally. But this is the type of bitch who brings her Rottweiler to school (is this a Canadian thing?). During gym class one day, Trina overhears the sisters making fun of her and her crush on the local drug-dealer, Sam. When they start their field hockey match, Trina checks the smaller Brigitte, who lands on the corpse of a dog.

To top off a stellar day, Ginger starts to complain that her back hurts her. The girls’ mother notices her daughter’s discomfort at dinner and tells Ginger that she has cramps. Despite the fact that Ginger is 16, this is her first period – Brigette is also a late bloomer when it comes to surfin’ the crimson wave.

Ginger takes getting her first period pretty hard. She even tells Brigitte that she’s received “the curse.” All of this could be sorted with some painkillers and a bath. But instead she decides that going ahead with a plan to kidnap Trina’s dog is somehow a better way to spend her time.

While the girls go to look for the dog, they discover a dog’s corpse in the park. Before they can leave, Ginger is attacked by a beast. She’s dragged off into the nearby woods leaving Brigitte screaming and alone. Brigitte is eventually able to rescue Ginger, but Ginger is already badly scratched on her shoulder. The two run away from the woods, but are still chased by the beast-dog. The animal is hit in the road by Sam the drug dealer’s van and the girls quickly make their escape.

Brigitte quickly realises that her sister isn’t quite the girl from the day before. When the girls reach their bedroom, they notice that Ginger’s severe wounds are already healing. Even worse – the next day Brigitte catches Ginger smoking a join with local douche-bag Jason and his pals, an activity so unlike Ginger.

Drug Dealer Sam hunts down Brigitte and tells her he believes that the thing he hit with his van was a lycanthrope. For Brigitte, all of her sister’s symptoms point directly to werewolf. Back up evidence includes hairy scars, a snarky attitude and a tail.

Ginger picks up a new, “sluttier” reputation with her new look. It is 2000, after all, which means gorgeous girls aren’t noticed until you take off their glasses or put them in a crop top. Jason is the most eager to impress and Ginger gladly accepts his advances. She ‘attacks’ him in his car one night and has unprotected sex with him.

That night, Ginger returns home crying and covered in blood. Brigitte immediately things that Jason has attacked Ginger. Then thinks Ginger hurt Jason, but Ginger admits that she actually killed the neighbour’s dog. Desperate, Ginger asks her sister for help.

The first thing Brigitte tries is piercing Ginger’s stomach with a piece of silver she received from Sam. Brigitte continues going to Sam for his advice, but under the guise that she is the one that is turning into a she-wolf. But all of the attention Brigitte gets from Sam doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by Trina.

Trina confronts Brigitte that night, thinking that Brigitte had stolen her dog. Before Trina can hurt Brigitte, Ginger attacks her. The girls continue to fight in the house. Trina vomits into the sink, then slips and cracks her head on the kitchen counter – killing herself. Panicked, the sisters agree to store the bully in the freezer before moving the corpse out to the shed to be buried.

But the girls lose Trina’s broken-off, frozen fingers when they’re dropped in their backyard. A small clue, but when their father finds the fingers, their mom plays it off as one of the girl’s jokes, but she knows her daughters too well and knows to dig up Trina’s corpse in the shed.

In the meantime, Jason is seriously becoming a werewolf. Instead of an increased blood flow from his vagina, he pisses blood. And unlike Ginger, Jason becomes more grotesque than attractive. But both are becoming powerful and dangerous.

Sam’s next plan for a cure is monkshood, a sort of watered-down version of wolfsbane. Since it’s a perennial and October, neither Sam nor Brigitte think they can find the flower. But thankfully Brigitte’s mom is big on the craft store and has a dried version just hanging around the house.

On Halloween morning, Brigitte locks Ginger in the bathroom and tells her its for her own good. Brigitte goes to Sam gain for help, to advises her that the monkshood would be at its most effective if injected. The two make up their heroine-like concoction, but Sam warns that they have no idea what its going to do Ginger.

Luckily for Brigitte, she stumbles upon Jason terrorising a child in the park. She manages to inject him with the cure as he attacks her, and the boy gets up, seemingly cured.

Though it certainly would just be too easy for everything to go so well. Brigitte realises that her sister has escaped the bathroom and heads to the school. She finds Ginger in the guidance counselor with a corpse.  The werewolf in Ginger continues to escalate as she begins to enjoy drinking blood and taking more victims.

