When I was a kid I had a horror themed VHS tape which contained a handful of episodes of Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Freaky Stories (god that show sucked) and likely a couple of others that I’ve forgotten about that I taped off TV. I used to watch that tape constantly so the episodes on it are completely burned into my memory forever. The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors is one of those episodes. I remember this episode well enough that this repeat viewing probably isn’t even necessary but to avoid most of the write-up being “I think his name was like…Darren? Or Jake? I don’t fuckin’ remember” I figured I should probably fire it up to be safe.
We begin of course at the campfire where the group ponders why scary things are scarier at night. Cuz it’s dark guys. That’s why. Shit’s dark. End of conversation. So Betty Ann is telling tonight’s story and she catches some shit because apparently all her stories are the same, “kind of gross, but everyone gets a happy ending”. I don’t remember that MO at all from any of her stories but I guess the show would know better than me. She gives the patented way too dramatic intro and we’re off and running.
Our leads here are Emma and her unfortunately named little brother DayDay (what cruel parents, kid doesn’t stand a chance). Emma immediately comes off as kinda bitchy, scaring DayDay while he is watching the original Night of the Living Dead, before turning the TV off on him and saying he’s wasting his life and he sucks. Then she dumps a bowl of popcorn on his head and walks off. Gotta say, not diggin’ on Emma too much so far.
They spot new neighbors moving in across the street and are a bit thrown off by their all black clothes and the fact they’re moving during the middle of the night. There is a Dad, a Mom and a young boy and they immediately get themselves a creepy moment when they all turn to look at Emma and *sigh*, DayDay simultaneously. I know if it were me I would right away know these fuckers are up to something and that I should never ever interact with them ever and DayDay seems like a smart dude because he has the same mentality.
Oddly this thinking is immediately discarded as we cut to the next morning where the two of them are heading over to the neighbors’ house to introduce themselves. A disgruntled mover is dropping off two giant ass boxes and he informs us that the family is from the Ukraine and that they are the Braun family. He gets no answer after knocking on the front door so he leaves the boxes and takes off. Emma points out that the family has to be home because their car is parked in the garage. Apparently the notion of legs existing and humans having the ability to walk has escaped her.
After returning home they run into the mailman who says he is coming down with something as he has absolutely no energy. He’s also sporting a cartoonishly large bandage that takes up 60% of his neck. He says he met the new neighbors and that it’s a night he will never forget as that’s when he started feeling sick. “Never forget” seems a bit dramatic since he seems only think he has the flu. You pretty quickly forget days where you got the flu. If it was the night a wolf took his eye or he accidently cut his fingers off or well, a fucking vampire bit him then yeah, you remember that shit. But the flu? You forget about that about 12 minutes after it goes away.
I give Emma credit because she doesn’t dick around trying to connect the dots. You got pale, creepy neighbors who are gone during the day and who visited a guy right before he got sick and needed a bandage to cover a huge neck wound. Even the most skeptical amongst us would think something is up here and to her credit, she becomes suspicious of these people immediately.
One night when Emma is taking out the garbage, the creepy boy approaches her silently and immediately asks if he can come inside and play. Emma don’t play that shit and tells him to piss off. So you got the earlier evidence, this incident, and then we find out that every single person the family visits develops the same symptoms of being crazy weak and needing a huge fucking bandage. Why are the bandages so big?! They’re two bite marks, a normal sized bandage will easily do the trick! Is this the only kind available in this town? How did the makers of Huge Ass Bandages manage to corner this market? Were the makers of this episode scared kids wouldn’t get it unless the bandages were fucking gigantic? It’s just so unnecessary and strange.
Emma does lose some credit though because it’s made clear that despite all that evidence, she hasn’t yet figured out “Oh fuck vampires!” She only knows something is definitely off about all this. She doesn’t fully figure it out until she has a dream where the dad comes through her bedroom window sporting a fog machine and some vampire fangs. Once she sees a vampire she concludes that vampires are indeed happening here.
She wakes up DayDay and presents him with the ridiculous amount of evidence that these people are in fact vampires, including that the huge boxes likely contain their coffins, however DayDay ain’t having it. Is there any reason why he should be this dismissive? Clearly Emma is the straight-laced one so it’s doubtful she has tried to pull some shit like this in the past. Plus the evidence is pretty staggering. It also bothers me how quickly people in horror shows and movies are to dismiss the claims of people they have known for years.
Emma plans to break into the Braun house that night and confirm that the boxes did indeed contain coffins and not refrigerators. First though we get one of those cuts back to the campfire where it is once again confirmed that these stories would absolutely not be scary if you were just listening to someone tell you them. “Emma didn’t know for sure that they were vampires….so she had to investigate….and that night….she did.” Come on now! That makes me think that the entire break in sequence is only for us and that the people at the campfire only got “she did”. These stories at the campfire must be 4 minutes long and just the worst.
Emma breaks down a few more vampire rules for, ugh, DayDay, like their hatred of garlic and how they can’t come into your home unless you invite them in. The kind of stuff his character would clearly no but the writers are scared that the audience might not so we have to listen to it anyway. She sees the Braun family leave and heads over, breaking in through a basement window. While this is happening, the Braun family shows up at DayDay’s door. He tries to shoo them off but his Mom steps in and fucks it all up by inviting them inside. I didn’t notice until right now that DayDay’s shirt goes down to his knees and he looks really fucking stupid. Not only does the Mom not recognize obvious vampires but she can’t even buy her kids clothes that fit right. Shape up Mom who I don’t think gets an actual character name!
