Are You Afraid of the Dark? Ep #6 - The Tale of the Super Specs

Yeeeeeeeeeees! Now we’re really getting started here. This is one of the episodes I remember best in this series. This is the one that really fucked me as a kid and stayed with me. This viewing (I am writing this before watching the actual episode, I’m also drinking a pumpkin spice ale which yes, is fucking disgusting) will be my first in nearly a decade and I will be absolutely crushed it doesn’t hold up so the pressure is on you hardcore The Tale of the Super Specs.

Also this episode made me realize my DVD is completely out of order with the episodes. I have nothing more to say, just it was a mild inconvenience that I thought I would share.

We open with further proof Kristen is either way too jittery or not all that bright when Gary does a very obvious trick where he “cuts off his finger” with a tiny guillotine and even though I’m reasonably confident she saw him set the trick up, she completely falls for it and screams. Then she calls him a “toad” which is funny because at that age in real life, there’s no way she wouldn’t have just called him an asshole or a fucker or an asshole fucker.

So I guess Gary’s Dad owns this magic shop they’re hanging out in and then Kristen tells Gary that the group is saying that Gary’s stories have not been scary recently. Gary stops just short of demanding “who said that?! I want names!!” before introducing us to the titular super specs.

That night at the campfire, Kristen’s statement is confirmed as everyone is sitting around saying how Gary has indeed lost his touch. I’ve said before how tame just about all of these stories would sound if you were just listening to someone tell them, and yet they always go over great with this group. Can you imagine the stories they would think are lame? I genuinely can’t. Unless he is telling them stories about how he was nervous he was going to be late for class that morning or about how he made a turkey sandwich only to discover that he was out of mustard. But Gary promises he’s gonna really bring the shit tonight and everyone gives their patented “ooooo man I’m worried” face before the story begins.

We meet our heroes, Weeds (Eugene Byrd, who goes on to do a ton of shit like Bones and 8 Mile and Heroes) and Marybeth (who goes on to do nothing sadly), who are an interracial couple, something which I will actually give this show some credit for. Weeds is all about magic and pranks, and he’s also the one person on the planet who gets crazy excited over April Fool’s Day. They’re in Sardo’s magic shop and…oh shit wait. Is this the first time we’ve talked about the Sardo character in one of these write-ups? Oh man it is. Ok let me talk to you guys about Sardo as we’ll be seeing a ton of this character throughout the rest of the series.

Sardo is played by Richard Dumont and like the Vink character we saw in the very first episode (Phantom Cab), he spouts the same catchphrase in every single one of his appearances. Someone will call him Mr. Sardo (pronounced like Sar-dough) and he’ll respond “That’s SarDO. No Mr., accent on the do.” Every single god damn time he says this. I don’t know if the writers thought it was legitimately funny or they used it twice and then felt forced to keep it going, but get ready to hear it a lot. Sardo is basically a prick who knows nothing about magic or the dark arts but fronts like he does. He’s a scam artist and never really gives a shit about the main characters, something that admittedly does work well at times in providing some laughs. And that ladies and gentlemen, is more than you’ll ever need to know about the Sardo character.

Weeds buys a bunch of crap but he also happens to buy some magical dust made out of crushed monkey bones. He uses it to cast the spell of second sight, which little does he know affected some pairs of “super specs” nearby. One of these pairs is part of his purchase, though I’m confused about why he buys them since he first tries them on and they clearly don’t work for him. Whatever, not my allowance. I used mine for awesome shit like Yoshi’s Story on Nintendo 64. Actually maybe I shouldn’t be judging anyone else’s allowance usage.

Before leaving the store, Marybeth puts on the glasses and spots a creepy looking guy dressed all in black (head covered as well) inside the store. Now, when I first saw this episode as a kid, those guys absolutely scared the shit out of me. As an adult, the impact is lessened since the “monsters” are clearly just guys in black turtlenecks and ski masks. Still though, that would be some unsettling shit to see when looking through fake novelty glasses, so I respect it nonetheless.

The next morning at school we get further evidence that maybe this monkey bone dust is the real deal as Weeds puts it inside a girl’s yoghurt which then causes her voice to sound like a chipmunk. Weeds misses the transformation as he takes off a few seconds before it happens, convinced the dust doesn’t actually work. I’m not sure why he wanted this girl to have a chipmunk voice, and it’s not clear if now she’s doomed to talk like that forever, in which case this episode is really super sad.