The two sisters become separated and Brigitte is caught by her mother, who tells her she knows about Trina. They go together to pick up Ginger from the local Halloween party at the greenhouse. But before Brigitte leaves, her mother suggests that the three women go off together and make a new start. She even suggests blowing up the house, and says she knows that her husband (and everyone else) would just blame her if she did follow through with her plan.

And, you know, I would say “amen” to that, but you should probably get blamed for blowing up a house if you actually DO blow up your house.

Brigitte goes into the party alone to go after Ginger. She eventually finds her trying to make advances on Sam, who rejects her. Ginger is increasingly wolf-like, so Brigitte cuts herself to contaminate her own blood. Ginger then agrees to go with Brigitte to be cured, but is knocked out by Drug Dealer Sam.

Realising his mistake, Sam drives Brigitte to her house with Ginger in the back of the van. But before they can reach home, Ginger awakes in full werewolf form. When they open the back doors, she escapes into the house.

The two try to make another batch of the cure while trying to avoid Ginger’s wrath. When they finally succeed, Sam offers to go out and give Ginger the injections, but is mauled before he can succeed.

Brigitte finds Sam in the hall, slowly dying next to werewolf-Ginger. She tries to drink his blood to appease Ginger, but ends up vomiting. Angered by her sister’s weakness, Ginger kills Sam and chases Brigitte into the basement.

To protect herself, Brigitte grabs her sister’s knife from their basement bedroom as a form of protection. But when Ginger gives one final lunge, she lands on the knife – not the needle with the cure. Brigitte watches, stunned as her sister dies in front of her.

Sure, it’s a sad, inevitable ending. But it’s all the more unnerving knowing that Brigitte never once gave herself the cure. It could be down to sisterly devotion, or maybe the innate desire to always be more powerful.

Screenwriter Karen Walton (who also wrote for the excellent Orphan Black) taps into something very female in her script. From Ginger’s speech about losing her virginity (“He’s a hero and I’m a lay.”) to their mother’s devotion to her children, Ginger Snaps is an unusual tale in the horror genre. Few horror films explore the theme of family, let alone the love sisters have for each other.

The performances by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle make the film special. Sure their characters are a bit silly in the beginning, but the girls have fantastic chemistry together. She love and fight like real sisters, which is touching in many ways, but also terrifying to watch because tails.

Ginger Snaps does rely heavily on some tired cliches (slow-mo hot girl walks down the halls, douche sex-obsessed boys, zero female friendships), but since it was released in 2000, I’m willing to give it a break. The solid script gives Ginger Snaps solid legs to stand on, and builds successfully on the werewolf myth. I’m glad to say I’ve actually finally watch this thing.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E8 “The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors”

It’s The ‘Burbs episode!

Okay, well, this episode is also part Fright Night but since I watched The ‘Burbs with my husband this past weekend – this is The ‘Burbs episode.

Either way – it’s Betty Ann’s turn to tell a tale. The group are having a discussion about why things are scarier at night. And for Betty Ann, true terror always begins at nighttime.

“The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors” follows siblings Emma and Dayday (who to blame for this one? Canada? The 90s?) as new neighbours move in across the street. They’re a nosy pair that prefer to watch the new family through their curtains and blinds.

The new family are instantly weird. They wear all black. They’re moving in at nighttime. Even worse – they find out that the family are (gasp!) from the Ukraine. Which, of course, could mean spies fleeing after the fall of the Soviet Union.

They go to meet their neighbours one day when they bump into a man delivering two large crates. He tells them that the family name is Braun and that the crates he’s moving each contain a large refrigerator. And the family don’t answer the door, despite the fact that their car is sitting in the garage.

Emma begins suspects that something a bit more sinister than Soviet spies is going on.  Later, the pair talk to their mailman, who says he’s feeling under the weather. He tells them that he has met the Brauns, and has felt ill ever since that night. They notice that their mailman has a bandage on his neck. Emma also notices that the Brauns are only out at night. The son, Lex, only asks to play after the sun has set.

When she terrifying nightmare, Emma finally connects the dots and believes that the Braun family are vampires. After she wakes, Emma goes to tell Dayday about her theory. She tells him that she suspects that the crates didn’t actually contain fridges, but coffins. Considering the part of the world they come from – near Transylvania – it is entirely plausible that their new neighbours are blood-sucking fiends.

