Pop culture is in the middle of an era of 90s nostalgia, with the SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK movie adaptation hot on the heels of the IT remakes, and Nickelodeon has clearly taken notice. In addition to both the ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE and INVADER ZIM specials on Netflix — seriously, who ever saw either of those coming? — Nick is bringing back a series well-loved by both horror fans and vanilla viewers alike: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?. The first episode of the 3-part series won’t air on Nickelodeon until this Friday, October 11, but Nick gave viewers a special treat on their NickRewind YouTube channel and posted the episode in its entirety two days early. I watched it on my lunch break in the middle of uploading new products to CaptainCo, and here’s what I thought:
I’d never expect a Nickelodeon show revival, especially one made 20 years after the fact, to be good enough to stand up to feature-length horror films. I could never ask that of a short TV series — especially not one airing on a kid’s channel of all things. And yet… it totally does. Episode 1, titled “Submitted For Approval” — a phrase that should be intimately familiar to any fans of the original series — is legitimately really well done. The cast does a very solid job (finally a production that actually portrays teenagers believably!). It’s nice to see Jeremy Ray Taylor continuing on his tour of “childhood favorites of a young horror fan in the 90s”, after his roles in both IT chapters and the Goosebumps franchise.
The premise is straightforward: the new girl in school reveals herself to be a horror fan, and she subsequently gets invited to be a part of every kid’s dream club: The Midnight Society. The episode strikes a good balance between setting the stage and getting to the meat of the original series in the form of campfire stories, without sacrificing too much of one for the other. The twist in the last few minutes of the episode gives me a lot of optimism and curiosity.
But it’s really the details that give “Submitted For Approval” an edge. The dialogue has a refreshing authenticity, whether it’s the side banter between students and their (very tired) teacher or the slightly awkward but still loving conversations between Rachel and her mom — so typical for teens of that age and their parents. The writing in AYAOTD has a very human touch to it that helps keep character interactions from feeling contrived. There’s a plucky humor throughout — see Graham’s entrance, complete with awesome sweatshirt (his whole wardrobe looks to be Randy Meeks-approved), as well as the entirety of Akiko’s zombie movie shoot. I have no idea how these young teens managed to nail a super-creepy zombie SFX makeup, but they totally did.
All in all, for something that could have been much less polished and inspired and still been passable for what it was, this new ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? is awesome so far. I had an excellent time watching it, and the young cast should be proud of themselves for their performances. Those who grew up on the series and new fans (kids and adults) alike should be excited by this first episode. I definitely can’t wait to watch the other two.
Cronenberg for President!
ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK will air on Fridays beginning October 11 on Nickelodeon. Watch the first episode on NickRewind’s YouTube below!