And so with the month winding down, it’s time to start the grand finale. The next five episodes I’m reviewing are my personal top 5 episodes of all time, with the whole thing culminating on Halloween with a review of the best Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode ever. But first, we start tonight at #5, and here are your links.
We’re all the way back to season 1 for this review, and we’ll be returning here a lot. These episodes just tend to be better, as they aren’t bogged down with any of the useless campfire subplots they try to jam into later seasons. It’s a David story tonight, but he’s surprisingly un-emo this evening. A free pass for you then David, enjoy it. He tosses some fresh ground sea salt onto the fire and begins. Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society, he calls this story…
We meet Amanda, who’s been shipped off to her Aunt Dottie’s for the summer. Apparently her parents are “some kind of scientists” and had to go up north to study stone carvings. In depth back stories are not David’s strong suit.
It sucks at her Aunt’s house because her cousin, Beth, is a bitch to her, and the house across the street is abandoned and mysteriously foreboding.
Now, Beth thinks Amanda is a totally dweeb and wants nothing to do with her. I bet all that anger is just because she looks like the female version of Big Pete from The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
Hmm…the longer I watch the more disturbing she becomes. Anyways, bitchy Beth won’t let Amanda hang out with her friends unless she follows some rules. I was surprised to find out rule number one wasn’t: Dress like you’re going to a Tiffany concert at the local mall. Wow, there’s an old reference, sure to drive the readers away. I think we’re alone now.
No, Beth’s rules are really just an attempt to make Amanda her slave, and the spineless Amanda goes along with it. Also, as an initiation, she has to spend a night alone in the house next door. Cause it’s haunted, you know, because otherwise that wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Later that night, Amanda is writing a letter to her parents, lying about how she’s having a good time, when a random old lady wanders upstairs.
She introduces herself as Nanny, but as Amanda is about to shake her hand, Beth pops out of her room and lets her know that if she touches her “contaminated, wrinkly, old hand” Amanda can never touch her things again. I guess Nanny is some sort of disease carrier, Amanda should thank Beth for keeping her from getting infected.
Actually, we learn Nanny is…a nanny, Beth’s specifically. Beth of course hates her because she’s old and weird. She also has some sort of connection to the haunted house, Beth figures she was driven insane by it. Beth invites Amanda to a pool party, provided she passes initiation first. I’ve decided Beth may be the scariest part of this episode.
The next day we overhear a conversation between Beth and her Mom and we learn that Nanny has no where to go. Meanwhile, Amanda interacts with her briefly and Nanny seems surprised that someone is being nice to her. Later that night, it’s haunted house time. Beth is more than happy to elaborate on why it’s haunted. It’s actually a pretty cool moment, you should watch it. For those of you to lazy for youtube though, here’s a summary:
Once a little girl lived there, who for some reason, wasn’t able to talk and the other kids teased her relentlessly about it. One day, the girl’s mother found out that her husband had gotten sick while away in the war and she sent the little girl to live with her grandmother. But the little girl never made it, because on her way, she was surrounded by the other kids and teased. She ran back to her home and locked herself in her room. Her mother didn’t come back for weeks and her grandmother never knew she was coming, so no one came to look for her. When someone finally found her, she was dead. And of course that’s the room Amanda has to stay in.
So Amanda heads inside, jumping at every creak she hears along the way. Once upstairs in the little girl’s room, it doesn’t take long for strange things to start happening. First she hears knocking at the closet door, and then she turns around to see a message being written on the wall behind her.
Oh, there’s also this…
Amanda runs screaming out of the house. This is an appropriate action, because there’s no spookier kind of ghost than a child ghost. We then pause our story and cut back to the Midnight Society discussing the story. Savor these moments, they are wonderful! David informs us that as soon as Aunt Dottie returned home, Amanda told her everything. As such, Amanda and Beth are sent over to the old house to clean up the mess they left. What mess is she talking about?
Beth of course assumes that Amanda wrote all that, but before she has time to insult her about it, the mirror on the closest starts reflecting a different room.
Beth is drawn to the mirror because to room has an awesome collection of dolls and stuffed animals. Beth seems to be in a trace and steps into the mirror.
And out steps the ghost.
Amanda screams her head off but can’t get the door to open and the ghost slowly approaches her. The ghost isn’t interested in harming her though; instead it shows her half a locket, with a picture of Nanny in it. Amanda’s a smart girl and puts it all together, realizing that Nanny is the ghost’s mother. Amanda runs to go get Nanny. Meanwhile, Beth is stuck in the mirror.
After much resistance, Amanda manages to get Nanny into the ghost’s room. It’s a tearful reunion that ends with Nanny agreeing to go live inside the mirror with the ghost. Sounds like a strange plan, but it looks like its done wonders for Nanny’s features.
Beth meanwhile is now stuck in the closet, instead of the mirror. Her friends show up, who are just as tired of her bitchy attitude as Amanda is, and they all agree to let her out once she aggress to stop being a bitch. I’m sure that lasts.
Why is it in the top 5? Atmosphere. This episode pulls off the sense of dread you’d expect to find in a haunted house. Also, it features the best ghost of the series. Little girl ghost pulls off that whole creepy child vibe extremely well, unlike the frozen ghost or Ricky’s ghost. Added bonus, one of the main characters is incredibly unsettling to look at, I wish I remembered that so I could have prepared better. The first season of Are You Afraid of the Dark? was full of great episodes, and this is just the tip of the ice berg. Sure it’s got a happy ending, but getting there was full of some nice attempts at jump scares. Also a hideous red haired beast thing.