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Are You Afraid Of The Dark? (DVD Review)

As a kid in the 1990s I was addicted to the tales from the Midnight Society coming to every Saturday night on Nickelodeon. Or I believe they were calling it “SNICK” back then (Or something to that regard). Sometimes spooky, sometimes just fun horror/monster stuff to enjoy, the show has long been fabled among my generation and a few after mine. It seemed ripe for a revisit and Nickelodeon agreed, giving it a 3-episode limited revival last year. Now, that updated version will be hitting…*looks down*…DVD on August 11th. Viva physical media though, right? The DVD will contain all 3 of the new episodes as well as 3 of the “fan-favorite” classic episodes to give us the best of both worlds. If you’re interested in owning it, no matter the format, go ahead and use the paid Amazon link following the review. Its only like $12 right now and that’s not bad. Or grab it to spook your kids if you got ’em. That’s a pretty good idea, too!

Series

In this three-part, self-contained limited series, the members of the Midnight Society tell a terrifying tale of the Carnival of Doom and its evil ringmaster, Mr. Top Hat, only to witness the shocking story come frightfully to life and prepare for an adventure beyond their wildest nightmares. Lyliana Wray, Sam Ashe Arnold, Miya Cech, Jeremy Taylor, Tamara Smart and Rafael Casal star.

2019’s refurbished version of Nickelodeon’s classic 1990’s series Are You Afraid Of The Dark? wanders away from its anthology format, but yields some pretty decent and effect results.  This new limited series is one single story over three episodes as opposed to one campfire tale per episode. A slight disappointment, but past that, this thing is a loving gift to horror fans and young scare fans alike. Hopefully, in its second season it will maybe return to the campfire anthology style which made it so popular originally.

BenDavid Grabinski deliver quite an effective little tale and tells it to some really impressive degrees of terror. If you’re into the Goosebumps movies, this will surely draw you in. This one has a lot of references and a devotion to some very classic horror stuff with a little bit of a slant on H.P. Lovecraft (Their school is named after Herbert West). Its the kind of name dropping and homaging that makes me wonder if the young crowd recognizes it, but leaves me hope that it wets their appetite to discover afterward.

Overall, this one starts out strong and then sort of levels out, but manages to maintain a consistent flow through the series. The kids are pretty fun and the energy is terrific. I would have preferred more of the tale after tale format, but this worked and delivered a really solid single story. Definitely share this one with your kids if they are into monsters and such.

Episodes

Part One: Submitted For Approval

Part Two: Opening Night

Part Three: Destroy All Tophats

Fan-Favorite Classic Episodes

The Tale of Laughing in the Dark

The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner

The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float

Video

Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (1.33:1 for the classic episodes)

Layers: DVD-9

Clarity/Detail: Unfortunately, Nickelodeon has opted for the cheap DVD route and crammed three 42 minute episodes of the new one and thee 24 minute episodes of the classic show on 1 disc. The results aren’t awful, but for a show that aired in HD, its disappointing to see it relegated to a more compressed, softer, less detailed DVD. Its fine with the right expectations, but there is a lot left to be desired when it comes to the image.

Depth:  While flat is the nature of a DVD, this fares pretty decently with some all right spacing and depth of field for what it is. Movements do suffer from blur/jitter in rapid action sequence or jerky camera movements.

Black Levels:  Blacks are consuming in their darkness which comes in a lighter, grayer level. Some details are lost, but much of the important things remain plenty visible. Plenty of crushing in the nighttime and dark roomed scenes.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty decent here and some of the more extravagant reds and greens have a nice pop with minimal bleeding.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and feature a limited saturation, but maintain consistency start to finish. An easy rule here, the closer the person gets in the frame, the better you can make out their features.

Noise/Artifacts: There are plenty of various noise and blocking issues that come as expected in this territory.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Are You Afraid Of The Dark? has a terrific 5.1 mix for the lossy DVD format. What it lacks in being compressed, it makes up for in utilizing all the channels to full effect, being loud and being plenty engaging. Its audio knows how to scare and jump for kids and it relishes in it. It features some decent work on its layered effects while maintaining a solid balance.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  Jump scares, music sting, crashing and more have a nice bump from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: The mix is not afraid to play around the room and bolster the boos at any turn it can manage. Unique jump scares, ghostly movements, playful volume levels and more really reach around the room and provide a thrilling multi-speaker experience.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals have good clarity and are never low or lost in the mix.

Extras

The only bonus found are the 3 classic episodes found on this release. All presented in 1.33:1 with 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital audio.

The Tale of Laughing in the Dark

The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner

The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float

Summary

The new flavor of Are You Afraid Of The Dark? is pretty impressive for a kid’s television special. My only gripe is I was expecting an anthology and got 1 story over episodes instead. The DVD transfer is decent enough, with the expected visual hiccups and a very playful 5.1 track. In place of interviews or deleted scenes, we are treated to some classic episodes of the show, which is a pretty fair exchange and fun to revisit. Its a shame there is no Blu-ray for this, but as a DVD, its decent and the price for it is super cheap on day of release. Collectors and fans should pocket this, regardless.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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