Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Freaky Favorites

It's interesting looking back on all the twists and turns of one's formative years. Being born as I was in the early years of the 1980s, I was privy to the best of two decades when it came to growing up with movies and cartoons. Most of this, I will admit, was horror films. Yes, from a very young age, I loved horror like few other kids did. Sure, sometimes stuff would spook me, but I always came back for more. Hell, the movie that scared me the most was one that I already covered two years ago. But there was more, as this was a time when horror oozed onto television, often in the form of anthology shows. And today we're going to take a look at one such show...or rather, a cheap DVD from some years back before the series was readily available in its entirety on such a medium.

I am a bit afraid of the dark. Breaking your neck while walking around in the dark is a justified fear.

I have drafted my little buddy Tesla to join me in going over these classic episodes and to give the overall complete package of six episodes a proper appraisal. Now, right out the gate we've gotta talk about the case itself. It's a bit flimsy, with a sort of cheap card sleeve housing the actual case, which is also cardstock with hard plastic attached to hold the discs. The art is a photo of the cast season 6, as this is actually rather disappointingly just a collection of episodes from only that season. I would've preferred a mix from throughout the entire series, but eh, I paid $5 for this ages ago, so you can only expect so much.

Tesla though is a lot less forgiving. Here you can see him talking a shit on it for not featuring The Tale of the Night Shift.
And yes, I know what we're doing here is very different. It's a review, but not of a movie, which makes it feel like an odd duck for me. Especially because looking at multiple stories like this feels very much like looking at an anthology movie, which is something I have avoided for fear that it would take forever. Thus, I will be attempting to sum the plots up rather quickly so as not to just dedicate the entire review to any one episode. So, let's pop in disc numero uno and see what we've got to work with.

Wait, so it's the story of Dark Souls?
Our first episode begins with the introduction of the new Midnight Society, and while I won't be talking about all of the intros, this one deserves a bit of lip service. The Midnight Society are the tellers of these tales and, following the previous season, most of them are now gone. Only Tucker, the younger brother of the head, Gary, remains. He welcomes his new group, all people he knows that are new to the show, and it's actually kind of cool to see this symbolic passing of the torch. It's a good intro to all of what follows as the series continued for its final two seasons.

Also, look, actual teenagers playing teenagers. How quaint.
Onto the actual story, Tucker gives us the tale of a guy name Peter who is a bit of an asshole towards his sister, Monica. He leaves her and his friend Mark behind, finding a magic room with a weird kid in it who offers to play the Forever Game with him. Basically, the woods become inescapable and only the winner of the game can free those within...but at the cost of staying behind. It all works out, with Peter managing to save everyone, including himself and the boy, Nathaniel, who shows up quite a bit older. It's a fairly tame opener, but not a bad start to things. The true star to it is this creature that gets let loose called the Burden Beast. It's fun to look at. What's next?

That game I always see over next to the discount toys?
This story centers on Tate, a kid who gambles a bit too much and has a similar problem to Marty McFly with not being able to walk away from people calling him out. That is, of course, the perfect storm for someone to get pulled into creepy shenanigans, so he of course ends up faced with something truly terrifying...Jay Baruchel!

So awkward...so Canadian...so almost Zack Braff...
Jay plays his buddy Alex, who is very much the opposite of Tate because...well, because he probably has a lot more sense. Seriously, why is being a person without willpower somehow considered cool here? Whatever, on with the nonsense. The gist of this episode is that our "hero" Tate gets agrees to a challenge that Mr. Click, the guy in charge of Click's Emporium, will pick any game there and if Tate wins, he gets free passes for a year. If he loses? He gives up his thumbprint...yeah, I totally don't smell a bait and switch.

Oh look, he's now a human pet. Or really exotic snake food.
Luckily for dumbass Tate, Alex manages to outsmart Mr. Click and rescue him and Click's assistant turns on him, shrinking his ass down and shutting down the whole place. All in all, not the creepiest episode, but it has a pretty decent story and the moral about not gambling all the time is a good one...except for the fact that Alex technically wins by gambling, which sort of muddles the message. Definitely not my favourite, but not terrible. Let's check out the last one for disc one.

Okay, this is starting to get really silly.
Despite the name clearly bringing to mind the famous wrestler, this episode is about hockey. Wiley, a kid hoping to join the local hockey team, just isn't all that good. Don't feel bad, kiddo. Just make up for your lack of skills by beating the shit out of other players and I'm sure you'll fit right in. But no, since this is a horror type show, we have to watch Wiley do something dumb. Like use a magical hockey stick that once belonged to a player called Jake "The Snake", who was actually known for playing well, a skill Wiley hasn't quite mastered. Maybe he should just give up and go take up something else? How about science?

