Jun 22, 2014

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? 1X5: THE TALE OF THE HUNGRY HOUNDS

If you were a budding horror misanthrope in your early teens during the ‘90s, then you not only remember, but cherish, this long-running Nickelodeon series about a group of variously ethnic kids meeting in the woods at night to trade spooky tales. Perhaps you remember President Gary's opening remarks during the first episode: "We're called The Midnight Society. Separately, we're very different. ... But one thing draws us together: the dark! Each week, we gather around this fire to share our fears and our strange and scary tales." The stories were creepy, corny, fantastic, or pretty stupid, but we all remember that nervous knot in our stomachs beginning to tighten as the legitimately eerie opening title sequence began (which includes that awful clown-doll from which I used to avert my eyes). You didn’t know if the groundwork for nightmares was being laid, but you sat, rapt, waiting to see.  So grab your weird bag of magic dust and toss it in the fire. It’s time to see if you’re still afraid of the dark.



The Tale Submitted For Approval: 

"The Tale of the Hungry Hounds"

The Submitter: Kristen

The Current Midnight Society Administration: Gary (President, Glasses); David (Vice-President, Administrator of the Useless); Kiki (Secretary of War/Ass-Kicker, Name-Taker); Eric (Director of the Office of Management and Budget/Minister of Looking Smarmy); Betty Ann (Ambassador to the United Nations/Gary’s Unspoken Mistress); Kristen (Trade Representative/Socialite); Frank (Intern/Socialite).

 

The Jist

Amy is spending the summer with her cousin, Pam, who lives in the country. Amy's a city gal, which means she's almost immediately bored after having arrived, what with all the peaceful solitude and quiet beauty only the countryside can offer. The girls do some rummaging around in the attic of Pam's farmhouse where they find a photograph of Pam's aunt, Dora Pease, who looks strikingly like Pam, along with her aunt's horse, Mirage, who looks strikingly like Amy. (Oh snap!) There's a slight mention of Pam wanting to take horse-riding lessons, but her mother forbidding her from doing so, because of "what happened" many years ago. That's pretty much all we're given to go on for the time being, but we can assume whatever happened was bad. The girls become curious over an old camphor wood trunk they find tucked away in a closet, due to the weird sounds coming from within, but once they can't get it open, they leave the attic, likely to head to the mall to buy more gigantic shirts with even more gigantic neck holes.

It randomly cut to the girls playing with a Oujia Board in an attempt to contact Aunt Dora Pease. They make contact with her pretty quickly, who spells out "let me out," so the girls head back up to the attic while Pam says, "I don't even believe in this stuff," even though playing with the Ouija Board was totally her idea. They open the trunk and see that it's filled with Aunt Dora's riding gear. The trunk is also filled with spooky smoke, which neither girl thinks is weird. Pam puts on the riding jacket and immediately becomes possessed by the spirit of her dead Aunt Dora Pease, and she wanders through a huge window/portal that opens at random(?) and she heads off to the land of the undead, I guess. It's also immediately night time.

During their tour of the dead, they come across a small graveyard, all filled with tombstones bearing the Pease family name. While there, Pam/Aunt Dora remembers what happened: She was letting her pet fox (complicated French name) wander around her barn, which pissed off the hounds hardcore since, ya know, they were fox-hunt dogs. Well, the fox broke loose and Dora went off after him on her horse, Mirage, but they both fell down and died, and since Dora was dead she couldn't feed the hounds, so they attacked the old stable man, Giles, and he died of a terror-caused heart attack.

All this over a fox!

Thanks for nothing, (complicated French name)!

Giles shows up looking terrible and the girls run and hide in the barn, but oh no, the ghosts of the hounds are there, too, and they're still hungry! Amy takes care of this shit like a champ, and by that I mean she drops all the god damn dog food on the ground and flees in terror, until that fox, (complicated French name), makes a random appearance, whips his fox tail, and lures the dogs outside.

I'm not sure why, but, this saves the day.

Yay!

"Killa dogs? Say whaaaaat?
Dora, pease!"

