Man I got so focused on all of these other features that I forgot how long it has been since I’ve done a proper Are You Afraid of the Dark or Goosebumps review. I need to get back on track with that right away so here we go with the next one on the list – The Tale of the Captured Souls.
We begin our episode at the campfire where everyone is waiting for Kiki to arrive and Gary is boring everybody by rattling off how old they are to the exact second. Anyway so Kiki arrives with one of those awesome instant Polaroid cameras because her story is a play on that whole “ahhhh no don’t take my picture or the camera will eat my soul” scenario.
In our tale, Danielle and her parents are arriving at either a hotel or a bed or breakfast, I forget which one now. Either way the place immediately gives them a whole host of reasons why they shouldn’t stay there. First of all it looks pretty rundown to begin with, with a lot of chipped walls and a pretty bad colour scheme. It’s not stated how much money they are paying to stay here but if it’s any more than some pocket change and a lollipop then they are getting severely ripped off. The front door is locked so they can’t actually get inside, and then Danielle is electrocuted by something when searching around for a potential door key. The biggest reason to book it out of there however is when they meet the guy who works there – Peter. Here’s this guy with a ridiculous haircut that looks like a barber was feeling particularly spiteful, clothes from maybe the 1920’s, a frighteningly pale exterior, and the kind of soft spoken voice that only belongs to serial killers and maybe Michael Jackson. He’s like Norman Bates but without the charm, just all of the creepy.
Oh and they are the only family staying there this week, another sign that perhaps this isn’t the place you want to be. I can’t be the only person who finds an empty hotel incredibly off-putting. It’s the kind of thing I immediately associate with a manager thinking “Excellent! Nobody is around to stop me from ritual sacrificing this family to my Pagan gods!” I want a good crowd or I ain’t staying there.
To further add to the incredibly unsettling atmosphere of the place, there are mirrors covering just about every surface of every room. Peter says it’s because his family has been collecting them for ages but I’m willing to bet he’s bullshitting us. The Dad says he digs the mirrors as he looks up at one above the bed. Is it strange for a kid’s show to make reference to a Dad liking the fact that he and his wife can see themselves as they have sex? Perhaps, but it’s something I didn’t pick up on until this viewing so good for them for slipping that one in there (I don’t accept that it was unintentional for the record).
Also for some reason the mirrors also shock people when they touch them. Peter deliberately dodges answering why that is, the kind of thing real life people would never let the son of a bitch get away with. It reminds me of Lost where characters would ask each other completely reasonable questions like “what the fuck is any of this?”, be given a cryptic answer in response, and then just accept it and move on. No! You tell them to piss off and actually answer your question! Who would ever accept these answers in real life!! Also we’re only five minutes in and Danielle has already given Peter shit two times for calling her that instead of just Danny, so we know that is going to come into play later, presumably in one-liner form.
Peter is questioned about his parents and he says they aren’t around but are actually on a cruise. “So you’re all alone?” *creepily smiles “Not anymore.” Come on people! Punch this pale fucker in the face and get the hell out of there right now! They do all admit he’s a weird guy but apparently not weird enough that they aren’t willing to stay alone in a house with him for several nights.
Later that day Danny and her Dad are playing catch outside (where Peter once again angers her by calling her Danielle, so we’re already up to three instances now) and Dad invites Peter to join. He says he isn’t much of a sports guy and immediately backs that up by being worse at catch than anyone has ever been at any sport ever in history. Mom then comes out to take a picture of everyone and Peter immediately screams and goes fetal after seeing the camera. He says nothing is wrong (again, something real life people would never ever accept) and offers to take a picture of the three of them instead. Unfortunately for them they don’t notice the evil smile and chuckle he does immediately after the picture is taken.
Peter and Danny end up having a conversation in his room (she ends up there when following a baseball that comes randomly rolling down a staircase, another thing she is completely accepting of it would seem) and Peter continues to be the most outwardly creepy motherfucker in existence. He talks about how his parents are never around and how he “admires a girl with great physical strength” when Danny suddenly decides it’s chin-ups time. Danny quizzes him about some flowers which he says is an experiment his grandfather used to do involving energy transfusion. Basically he’s sucking the life out of some roses and giving it to some geraniums. Huh, I wonder if that will play a bigger role in the proceedings.
Peter gets way close to Danny’s face and just starts staring. She tells him not to be such a “dweeb” instead of the appropriate reaction of saying “stop being a gross pervert weirdo” and then mercilessly macing him. It turns out that he’s staring at a large zit that has appeared on Danny’s face. After she leaves to go check it out, Peter hits a big red button (because all buttons are always big and red) and his room transforms into a laboratory. It seems to me like he probably should have waited a little longer to make sure Danny didn’t immediately come back into the room and see this happening, but whatever, TV logic. The transformation is surprisingly elaborate and also really fucking loud so there’s no way everybody else in the house wouldn’t hear all this machinery grinding around upstairs. Also, I call shenanigans on some of this stuff fitting inside the walls and ceilings. A giant human sized-tube is lowered down at one point. Where the fuck was he storing that before?! I see the ceiling, there’s no room for that beast up there! Sure it’s not the most realistic lab on the planet since its being used to monitor the family through mirrors and suck out their life force energy in order for Peter to stay young, but still.
We then take a brief interlude back to the campfire where everyone asks questions they know damn well will eventually be answered in the story if they would shut the fuck up and stop interrupting! “Well, what do the mirrors mean?” “What’s that kid up to anyway?” Bitch be patient and I’ll tell you that shit. God!