We also get further evidence that despite his love for it, Weeds might be kind of shitty at this whole April Fool’s Day thing. One of his “tricks” is that he just puts a huge fist in his friend’s locker so when he opens it he gets punched in the face. He didn’t really fool anyone there did he? I mean, I guess in the sense that his friend probably didn’t expect a big fist to punch him in the face when he opened his locker and then it totally happened it’s sort of a trick? I don’t know though, it feels slight.

Marybeth continues to put on the glasses and see freaky people dressed in black everywhere, including a woman in a black veil who is clutching a book. In perhaps the creepiest moment of the whole episode, on one sighting the woman raises her hand and points right at Marybeth, proving that these things can see her as well. That’s some intense shit. She rightly throws the specs in the garbage and moves on.

We then get a somewhat pointless scene of Weeds and his friend playing basketball (I’m not sure his friend is even given a name). Weeds uses the dust on the ball in order to make the shot. He misses, but once again we see it takes the dust a few seconds to take effect as when he throws the ball backwards over his shoulder, it goes right in. But we already know the dust works after all of those other times it totally worked, so I’m not sure the point of this. Then they proceed to walk away without either of them taking the ball with them, which seems odd. Whose ball was that and why did they suddenly decide they don’t give a shit about it?

Marybeth finds the specs she threw out back in her purse and then we kick off a very long scene of her walking around her house while wearing them. She sees a lot of differences when wearing them, such as kettles that aren’t there normally, active fireplaces, and of course the creepy turtleneck men and women. They start to advance on her, she screams and runs away while the camera suddenly spins upside down like Alfred Hitchcock shot this shit.

Marybeth runs up to his Weeds and his friend, who are back playing basketball, where she then immediately puts the specs back on and sees the turtleneck men playing a game in a nearby court, complete with a black basketball and everything. They begin to advance on her again so she screams and runs off. Again, not a completely necessary scene but they did use the image of the basketball group walking towards her in damn near every commercial for this show, so it definitely served a purpose at least.

Marybeth (fourth paragraph to kick off with her name if you’re keeping track) returns to Sardo’s to try and take back the specs. It’s there she learns that what she is seeing through the specs is actually a parallel universe, the window to which is located in Marybeth’s house. I’m still not entirely clear as to why it’s in her house since she had nothing to do with casting the spell or buying the glasses, but I do give her credit on how well she handles the news. She hardly bats an eye whereas I would immediately burn my house to the ground in order to shut that window. I also appreciate that clearly Sardo is pulling most of this information out of his ass. He also tells her that these beings could in fact cross over to our dimension and take over, a fact to which again Marybeth has almost zero reaction to. Clearly this is a girl you want in your corner during a crisis as she is evidently the most level headed human to ever exist.

She makes a deal with Sardo for him to come over to her place and help her and Weeds close the dimension window. This is another solid scene. Granted there is a little too much time devoted to Sardo casting the initial spell, but again it’s pretty good because he is obviously just saying random shit with no real sense of what he’s doing. Turns out it’s all for real though (Sardo is either really lucky or really unlucky when it comes to these things he says ending up being true, not sure which) and they are quickly surrounded by the turtleneck men, who can be seen by everyone now without the use of the specs. Sardo continues the spell and eventually all of them vanish, with everyone assuming they have won. However we know there’s still a few minutes left in their episode so they clearly have not won.

Sure enough, a giant ass pair of eyes appears above them and begins talking. Sardo yells “take the children” and hides under the table, a great example of how he doesn’t give a shit about any of the kids in these stories. The eyes inform them that two universes cannot exist on the same plain, and that balance must be restored. We then cut to look a likes of Weeds and Marybeth inside what looks like Marybeth’s home and the woman with the black veil walks out, veil lifted and face all visible. Here we get the first truly fucked up ending in an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode. Turns out the other universe was also trying to do away with our universe…and they totally did! We fucking lose! The end!

I remember that ending really fucked with me as a kid. How did we lose?! Plus the voice the lady uses is really creepy, so that didn’t help. So yeah, that’s The Tale of the Super Specs, which turns out is still pretty good despite some scenes which don’t feel needed. Is it a bit of a cheat for Gary to just give his story a really dark ending in order to spook everyone? Yeah maybe, but it works.