That night, Emma tells Dayday that she’s going to break into the Brauns’ home. She reminds him that because they are vampires, they can’t go into their house unless they are invited in. She leaves Dayday in charge. But as soon as she slips away, the Brauns arrive, asking if they can come in. Despite the fact that Dayday slams the door in their face, his mother opens it again and invites in their new neighbours.

While in the basement, Emma discovers that there is actually a large chest freezer in the basement. The girl admits she feels silly, but notices that the fridge is locked. The quickly picks the lock, but before she can open it, Dayday scares her with his arrival into the basement. He warns her that the Brauns are on their way home, but before they leave she looks in the fridge and discovers that it is filled with units of blood.

The following day, Emma pulls Dayday into another silly plan. She gives him stakes to drive through the hearts of the Brauns and gives him a cross to wear around his neck. She tells him that they are going back to the basement during the day to look for the coffins, as she thinks she knows where they are being hidden.

The two slip back into the basement through the window, but before Emma can open the door behind yet another combination lock, someone enters and the kids chicken out.

As they leave the basement, they are caught by Mr and Mrs Braun – who are out in broad daylight. Something vampires aren’t supposed to be able to do. They tell the children that their shifts at the hospital have changed and that they have been holding surplus units of blood for the hospital at their house.

Dayday, being an idiot, forgot to mention to his sister that the Brauns had told him and his mom that they were studying the emergency health services in the country to help improve their in the Ukraine. Feeling foolish, Emma agrees when the Brauns ask if their son Lex can visit the children that night.

After the kids leave, Mr and Mrs Braun go into the basement and unlock the second lock that Emma had picked. But behind the door is a coffin, indeed containing a vampire. Not Mr or Mrs Braun, but Lex – their master. They tell Lex that he has been invited over to Emma and Dayday’s house, and then they all laugh manically because that’s what bad vampires do.

Betty Ann’s story unsettles the Midnight Society, proving her point that the dark is always scarier. And though it’s a pretty derivative tale, this is one of the more fun episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? It’s a throwback to golden moments in horror, and I love it. Plus tales of paranoid suburbia are always great for entertaining tales.

Highlight quotes of the episode:

“They’re vampires alright, and you invited them in.” – Emma
“No I didn’t! Mom did!” – Dayday, who will probably die first

“I’m scared Em’.” – Dayday
“Me too, but get a grip.” – Emma, who is all of us

Wicked Wednesday: The Banishing (2013)

It has been a great long while since I’ve watched a short film that made me feel so full of glee. The Banishing from Icelandic director Erlingur Thoroddsen tells a simple, yet powerful story in it’s 11 minute run. When the film was recommended to me on Shudder, I was initially hesitant despite all the fantastic reviews. I’ve been misled before. But this little gem is so worthy of its praise.

Two sisters, Kara and Jessa, live with their mother in a large home on the edge of a woods. After the burial of their dog Norman, Kara pulls her little sister aside and tells her she knows that Jessa killed their dog. Immediately the film plunges into dark waters when Jessa admits to the killing, saying “the Bad Lady” made her do it and reveals the bruises on her arm.

Concerned about her little sister, Kara begins to do online research on possessions and imaginary friends. Kara obviously is hesitant to believe Jessa. Jess is after a much young girl. But when their mom goes out for the night, Kara decides to finally do something about the Bad Lady.

Using dolls from the house, the girls try a banishing spell. The summon the spirit that has tied itself to Jessa and it appears as a woman with white eyes in physical form. Kara smashes the head of the Bad Lady-doll and seemingly removes the spirit from their house.

When their mother returns home, all seems well. Jessa falls asleep under Kara’s watchful eye and their mom calls it a night. But when Kara wakes from her sleep, nothing is right at all.

To tell the ending would really spoil it all (and when it’s less than 15 minutes long – I’m not going to spoil this for you), but the ending is so satisfying and gross and twisting. Mixed with some delicious-looking cinematography, The Banishing is a short film that packs a memorable punch.

The casting of real-life sisters Danielle and Haley Kotch as Jessa and Kara (respectively) was a great decision. The girls are fantastic on the screen together. And much of The Banishing‘s terror is subtle, but I like a slow build – even in a movie as short as this. Many applause to Thoroddsen, this is one worth remembering.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E7 “The Tale of the Captured Souls”

I’m just going to get this out of the way: Kiki is hands-down my least favourite kid in the Midnight Society. She’s really mean (actually, most of the kids are but with Kiki is just feels unnecessary), she thinks people (Kristen) are silly just because they have fears.

But I have to admit, the girl tells a good story.

