Halloween Review: The Tale of The Ghastly Grinner

I now present to you, the only episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that gets a ton of requests that I haven’t already written about.  It’s taken this long to write about it because I always seem to end up watching it right before I’m about to start reviewing again, and then I never want to watch it a second time.  Third year appears to be the charm though.

Here’s your link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQilMMDYXzg

We begin with The Midnight Society attempting to light their fire, but unfortunately the logs are wet.  They decide they need paper and Frank volunteers Tucker’s comic book, or graphic novel as Tucker angrily explains.  Their fight doesn’t escalate from there, as Betty Anne snatches the comic book and decides she can use it for her story.  How convenient.  She tosses some magic dust on the fire and begins, submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society, she calls this story…


We meet Ethan Wood, aspiring comic book artist.  After reading through several rejection letters, he tears all his drawings off the walls in an emo-hissy fit.  Ethan, they might be rejecting you because you’re 14 years old.  Or maybe it’s because the only way I can think to describe you is lumpy and androgynous.

Like a young Chaz Bono.

Like a young Chaz Bono.

Ethan receives an invitation to the opening of a new comic book store, and having nothing else to do with his time, decides to check it out.  The comic book store includes a surprisingly large amount of licensed superheroes, and a few nods to villains from former Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes, like our friend the Crimson Clown.  It’s also got a wall mural of Superman during his Fabio phase.

Lois seems to be terrified of his luxurious hair.

Lois seems to be terrified of his luxurious hair.

Ethan meets the store manager, a punk rock chick who refers to Ethan only as “Cakes” despite cake being the last thing Ethan needs.  She insists on seeing his drawings, and immediately tells him that he draws like the great Sylvester Uncas, an artist so famous no one has ever heard of him.  Uncas’ magnum opus was a comic called The Ghastly Grinner, about a villain so terrifying that his laugh reduced people to giggling idiots.  Uncas was only able to draw one issue of the Grinner before disappearing, and the clerk gives the issue to Ethan, who gladly accepts.


A free comic is a free comic.

A free comic is a free comic.

At school the next day, Ethan spends science class reading The Ghastly Grinner, rather than paying attention.  It’s a shame really, because he teacher is using crazy looking microwaves to blow up sausages, definitely a class to watch.  Do you know who is paying attention though?  Walking nerd stereotype and essentially female Steve Urkel, Hooper Picallero.


Ethan is caught reading the comic and his teacher disposes of it by dropping it in a fish tank, because he’s a massive dick.  Ethan schleps himself back home after school, only to learn his teacher called his parents.  His parents let him know that he’s on thin ice, and his comic book addiction is a problem.  By the way, if you’re wonder where Ethan got his good looks, here are his parents.

And this is before anything bad happens to them.

And this is before anything bad happens to them.

Ethan retreats to the kitchen and shows that he has very little knowledge of how microwaves work, when he decides to microwave the Ghastly Grinner comic.  Maybe if he paid more attention in class, he’d know how stupid that idea was.  Also, the comic wouldn’t be fucking wet in the first place.  He doesn’t get to bask in his idiocy as his mother tells him he’s got a phone call…from a girl!  Do you know who’s calling Ethan?  Walking nerd stereotype and essentially female Steve Urkel, Hooper Picallero.

Here’s a fun fact about Hooper, she has no awareness of her surroundings.  This is evidenced by her claim that she sits across from Ethan in science class, when we clearly saw early that she sits in the front row, and Ethan sits in the back.  Not so smart now, are you!?  Hooper is calling to let Ethan know that she thinks what his teacher did to him was pretty shitty, and that literally seems to be the only reason she is calling.  Ethan has to cut the conversation short, when there’s an explosion in his kitchen, due to his mother creating a dangerous electric octopus.  Remember kids, use power strips.  Ethan investigates, but can’t quite figure out what happened.  His only clue is a strangely shaped hole in the door.

A jester with a really, really solid cape?

A jester with a really, really solid cape?

Ethan tries to talk to his parents, but find them reduced to giggling idiots, spurting out blue goo.  It’s not an improvement for them, but it’s not exactly a step down either.  Freaked out, Ethan flees from his house and hides behind a shrubbery.  Care to guess who he runs into outside?  Walking nerd stereotype and essentially female Steve Urkel, Hooper Picallero.  Ethan explains that he may have brought The Ghastly Grinner to life, and Hooper seems strangely accepting of the idea.  She’s also strangely accepting of the fact that Ethan prevents her from warning her parents that Ethan’s parents are now vicious giggling idiots when they arrive for dinner.   They decide to head back to the comic book store, and board passing bus.  While on board, they have time to look over the Grinner comic, and realize that it’s now mimicking what is happening in real life.  Here’s what Hooper and Ethan look like in comic form.

He's even lumpier!

He’s even lumpier!

Unfortunately for Ethan, it turns out that The Grinner had already gotten to their bus driver, however unrealistic that may be.  It leads to the driver doing his best Fire Marshall Bill impression, and swerving the bus around until Ethan is able to pull the emergency break.   We then cut to the comic book store for some exposition, wherein we learn that Sylvester Uncas was trying to kill off The Ghastly Grinner, but the Grinner got to him first.  Comic Book Store girl turns out to be Uncas’ daughter and she hopes that Ethan can finish drawing the comics to kill off the Grinner once and for all.  Hooper mentions that they could use microwaves, like the crazy one at school to get rid of him, but before they can argue, The Ghastly Grinner finally shows his face, and prompts everyone to run away screaming.

He is a good looking villain, I'll give him that.

He is a good looking villain, I’ll give him that.

Ethan and Hooper race back to the school to get the microwave ready, only to be interrupted by their teacher, who in turn is interrupted by The Grinner and reduced to a giggling idiot.  Score one for The Grinner.  Ethan and Hooper flee back to the comic book store, where Hooper finally accepts that Ethan will have to finish the comic to defeat The Grinner.   Ethan finally agrees after Hooper gives him an uplifting speech about believing in himself.  We’re then treated to a montage of Ethan finishing the comic, which sadly isn’t set to an inspirational 80’s song.  Feel free to play “You’re the Best Around “ here.

Ethan finishes the comic just as The Grinner arrives, and the two are transported into the comic book.   Ethan and The Grinner engage in what was probably a climactic battle, but since we only see it in still frames of a comic book, it feels a little lacking.  It’s finally Hooper that uses her giant nerd eraser to remove The Grinner, and set Ethan and the Uncas..es…free, via a strange explosion that leaves Hooper looking like this.


Somehow this entire series of events results in Ethan becoming a famous comic book artist, with Hooper serving as his manager, and his scumbag parents pretending they give a damn about him.  So…happy endings for everyone I suppose.

 The End

As a comic book fan, I enjoy the episode, but I find The Grinner a bit overrated as a villain.  People seem to put him in the same tier as The Joker, which is fairly ridiculous.  1960’s Batman era Joker sure, but that’s hardly frightening.  Are You Afraid of the Dark has done creepy/funny villains much better as well.  I also can’t help but feel like it’s so full of comic book style transitions to make up for the fact that everyone in the episode is kind of unattractive.


This article is part of the Countdown to Halloween blogathon, a month-long blogging marathon dedicated to honoring the Halloween season. For more information and a full list of participating sites, please visit http://www.countdowntohalloween.com


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