 

The Reaction

The episode begins with member Kristen saying she's got a tale that will have you "shaking in your booties." Well, she's fucking right on the money.

Let's go back in time.

I was in fifth grade (thereabouts). My parents were out for the night, and they left me and my older brother in the care of a teenaged neighborhood girl to babysit us for the evening. It happened to be a Saturday night, so we watched, beginning at 8:00, the SNICK line-up. The last show to air during this block was always "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and this was a show I never missed. That night's episode was "The Tale of the Hungry Hounds." We watched it all of us: myself, my brother, and the babysitter. When it was over, I was fucking petrified.

And it was also bedtime.

"No way," I said. "Not going to bed, not this kid!"

Needless to say, I lost that debate, though I did secure a minor victory by asking to sleep in my brother's room. I'm not sure why, considering he was just as terrified as I was, but kid logic dictated if the ghosts of hungry hounds (or Giles) were going to come eat me, I would not die alone.

We weren't all nestled in for more than ten minutes when we became convinced the bedroom door was creaking slowly back and forth by itself. We called for the babysitter to come, and when we told her what was happening, she did NOT shake her head and say, "Oh, little boys." No, SHE was fucking terrified, too! THAT EPISODE RUINED ALL OF US.

Having said that, and watching it again, I can still sense which parts would have terrified me as a child. The sudden appearance of ghostly Giles, and the slow push in on the locked barn door, white light shining through its cracks, behind which snarled a horde of hungry, angry, undead dogs.

But I also shake my head and say, "Oh, little boys."

I liked this episode a lot. Though we're admittedly only five episodes into the entire run of "AYAOTD," this is the most unique and inventive adventure so far. Yeah, it has ghosts and spirit boards, but there's also some pretty unorthodox aspects to this story that may not exactly have been considered standard kid-entertainment constructs. Horse-riding, allusions to "fox hunts," complicated French names, etc. I had absolutely no idea what a fox hunt was when I was of age, and that either made me a total bone head, or it proved that the show was attempting to be more than just kids' entertainment and tell a story that parents would have appreciated as well.

Is It Scary?

Creepy, certainly. Scary? Well, it did the trick when I was a wee one. Giles' ghostly white appearance sure wouldn't go over well at a child's birthday party – or an old folks home.

Is It Corny?

Not especially.

Is It Stupid?

No way. You're stupid.

How Bad Is The Acting?

Pam's cool, and you'll see why below. Amy is...less cool. She gets by, though, as does her high-hat hair. Seriously, check out how high her hair goes. It's hilarious.

Do The Kids Deserve Their Terror?

Not at all the worst thing they did was play with a Ouija Board. 

Why Does That One Kid Look Familiar?

Who, Mia Kirshner? That girl's been in everything. She was a lesbian terrorist in "24," a brother-loving incestual whore in Not Another Teen Movie, Elizabeth Short in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, and this list goes on and on. Look her up and you'll say, "Ohhhh, her."

She's also unforgivably hot. God damn. 

How Canadian Does Everyone Sound?

Dude, even the OUIJA BOARD has "Goodbye/Au Revoir" written on it. That's hilariously Canadian.

Final Thoughts

In the opening, Kristen introduces her hound dog, Elvis.

"My dad says Elvis was king," Betty Ann offers, an awkward silence being the only reply from the group.

The moral: STFU, Betty Ann, no one likes you.

Madness uncontainable.



On the Official Gary Creeper-Shot Rating Scale...



I Award "The Tale of the Hungry Hounds..."

 

4 Gary Creeper Shots

 

I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed. (Splash sound.)

2 comments:

  1. Your story of childhood terror as a result of watching this show reminds me one of my own. The episode was "Night Shift", though (I'm fairly certain that was the title...green faced witch in a creepy hospital?), and my cousins and I were watching it in broad daylight. We were alone in the house and the moment the episode was over, every one of us ran out of the place, crying, to my mom who was next door. I felt like a jackass then and I still do...

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    Replies
    1. I think every fan of this show as an adolescent has a similar story. We should start a support group.

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