The next day or later that day or sometime I’m not sure, Peter is once again playing baseball with Danny and her Dad. This time however he is destroying the Dad who is looking older and more sluggish. I do like when Danny goes to pitch and boldly claims “Try and get a hold of this one!” and then proceeds to throw a very slow and weak underhanded pitch. I don’t think statements of “Get ready for this shit!” work when pitching underhand. The Dad leaves to take a nap, saying that he feels completely worn down. Then Peter throws a shit fit when Danny goes to grab the ball that he hit out into the woods, so he goes to get it and she figures fuck that noise and goes inside to see her Mom.
Mom is looking the same as Dad, like she has aged decades in only a few hours. Mom declines to go swimming as she is also too tired and tells Danny she may need some medication for her skin as she has completely broken out into some pretty gargantuan pimples. After once again electrocuting herself on one of the mirrors, Danny smashes it in a fit of rage and immediately finds a camera situated behind it. She calls in Dad who couldn’t give less of a shit that they are undoubtedly being spied on, instead demanding Danny clean up the mess and then promptly departing.
Danny once again decides fuck that noise and starts roaming around in the nearby woods where Peter didn’t seem to want her to go. It’s there she finds a grave with Peter’s name on it, dated 1907. Naturally she assumes there’s no way it could be that fucking guy (spoilers – it just might be) and moves along. There she discovers something far more unsettling – several lumps of dirt featuring cutouts of a dog, a child and an adult, each featuring a series of ticks, clearly indicating the amount of each one that are buried there. She does seem to take in this discovery a little too casually for my liking. I would have preferred to see more “What the fuck is this!?” but I understand it’s a kid’s show and real world, curse laden reactions can’t be done properly here.
Her parents meanwhile continue to act out the parts of naïve horror movie characters, with the Mom chalking up her rapid aging to “the years catching up with her”. Come on now, really? For everyone out there who has parents, do you really think that’s how they would realistically react to this fucked up scenario? I have to believe that no, they would be rightly freaking out and would almost definitely take their child’s request of “maybe we should get the fuck out of here” completely seriously. But not these two. Clearly their daughter just has a wild imagination and everything here is completely on the level. They go to sleep and Danny continues to explore the house.
Not surprisingly when she enters the attic, she quickly discovers Peter’s terribly hidden secret – the giant-ass red button that is barely hidden from plain sight. She pushes it and sees his laboratory emerge in front of her, complete with his camera monitoring system. She spots an old man on one of the monitor screens in the same room as her parents and runs off to see just who in the hell he is.
She gets there and asks her further decrepit parents if there is a new guest staying there with them. Peter then turns around and reveals that oooooo shit, he’s the old man she saw. He clearly knows that she has pieced this together, and yet doesn’t really seem to care. Seems he would be a bit more peeved at his big secret operation being uncovered, but he seemed more interesting in giving himself a creepy reveal. Strange priorities I would say.
Danny runs back out to the grave site she saw earlier. Peter follows her and then goes completely Bond villain on her, revealing his evil plot in meticulous details. He does indeed use all of the mirrors in the house to steal people’s life energy, which Danielle has managed to avoid by not looking in any of the mirrors. I can buy more into the idea of an evil old man using elaborate equipment to steal people’s energy than I can a teen girl who doesn’t ever look into a mirror. Also I’m pretty certain they showed her looking in mirrors just as much as her parents, if not maybe even more. Peter tells her that once her parents are dead, she is free to stay there at the house with him and they can be together. That’s a pretty weak pick-up line dude, can’t see that shit working out too often to be honest. You might want to try a different angle in the future. Danny distracts Peter by taking his picture and runs back to the house to save her parents.
They don’t have the strength to get up and go anywhere so Danny grabs one of the mirrors and runs upstairs to the lab. Somehow Peter has not only managed to beat her back to the house, but up to the attic and into the tube where he steals the energy. Can the old fucker teleport? How did he pull this off?! We would have seen him go running past everyone downstairs so there’s no way he just sprinted there. It’s not explained so it’s only for plot convenience I suppose. Danny begins just hitting random buttons on the machine and when Peter tries to stop her, she holds the mirror up to him which he refuses to look in and then starts giving him all kinds of shit about what he is doing here. I have to admit, this is a pretty good scene. The acting is solid and Danny is appropriately badass, ending with the exchange “You’re a twisted old man!” “I’m a scientist!” “You’re a MONSTER!” She slams the door to the tube, trapping him inside. I guess. Not really sure why he doesn’t just open the door from the inside and leave. Again, plot convenience I suppose.
Oh and yes, Danny does indeed have a final one-liner of “Don’t call me Danielle” before she turns a knob that reverses the whole process, causing her parents to become young again. How in the hell did she know that was the knob to turn to make everything all better? Actually nevermind, I went back and looked and it’s probably because it’s labelled with giant minus and plus signs, making its purpose pretty clear. Also, I can now tell that the knob is cheap plastic and the meters are all drawn on with marker, so that’s pretty incredible.
So her parents are fine however they don’t seem to remember anything that just went down. They do finally listen to Danny’s pleas to bail and promptly start loading up the car to travel somewhere far away from this place. Danny has one last final exchange with Peter, now an old man, who is somehow perfectly audible despite talking to her through a closed front door with her many feet away. Peter says he will be going out back to the graveyard to join his family, which either means he knows he’s going to die soon or is planning to kill himself. Either way, not a very happy ending for this guy. The voiceover confirms that Danny never told her parents about this, and that they all lived happily ever after! Except for the no doubt buried psychological trauma this causes Danny, but they don’t get into that. Story over!
The final piece at the campfire is pretty uneventful as everyone poses for a picture, the picture is taken, and then we see the picture. That’s it. The picture isn’t fucked up or anything, it’s just a regular-ass picture. End of episode!
This is another pretty good entry in the series. The premise is promising, the acting is often quite good, and Danny is a good, strong, central character. You have to do some of the standard stretching of believability, but I would say that’s to be expected. Overall, solid stuff.