Oh...oh no...on second thought, go back to playing hockey.
As one would expect of a magical hockey stick, it begins allowing him to win games and he's pretty happy about that. But then, that other boot falls when he realizes he's turning into a literal snake man with every single goal he makes. The bad thing about magic is that it's a broad term and that curses fall under that umbrella, so he's cursed. But hey, simple solution, right? Stop using the stick and wait for your scales to shed. Like in our last tale, it falls to his friend to save him though, because I guess not having good sense is a running theme. Best thing about this whole episode? The goalie mask with the snake on it that Tucker wears at the beginning. I really want to own that. That's one disc down, time to move onto the next one. What have you got for me?

You know, I'm beginning to question my own memories about this show.
Yeah, here's an episode that is basically one long drawn-out "technology is evil because I don't know how to use it" story. And it has a title that immediately brings to mind a certain trend that was big in the 90s, with explains why I tossed those things in the picture above. You know, there's your Terminator stories where it gives us legitimate commentary about that dangers of an over-reliance on computers to the point where the computers rose against us...and then there's this story. A group of computer users are brainwashed by aliens from inside computers...I need a minute...okay...and a girl who knows fuck-all about using computers has to save them.

An accurate description of the writer of this episode.
This is, by far, the weakest episode in this set and I really have no intention of giving it more of a in-depth rundown beyond that. Thinking back, this actually might be one of the weakest episodes of the entire series. I actually blocked this one out until I watched these again, which resulted in all the memories of me rolling my eyes at it back then. Freaky favorite? Hardly. Let's move on...quickly. I need something to wash this out of my mouth.

Alright, that's more like it. Let's take a look at something mildly racist.
David is a bored teenager who hates constantly working in his family's Chinese restaurant, instead focusing only on his own desire to be a wealthy and successful comic book artist. Kid, I hate to break it to you, but I know some comic book artists. It doesn't usually result in a lot of wealth. It's the sort of profession you go into out of love for it rather than a desire to rich and famous. Kind of like being a guy who writes about movies and assorted other bollocks, but I'm not really alluding to anyone in particular...coughcoughpleasedonatetomypatreoncoughcough... Anywho, David's gramps gives him a treasure box to look after that has been passed down in their family and inside are golden fortune cookies. So, of course, he ends up opening one and he wakes up in a new reality where his dream is now a reality.

"Time to go recycle my own art and call it new while taking a squat over my own fans!"
This ends up turning out to be quite bad though because his parents have disowned him and his sister for not helping out and grampa is deader than a popular B-list comic book character when an event gets published. Good job, David. Not only did you help usher in the New 52, but you just pretty much guaranteed your sister will probably have a starring role in Invasion of the Samurai Sluts From Hell...and that I'll have to review it. Ugh. He ends up having to fight what I can only call a Chinese ninja and ultimately manages to learn his lesson and fix things, now having learned to appreciate his life. Not scary, but a good story. Nice. Now, let's slide into our last episode.

Otherwise known as the Pac-Man cartoon. They literally ate living things on that show.
Now, I'm going to just admit it right now: this is the best episode in the set. It focuses on two nosy brothers who keep prying into the business of their new neighbors, two friendly overweight gentlemen who keep making food puns. The obvious hook here is that, through both misunderstanding and the kids' own imaginations, they assume the neighbors are cannibals that are killing and eating the people who go up to visit them. I'd like to talk more about it, but it really would just me trying to stretch out what is actually a very simple (yet effective) tale. They learn they're wrong and it ends nicely. And yeah, even though the viewer can figure it out before the reveal, it does have an almost Hitchcock feel to it. Like, if Alfred Hitchcock had made a horror movie for kids, this would be it.

Not to mention that both of the guys kind of look like Hitchcock impersonators.
There you have it, the first six episodes of season six of the fan-favourite kids horror series. How does it hold up? Well, the quality isn't that great on these discs, which isn't a big shock, and I really do wish it was a collection of some of the actual best of the series. I mean, the cover leads you to believe that's what it is, so it's especially jarring when you look at the titles and barely remember most of them. I was really hoping for the Tale of the Dead Man's Float, you know? Or maybe the Tale of the Ghastly Grinner? Hell, I would've even liked to see the Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun. Phil Fondacaro is always worth my time.

2016, you keep your hands off of this man. I will take you down.
But, while I wasn't really a fan of them not giving us a true "best of" package here, it was fun to look back at these. This was the first season after the show had originally ended. It was great to see it back and it still has that feel that made the series so enjoyable. I wouldn't really recommend picking this up though, especially when you can now buy the entire seasons in sets. But I would recommend checking out the series in general, as it was actually a very well done series that actually had a rather creepy tone to many of the stories. Many times episodes of this show felt like PG versions of Tales From the Crypt, which is definitely a good thing. All in all, I'm happy I took to time to talk about this set and I hope you all enjoyed this short walk down memory lane. Who knows, maybe I'll get the other sets someday and talk about some more episodes? I wouldn't mind that one bit. Later days, bleeders.

Hmmm....I wonder if me bringing up Phil Fondacaro carried any allusions to something coming up...

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