Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Tale of the Phantom Cab

Teller of the Tale: Frank, who is to be inducted.
Original Air Date: November 7, 1990
Recurring Character: Dr. Vink. With a vuh-vuh-vuh-vuh.

Opening Synopsis:

Because this is the very first episode of the series, we get treated to a VERY spooky description of the Midnight Society (what this group of teenagers likes to call themselves). Gary (the guy with the glasses), in a very hushed, scary voice, introduces the group, describes how they like to get together and tell stories around a campfire... blah blah blah, oh - the best part. The line, "We're all different... but one thing draws us together... THE DARK!" OMGWTF!!11 these kids are serious business.

Anyway, this kid in an outfit that reminds me of Corey Feldman in The Lost Boys is to be tested for induction that night, so they have a handkerchief tied around his eyes so he can't see where he is, I guess. And because apparently you can identify exactly where you are in the woods at night in such a way that will actually allow you to return there at a later date without getting lost, he wears the thing throughout the whole story.

Gary lets everyone know that it will take a unanimous vote to get the guy into the group, everyone nods, the guy starts his story, and a tradition is introduced. He throws a bunch of "dust" (psst - it's potassium nitrate) into the fire and says the magic words,

"Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society... I call this story..."

Story Synopsis:

Now it gets interesting. Instead of actually listening to the kid talk to us for the half-hour timeslot, we actually get to see the story. We meet Buzz & Denny. Buzz is the little kid, Denny is the overbearing, abusive older brother. For some reason they're hiking through the woods. They seem to hate each other, so I can't imagine why, and like the rest of the episodes of this series, there is no explanation or background given for anything, so we're left to our imaginations in that regard.

The first five minutes of the episode are the two brothers whining and complaining about how lost they are. Buzz ruins the map, almost falls down a cliff and realizes he's been using the compass wrong in that time as well. This kid is really irritating.

So, it gets dark, they're still lost. Apparently they're in the deepest, darkest woods on Earth. Eventually they see this light coming towards them and we get to hear some of the best dialogue ever written:

"Maybe it's a ranger!"
"Maybe it's a hiker that knows his way back to town!"
"Maybe it's a maniac killer in a hockey mask who's gonna slash us!"


Anyway it just turns out to be this really pastey white guy named Flynn, who offers to bring them to someone he knows to help them get out of the woods. He's like, really sinister and really creepy and he sort of glares at them with pervert-eyes as he offers them help as he stands partially shrouded in darkness.

What would YOU do?

Yeah, alright, now, anyway, he takes them to a weird little cottage in the woods with GLOWING DOORS and rattling, murmuring bushes and then just kind of disappears. They wonder outloud if he has a phone (other than checking for a phone line, which would be, you know, the sensical option - remember, this is the early 90s and our favorite distraction hasn't reached wide usage yet). They decide the glowing door seems safer than just running for it and we meet someone who will become very familiar to us in this blog.

Dr. Vink! With a VUH-VUH-VUH-VUH.

Other than creeping them out a whole lot, Dr. Vink doesn't really do much. He tells them how he lives in the woods because he wanted to spend his life studying flora and fauna. ("Who", Buzz asks, just confirming for me what a fucking idiot he is.) They sort of follow him around his cabin, looking at his shit. One of them whispers to the other about what a nutbag he is, and a few minutes later he twirls around and says, "I am NOT a nutbag!" OMG, does that sound like a catchphrase to you?

Anyway, he talks about how much he loves riddles and asks them one.

"How far can you walk into the woods?"

Buzz gets this one. "Halfway! Because if you walk any further you'll be walking out!" I still think he's an idiot.

Anyway, he says that if they can solve this next one, he'll let them use the phone to call home. They protest, and Denny reaches for the phone, but then DR.VINK THREATENS TO CUT IT WITH A HUGE PAIR OF CLIPPERS. LET'S NOT RUN AWAY OR ANYTHING YET, THOUGH. THAT WOULD MAKE SENSE.

"What is it that has no weight, can be seen by the naked eye, and if you put it in a barrel it would make the barrel lighter?"

Of course they don't get it, because it's not like... you know... a well-known, common riddle or anything like that. He tells them to leave - there's a cab that will come through the woods and he gives them directions to it. They don't believe him. I'll admit, that sounds pretty crazy. They still bug him for help and he says there is one other way. THEY CAN LEAVE A SPECIMEN. LIKE THIS ONE! AHHHHHH!!!

Hey, I think I have of those things. You stick them in the water and a few days later they get as big as your head. Except mine is a turtle.

So, they get freaked out and run for it.

Eventually, they see a cab coming, and considering the time they've had so far with following strangers in the woods, they make the only logical decision.

Anyway, it turns out to be Flynn again, and he reveals to them that like 50 years ago or something he offered Dr. Vink a ride and Dr. Vink told him he would give him a tip or something if he'd solve a riddle. He couldn't get it, so Dr. Vink took his hand. OMG IT WAS HIS HAND. OMG. The kids freak out, but not nearly as much as they should be. Bad acting, probably. So, they drive along, really fast, in the woods. Somehow. And Flynn reveals to them that he offers a ride home to everyone that can't solve Dr. Vink's riddles and oh by the way, he's DEAD, and spins his head around 180 degrees just in case everything else up until this point hasn't tipped them off to this fact.

"You might say... I SORTA DIED! WAAAAHAHAHAHAHA" okay.

So, he tells them he repeats the crash that kills him every night at the same time and that he was hoping they'd be the ones out of people that have tried for FORTY YEARS to solve the damn riddle and free him & everyone else. He also tells them they have 30 seconds until they hit the tree and die to solve it. So, for the next three minutes (...) they sit in the back of the cab while Buzz repeats the riddle like EIGHTY TIMES (which is REALLY WISE WHEN YOU'RE SPEEDING TOWARDS YOUR DEATH) making everyone REALLY ANXIOUS before he goes, "OMG I KNOW IT. IT'S A HOLE."

So, they seem to hit the tree but then it disappears at last moment and they're safe. They freak out and hug each other passionately and then back away really dramatically because they're in the middle of the woods and someone might see them and think they're gay or something. The wilderness does this to people. You've seen Brokeback Mountain, right?

Then a park ranger conveniently drives up and saves them. The story finishes up with Frank telling everyone at the meeting that they tried to find Dr. Vink's cottage later with the police but all that was left was a foundation OMG THAT'S SO SCARY DESPITE MAKING NO SENSE.

By the way, Frank gets a thumb's up from everyone in the group and is inducted into the Midnight Society. And this spawned an entire long running series?

Submitted for the approval...

Hey, readers.

Chances are if you found your way here I either linked you to it at this point or you were creeping on me and found the link. Either way, welcome. As you may have guessed from the extremely clever title of this blog, what you've stumbled upon is a blog dedicated to review and analysis of the hit kid's show Are You Afraid of the Dark? which aired on Nickelodeon's Snick from 1990 on-and-off until 2000, literally spanning the first ten years of my life. I was obsessed with the show for years and I must have seen every episode on TV at one point or another, although obviously not all on their original air-dates.

When I found access to the episodes (*cough*) I decided I would love watching them again, completely prepared for how terrible they might be.

I was right, but they were still entertaining nonetheless.

So, here I decided to share with you my thoughts & everything as I watch the episodes, now that I'm eighteen and so much more wordly and intelligent. Maybe it'll entertain you or something. I don't know.

The inspiration for this sort of blog must be credited to Blogger Beware, which makes me laugh every time I read it and which really needs to be updated.