At the beginning of the month, I wrote about the eight scariest episodes of Nickelodeon’s horror anthology series, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the Canadian-produced show about kids telling scary stories to each other around the campfire. It was surprisingly dark and often quite frightening, which is why it was aired during the final half-hour of SNICK, the Saturday night programming block (shout out to big orange couches!). But, like all shows, not every episode was scary, or even very good. Some of them were boring, or lacking in some department, and some were just silly. Outwardly ridiculous, even.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the episodes as such, or were turned off by the show at large because of the lesser episodes; they’re just part of the patchwork quilt of a show many of us grew up watching. Look, not every episode of Tales from the Crypt or The Twilight Zone was great, either. We like to celebrate everything here on Nerdist, even stuff that doesn’t hold up as well, so below you’ll find a list of what we have humbly deemed the seven silliest episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
As always, your mileage will vary, so please share your favorites (or silliest) in the comments below!
The Tale of Badge
The very last episode before the three-year gap is a real doozy of not-scary. It involves a girl who is constantly upstaged by her little brother. Her grandmother gives her a necklace and a magic flute (no, for reals) and tells her about a family secret involving the first born daughters of the clan. Her dumb brother accidentally releases a mischievous evil creature named Badge (who looks like a a mouse person with Jack Sparrow dress sense) and it’s up to her and her musical magic to stop it.
This episode was anti-scary, even with the fairly impressive makeup effects on Badge. His weird backwards speech patterns and Irish accent, though, really didn’t do much to send the chills up our spines.
The Tale of the Dangerous Soup
This is an episode I often see in list of best of the series, but for me it’s always been a hilarious non-creeper. While most episodes featuring the mysterious villain Dr. Vink (Aron Tager) were series highlights, this one makes me laugh more than anything else. Vink brings his soup to a restaurant (where Neve Campbell works) and it’s the most delicious thing ever. But it turns out the reason it’s so good is because it’s full of people’s darkest fears. And that makes soup great? I dunno.
The ideas and premise of this episode aren’t bad, but the follow-through is particularly lame, especially the acting of the male lead who can’t convincingly look scared to save his ponytail.
The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun
To be fair, this episode doesn’t seem to be trying to scare very much, but it’s also not all that compelling on its own. A kid gets a part in a play about an elf turning a boy into a leprechaun to save his life. Soon, Jake starts to experience real changes, like he’s really turning into a leprechaun. Turns out his costar is an evil elf thing and a real leprechaun has to save the boy.
I mean, do I need to explain more about why this episode is so silly? Maybe the silliest thing is that the real leprechaun doesn’t seem to exhibit any of the physical traits that Jake is getting. Oh, and the climax taking place actually on stage during a performance is not super cool.
The Tale of the Manaha
A bullied camper — who even gets ridiculed by the counselor — wanders into the woods and finds a mysterious statue, which he moves and immediately summons a Native American Shaman who warns the kid that if he and the other campers don’t leave the woods, an army of flesh-eating monsters called Manaha will be dispatched. For some reason the kid DOESN’T IMMEDIATELY LEAVE THE DAMN WOODS and he has to work together with his tormentors to escape the monsters.
This is one of those episodes that attempts to do more than it possibly could depict. So you basically just have shirtty kids walking around in the woods being warned about monsters we can’t ever see. Also, I get this is a horror story for kids, but frigging nobody would just go “nah, I’m gonna stay here following your weird and foreboding warning, creepy shaman guy.”
The Tale of the Phone Police
This one feels like it was made specifically because parents were complaining about kids making prank calls. It’s like an After School Special as done by the makers of Reefer Madness. Some kids who make prank calls find out about this kid named Billy Baxter who is said to have been captured by the Phone Police for making prank calls. Guess what! The Phone Police turns out to be real and the kids have to run away…but they can’t escape…the Phone Police.
Even as a kid I felt like I was being scolded for something I never did in this episode. There may as well have been a parent at the end talking directly to camera saying “Please don’t bother people with joke phone calls. We might kill you about it.” I guess if you’re trying to hit kids where they live, it’s an okay way to do it, but the result probably wouldn’t scare anyone straight.
The Tale of the Pinball Wizard
This is the finale of season 1, which was a pretty terrific season even still today, but this episode was not one of the better ones, mostly due to production. A kid loves playing pinball at the local mall (in the ’90s, mind) but runs out of money, so he asks his adult friend who owns a repair shop in the mall (?) for a job to pay for his habit. The shop has an old pinball machine in back and despite the owner telling him not to play it, the kid does and ends up playing until the mall closes. Trapped in the mall, the characters (?) from the pinball machine start becoming real and he has to defeat them in order to save the princess, who just happens to be a girl he likes.
First, I think they meant for this to be a video game but for some reason decided to make it pinball. I know pinball games have stories or whatever, but this one is so intricate and elaborate. It involves a witch, zombies, a guy who wants to be crowned king, and a princess who needs saving. And the fact that it was filmed in a real mall after hours — and not a particularly nice mall — just made everything seem more sad than scary.
The Tale of the Renegade Virus
This is an episode that was immediately dated, almost upon release. Two friends are having a prank war, and one of them tells the other one to try out this new virtual reality program (which was sooooo not cool in 1994), but it’s a prank! In actuality, a virus has been uploaded and is causing the kid to have to complete a series of tasks in a world built against him or the virus will take over his brain. Oh, and the virus is played by a little person in silver chrome makeup.
I mean… I can’t even bring myself to describe the many reasons this episode is more funny than scary, but I think this image, where the virus reveals his right hand is actually a big ol’ plug (IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD?!?!?) does it best.