Welcome to “Kids Horror in the 90’s!” Over the course of this week I will be doing a short series of articles featuring a look at some of the various horror elements that were so common place outside of Halloween during the horror craze of the 90’s. Every generation has its own horror and horror appeal, but from what is a completely obvious observation; the 80’s slasher babies grew up and wanted to share their love of horror with their offspring. Enter what was arguably one of the most accepting decades for horror.
“Traumatizing our children is a family tradition!“
Almost every outlet of media had some form of children targeted, and horror themed product they were trying to push on the public, and because the parents of the time grew up on Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, they ate it up like pie at a pie eating contest. I’ve decided to look back over some of what I enjoyed watching, and reading and then share it here with you.
It really is.
To kick off this series I chose to start with one that is immediately recognizable. The Canadian children’s horror show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? The pilot aired on Halloween in Canada in 1990, and was eventually picked up by Nickelodeon in 1991 to be aired on their Saturday evening programming block “Snick.” It also aired on the Canadian television network YTV. While labeled as a children’s show, the target audience was ages ten and up, because we all know, ten is the age children stop having nightmares after watching nightmare fuel. The show often ends with “Happily ever after” endings to try to reassure the young audience that everything was going to be ok. The show which followed the same formula as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Tales from the Crypt, featured a cast of children of varying ages who gather once a week to take turns telling horror stories.
You knew it was about to get real when you saw this.
I can’t cram seven seasons into one article, so I’m just going to talk about a few of my favorites and hope it might inspire you to check the show out, and maybe pass the horror torch to you children in the process.
First up, “The Tale of the Dark Music” We’ve all moved to a new place, or been the new kid. It sucks, being bullied, learning where everything is, and adjusting to your new house was the worst! In the case of young Andy Carr it happens to be the home of his now dead uncle, and there is definitely something creepy in the basement.
Andy discovers that the creepy monster attached to those glowing eyes, is a demon who is powered by music. The louder the music was the stronger the demon would get. He also discovered the demon was easy to make a deal. As long as he feeds it, it will give him nice things. One example is a new bike in exchange for the bully next-door. That’s a pretty brutal message for a children’s show, and kids these days would need a safespace after watching it, but not 90’s kids. We loved every second of it, who wouldn’t have loved to feed their bully to a demon and get a rad new bike on top of that!?
The basket is where you put souls you’ve collected
Andy doesn’t let silly things like a conscience get in the way as his obnoxious sister starts acting bratty as he smiles evilly, basked in the light emanating from the demon as it laughs, and that’s how the story ends. Which is awesome, the kid is obviously evil and we leave it open to assume he grows old all while “Feeding” his pet demon.
Next up, is “The Tale of the Frozen Ghost” I remember the key line of the episode like it was the first time I saw it. The sad lonely voice of the dead boy saying “I’m Cold” gives me creeps just thinking about it.
Thanks, creepy little dead boy
This episode guest starred Melissa Joan Hart, back when she was relevant. Hart plays the “Baby sitter” of a little spoiled kid named Charles who’s been sent to visit his aunts so his parents could attend a wedding. Two creepy aunts, a spooky farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and then one mentions ghosts? This episode has every ingredient for a classic ghost story, and it delivers in a way only a children’s show could. Whispering over-lays, dramatic lights swinging with no one touching them, and the atmosphere that something is horribly wrong. As though the aunts were hiding something. For what it’s worth it was done really well at times, and then a scene will remind you that “You get what you pay for.”
“One of us, is a bad actor!“
We find out that, the grounds are haunted by a little boy from a nearby farm who froze to death. The aunts assure us that he never enters the house, so naturally the kids go outside, where the ghost is. Makes perfect sense. Charles is the first to realize this and wants to go back inside, but Hart decides to run off on him, because she doesn’t believe in the ghost. The one Charles runs right into.
This guy again
It’s revealed that the little boy witnessed something he shouldn’t have, the aunt’s father had hired an ex-criminal, who hid his stolen money in the chimney. The little boy froze to death because the criminal stole his jacket and he was too afraid to come out of hiding. How’s that for tragic? While the ghost wasn’t dangerous, he was creepy and spooked young me pretty good.
Last up is “The Tale of the Super Specs” it features a concept that really scares me. Other dimensions, The Multi-Verse, and parallel worlds. The idea that there are beings in the fourth dimension, but we cannot see them because we can only see in the third dimension. This episode is loosely based on those concepts, and I both love and hate it, for that reason.
Something this goofy, was actually really scary
Our story follows two teens, Weeds and Marybeth and a reoccurring character “Sardo.” Weeds buys some “3D Specs” that don’t do anything when Weeds puts them on, but when Marybeth does, she sees people who aren’t there. Solid black shadows with no faces, walking around. Or watching her.
Looks like it’s Nope O’Clock
Sardo, who seems more concerned with how his name is pronounced than he is with his moral responsibility to not hand out rare and mystical items, is the one who left a spell book where a child could mess with it and the one who sells them the specs, so they go to him for help. Sardo is a common plot device among The Midnight Society often swindling or giving the protagonists items that kick-start their stories. This guy is the worst keeper of mystical items ever, he’s given away, sold, or had robbed from him, more mystical items that don’t belong in the hands of children, than padawan tally marks on Anakin’s murder-belt.
“He’s bad at his job is what I’m saying“
It is revealed that Weed’s bumbling around with a spell book ripped a hole into a parallel universe, by doing so it caused the two universes to fight for the same space. Marybeth was the only one able to see the “Shadow People” as they began to merge with our universe. Sardo tries to use a spell book to close the window, and it looks like it worked, until it is revealed that they were the ones now sealed away, and the Shadow People had taken over. Dun dun dun…
“So, uh, we like, live here now. Yeah.“
This was a fun tongue-in-cheek show that, while having some episodes that might be “Too scary” for your little ones, the production value is that of a children’s show, so the scares never really get out of hand. If anything, it’s an interesting way to show your son or daughter, how you first met age appropriate horror.
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.