Are You Afraid of the Dark Episode 4 - The Tale of the Twisted Claw

Although I remembered the basic premise of this episode, the details were hazy and I found I could only remember a handful of things about it overall. Here I thought my mind was like a steel trap when it came to this show. Once I started watching it, everything started to come back and a memory was triggered that this episode got kind of fucked up and good lord did that ever turn out to be the case. The Tale of the Twisted Claw is probably the best piece of evidence so far that Are You Afraid of the Dark is more than ready to go to some pretty messed up places.

Fun fact – the opening scene of this episode where a kid is lying in bed as a ghost/tall dude in robes creeps up behind him, used to be shown in every single promo ever for this show. I was amazed how quickly I remembered that and then became so nostalgic I almost needed to shut the show off and cry. Did you know I have almost my entire childhood recorded on cassette tapes? Pretty weird huh? Anyway what? Yeah so ghost creeps up on kid and he wakes up only to find out HOLY SHIT THE GHOST IS STILL IN HIS ROOM AFTER HE WAKES UP! SCREAM! Then it cuts to the Midnight Society sitting around the campfire shrieking so kudos to asshole kid (one day I’ll learn his name) because he is clearly telling this story like a boss.

Asshole kid then reveals he doesn’t have the ending to his story yet because he sucks, so quiet kid steps in to tell a story he’s been working on for a long time. Pressure’s on Quiet Kid Whose Name Might Be Dave But I Refuse to Rewind and Find Out For Sure.

So our story starts the night before Halloween and a bunch of punk kids are toilet papering houses and spraying stuff on peoples’ cars. Its stuff I could maybe appreciate back then but now as an adult just makes me mad because I know the clean-up work involved there. I can’t relate to these hooligans anymore. I’m now the guy who runs out and doesn’t do anything besides yell “hey what are you kids doing?!” even though it’s a well-lit area and they are 10 feet away from him and he can clearly see what they are doing. A better approach is to give no warning and bust out the door full tilt with an axe just screaming “GOTSTA CHOP THEM HEADS!” Your house will be left alone every subsequent Halloween, I guarantee it.

We meet our two leads, Kevin and Dougie, and in typical AYAOTD fashion, one is a coward and the other is kind of a pompous dick. Kevin goes to spray this old lady’s door but she opens it and he sprays her in the face so she is blinded and breaks a bunch of shit and he runs off. So we know immediately it’s probably ok if Kevin has his legs eaten before the episode is through. The old lady ain’t fazed though and delivers an amazingly over the top cackle after they leave because witches.

So Kevin and Dougie head out trick or treating (not before Kevin scares some little kids with the idea of poison candy, we get it Kevin you’re an asshole!) and Kevin wants to go back to the lady’s house to get candy, believing she won’t recognize them as the kids from the night before. Kevin must have forgot about that part where they stood there staring at her for 10 seconds in plain view, or the fact that his current costume in no way covers his face! Anyway, Dougie knows what’s up and says no, but Kevin threatens to tell everyone he’s a coward if he doesn’t. It’s hard to believe there was a time in our lives when dumb shit like that mattered; being an adult is kind of awesome actually. 

The lady invites them in and seems like a swell old lady, being genuinely nice. Oh and Dougie decides to take his mask off, just in case there was a slight chance this lady hadn’t figured out who they were yet. The lady gives them a vulture’s foot that will grant them each three wishes and as anyone who has accepted a severed appendage from an old lady witch knows, there is absolutely no way this situation will go poorly for anyone.

Nah just kidding, shit goes bad really fast. Dougie wishes they were back home and done with trick or treating. So then immediately, a bunch of unconvincing 90’s bullies try to steal all of their candy. Though somehow they made it so that the area they hang out in is perpetually foggy, and they seemingly can alter their voices to sound more robotic and scary, so they are a cut above your standard bully. Though also in typical TV show bully fashion, they are all terrible, terrible actors, though could anyone really call someone “snotball” and make it sound badass? Except Jason Statham and maybe Robocop of course.

So yes it’s your typical “be careful what you wish for” scenario where all of the wishes get turned around on them. It’s been done a hundred times, but the premise is so sound that it never gets old, and it’s always fun to try and guess in what way their wishes will be used against them. Though the bullies aren’t successful in getting their candy and they ride off into the night…so I’m not really sure why they have to stop trick or treating. The claw may have just gotten lucky with that one.

Kevin wishes he could beat another guy in some super important track meet. So how does the claw do it? Give Kevin super speed? Rocket legs? Make his opponent’s legs disappear or turn into chickens and thus he can’t run because the chickens won’t agree on which direction to go? Nothing that elaborate sadly. A dog runs across the finish line and even though it doesn’t look like this guy is in much risk of running into him, he dives to the ground and really hurts himself, allowing Kevin to win the race. So an innocent kid’s dreams of being a future track star are crushed so this asshole could win a race that doesn’t seem to hold much significance at all in the grand scheme of things. Our heroes!

We then have a very unnecessary break to jump back to the campfire and have the characters summarize what we’ve already seen. Yeah guys we saw them make wishes that went bad, we were all there! Why are you telling us this?! It’s just another reminder that these stories would be incredibly lame if you were just sitting there and listening to someone tell it.

It’s time for shit to get real! Kevin and Dougie are hanging out at Dougie’s where Kevin has convinced himself he earned the gold medal for the race. Then after Dougie calls his parents his “folks” about 8 times in rapid succession, you’re on board with Kevin when he wishes Dougie would “just lose his folks.” The claw doesn’t have to stretch his imagination too far with this one, so he kills Dougie’s parents in a car accident. Fuck! That’s heavy shit right there Are You Afraid of the Dark! It’s interesting that the police decided it was best to call him on the phone to deliver the news and not come to the house and actually tell him in person. It’s pretty nonchalant of them to just pick up the phone and say “Yo this Dougie? Remember how earlier today you had parents who were alive? Welllll check this….”

Dougie wishes his grandfather was there to tell him what to do. But oh man you guys, his grandfather is way dead! How could that work?!  Well the claw isn’t going to let that detail get in the way so not only does zombie grandpa show up (we never get a truly good look at him so I’ll assume he looks like a zombie) but he arrives in his old car in what is a pretty creepy little moment. Actually the creepiest part is the noises we hear grandpa making as we see him approach the front door of Dougie’s house from his POV.

So they solve the problem in the exact same way everyone ever solves this problem – they wish the initial problem (in this case causing the lady to break her vase) had never happened. And all is well! The grandpa skeleton zombie is gone, Dougie’s parents are alive, Kevin never actually won the race, etc. The story ends with a knock on the door and they find the now in tact old lady vase with a note reading “Trick or Treat”. Nice touch old witch lady. The End!

This was another pretty good episode. Sure the story is old but it’s always entertaining and one nice twist here is that unlike most evil wish stories, they don’t try and beat the system. Most of their wishes are actually by accident, with only one being made intentionally. My one complaint is that I really wish stories like this would make the claw really work for it. I want to see it really have to get creative with some of these wishes. People always wish for the same shit. “I wish for a million dollars!” “Ha the money was stolen and now you’re in jail. The Claw bitch!” But what if someone just went simple with their wish? “Aw I wish we weren’t out of ketchup.” What’s the claw gonna do then? “Ha I replaced all the food in the kitchen with ketchup! How inconvenient of me!” A pain sure, but you can easily get around that with a quick trip to the grocery store. Maybe the claw would just give up and decide “fuck, I don’t know, here’s your ketchup I guess.” I may go write that story right now actually. And eat this Kit Kat. Probably just the second thing.