“The Tale of the Captured Souls” is like a science fiction Picture of Dorian Gray, a play on the camera-stealing-your-soul myth. Kiki references Native American tribes that hated having their pictures taken because they thought the cameras stole their souls.

In the tale, Danny and her parents take a summer vacation trip to a large home near a lake. When they arrive, they’re greeted by a young boy who looks like he’s just stepped out of a photograph from the Dust Bowl.

The creep introduces himself as Peter. He tells Danny’s parents that his own family are away and he’s in charge of the inn. But how they’ve not run away after that bit of news is beyond me. And even worse, when they see their rooms, they find that they’re covered in mirrors. Lots of fucking mirrors. But they mostly seem to find this quirky instead of deeply unsettling.

Despite the blaring sirens, the family takes Peter under their wing. Danny’s dad makes her invite him in on their game of catch, even if Peter is pretty crap. But when Danny’s mom asks to take a photo of them, Peter begins to panic and instead asks if he can take theirs.

Danny, being a bit more clever than her parents, knows something is up and goes to explore Peter’s room. Peter catches her, but is pretty calm about it. She finds an old photograph of a boy who looks identical to Peter, but the boy claims it’s his great-grandfather or whatever.

What Danny also notices is the experiment that Peter is running in his room. He explains to her that it as a long-running experiment set up by his grandfather of “transference of energy fields” or something. The roses sit withering as the geraniums thrive – apparently living off the roses’ energy.

Then, like the gentleman he is, Peter points out that Danny has a MASSIVE ZIT on her face. Poor girl. She runs off to check herself out in the mirror in her room.

After she leaves, Peter presses a button that turns his bedroom into an evil scientist’s lab. A panel in his wall opens to expose a series of security camera footage. In the images are Danny and her parents – looking at themselves in the mirrors (or rather just in the mirrors’ vision). Peter then steps into a large machine where he seemingly gets the energy that is being sucked out of his guests.

Over the next few days, Danny’s skin gets worse and her parents begin to grey and take a lot of naps. And suddenly, Peter’s baseball game is strong.

Still distressed over her bad skin, Danny goes to check herself out in the bathroom mirror when she gets an accidental shock when she touches the mirror. When she slams the medicine cabinet’s doors, the mirror shatters and reveals a hidden camera. Her dad comes to see what’s upset her, but is too tired to give a damn and goes to nap.

Danny continues her investigation by going to the plot of land Peter hadn’t allowed her into before. She sees a number of headstones, including one that reads “Peter Kirlan III 1917 -” but doesn’t have a date of death. She then notices a set of stranger markers: those in the shape of a man, a woman, a child and a dog (?).

She returns to the house, now highly suspicious of Peter. She begins to remove mirrors from around the house, and her parents scold her for it (apparently they think it’s normal to feel as poorly as they do). Taking it a step farther, Danny goes back to Peter’s room where she accidentally discovers his lab. When she looks at the monitors, she sees that her parents are sitting down, having tea with an elderly man she’s never seen before.

When she races downstairs, she finds that it’s Peter in the chair where the old man had been. She finally confronts the boy, who tells Danny that her parents are bout to be “checking out”. She takes a photo of him, but tells her she’s too late to save her parents.

Peter then extends his own twisted version of an olive branch, by offering Danny a stay at his place where she too can be eternally youthful. She solidly turns him down in favour of her parents’ lives. Peter goes to his lab once more to finish off his work on Danny’s parents.

Danny goes to check up on her parents and finds them near death. She runs up to Peter’s lab/bedroom where he is continuing his work. She grabs a switch a pulls it down to zero – reversing the aging process. When she finds her parents afterwards, they’re both back to normal and Danny’s skin has returned to normal.

The family then decide to check out (because it has seriously taken this long). Before the family head off, Danny’s mom shows her a Polaroid of an old man, asking her daughter if she knows who it is. Danny shrugs and says it is just a sad, lonely old man.

Just before Danny leaves, she sees a now-elderly Peter in the door speaking to her. He tells her that it’s finally time to join his family, whom he has left for so long. So, bye, Peter. You git.

And that’s the season’s first story from Kiki. A solid entry, girl. The best part of the episode is Danny’s parents. They’re me. Complain and take long naps. That’s what’s up. But seriously, someone better give this inn some low ratings on Yelp. Peter seems like a bit of a creep.

Highlight quotes of the episode:

“I always admired a girl with great physical strength.” – Peter the pervy creep