So the Braun family sits and has a cup of tea with them, talking about their jobs following around paramedics to learn techniques they can bring back with them to their home country. Mama Braun comments that the work can get a bit “bloody” and even wipes her lip when saying it like you know, a vampire wiping away blood would do! They aren’t even trying to hide that shit!
Meanwhile, Emma’s rather uneventful and padded out basement search does eventually end with the discovery that there are in fact no coffins, but instead refrigerators. They’re padlocked though so she has to crack these shits open which apparently she knows how to do for reasons that are never explained.
Back at the….I’m not sure they ever gave them last names….household, the Brauns are preparing to leave when the Mom gives them an open invitation to return anytime they want to. DayDay attempts to stall them to no avail and Papa Braun gives him a creepy look, telling him that they will definitely be back now that they have been invited. Again, no attempt at all to hide that they’re up to some bad shit. If I were that boy’s parent, I have to believe I would quickly pick up on that. If not “oh shit, you’re a vampire” then at least “oh shit, that’s a really bizarre thing to say to a boy, maybe don’t ever come back to my house again!” Cheerful 50’s sitcom Mom here does not register this however so DayDay is looking to be in a pretty bad spot. Then again, this Mom was clearly ok with giving him the name DayDay so her decision making skills have been in question for years.
Emma manages to crack the padlock on the fridge when suddenly DayDay scares the shit out of her as he has snuck into the basement to warn her that the Brauns are coming home. Wait. The Brauns live across the street from them and were just in the same house as DayDay and left through the front door. How the fuck did DayDay not only exit his house and cross the street without them seeing him, but also beat them there?! He also beat them there by quite a bit as he and Emma have a good bit of time to dick around before even opening the fridge door. Inside they discover dozens of bottles of blood, not quite the damning evidence they needed but still enough to keep the idea of the Braun family being vampires alive. Because there two are masters at stealth, before they leave they make a bunch of noise, forget to put the padlock back on, and also cover up the fridge in a way that still leaves the cracked padlock perfectly exposed. Well done!
Emma and DayDay realize they can’t go to the police or their parents but that they have to do something before they get all their blood sucked out. Emma decides the best course of action is to murder the Brauns during the day time so they can’t get them that night. It’s pretty intense actually that a young girl who decide she’s justified in a triple homicide for evidence that, in the real world, is really rather flimsy. I mean, what if she’s wrong? Can you imagine if an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode ended with a pre-teen murdering two adults and a child for reasons she largely invented in her own head? It would have been the ballsiest ending…I guess in anything ever right? Sadly they don’t go that route but let’s carry on anyway.
The next day the two of them load up with crosses and wooden stakes and head over to the Braun house, once again sneaking in through the basement window. You know, they seem pretty determined to sneak over and kill them in their coffins despite not actually finding coffins the night before. There is a locked door however that I don’t remember them mentioning. Emma breaks the lock but suddenly the door to the basement opens and someone comes down to investigate. Perhaps it’s because they were yelling at each other when breaking the lock, who’s to say, I’m not master thieves like these two. They blatantly hide under a table (seriously, unless the Brauns don’t have eyeballs, they are going to get caught) but at least have the sense to put the lock back in place. Though I don’t think the latter action will do them much good since Emma is essentially crouched down in front of the door and is barely under the table at all.
Miraculously they are not caught and instead of going through with their goal they instead get the hell out of there where they are promptly greeted with Mama and Papa Braun, out about in the sun! But vampires can’t do that shit so what gives?! They explain the blood is from the hospital as they have a surplus and the Brauns have agreed to store it for them. The Mom says that their Son still isn’t feeling great and asks DayDay if he can go over to his house that night and play some video games. Seems there’s nothing to be worried about at this point so DayDay says sure. He gives Emma shit about the whole thing and off they go.
Meanwhile we cut back to the Brauns, stocking the blood into their freezer. They are indeed aware Emma and DayDay were in the basement but don’t care as “tonight is the night”. They open the door to the room Emma broke into and we find oh shit there really is a coffin in there! The Mom tells the “master” to wake up as the sun is gone, although we can see a window behind her proving that this is in fact not true. Also isn’t this like 2 minutes after we just saw them outside in the sun? Unless they waited until many hours later to actually move the blood into the freezer and talk about Emma and DayDay which seems odd. Inside the coffin is their son and they make it clear that he will in fact be murdering our main characters later that night. There’s also this really bizarre laughing sound coming from the kid when he opens his mouth to show his fangs. Clearly he isn’t laughing so it’s just strange and out of place.
Back at the campfire, the midnight society puts out the fire with this blood covered juice they have been drinking (which seems kind of mean since didn’t Betty Ann take the time to make and bring them all that juice) and we go to the credits.
I gotta say, that’s a pretty baller ending. Not only are there indeed vampires, but our heroes are completely fucked. On top of that, they were so damn close to the truth! I’ve mentioned before that a handful of AYAOTD episodes end quite unhappily but this one is definitely amongst the darker conclusions in the series’ run. Good stuff show, good stuff!