Are You Afraid of the Dark? Ep #9 - The Tale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice

Going into the last episode I watched, The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors, I was actually pretty excited as I remembered the episode quite fondly from the show’s original run. As I write this, I am not so excited about going into this next episode, The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as I remember it quite well but don’t have particularly glowing memories of it. Maybe time has healed that but the pattern so far has been that if I remember it fondly, it’s still pretty good. If I don’t remember it fondly, it’s even worse than I remember. So let’s get this one over with it I guess…though I just looked ahead and I definitely remember not caring highly for the episode after this one either. Alright, it’s gonna be a bit of a slog for a while here folks!

For a change of scenario, we don’t open the episode with The Midnight Society already sitting around the campfire. Instead, Frank has led the group to what appears to be a freshly dug grave. He says there’s almost definitely a maggot riddled corpse in there and the group seems bizarrely intrigued about this. They approach it and suddenly a skeleton pops out holding what looks to be a fake flower. Everyone freaks the fuck out (I gotta say, Eric’s reaction is pretty awesome, complete with frantic above head arm waving) and runs off. Turns out it was just a prank set up by Frank and Kiki. They don’t ever explain how these two managed to rig such an elaborate set-up or the potentially dark backstory as to where they found the surprisingly realistic skeleton head.

Betty Ann is once again telling tonight’s story and once again a reference is made to how her stories are “gore fests”. I’m not sure these kids understand what gore actually is. The Nightly Neighbors story she just told talked about people’s blood being sucked by vampires but it never happened on screen or anything. Is that really all it takes for one of these tales to be labeled a “gore fest”? Just the sheer mention of blood existing? Never show these guys Evil Dead 2, it will melt their brains. Betty Ann says her story will be about an ancient wizard’s good luck charm and Gary and Kristen react like this is the most fascinating shit they have ever heard. But the charm is gonna fuck your shit up, etc, etc, throws the shit on the fire and our actual story begins.

The opening narration is…just confusing. “The story takes place now….but it started years ago….actually centuries ago….but I’m jumping ahead….but here we are in the 60’s.” Wait so when the fuck does this story happen? Is she about to make up a story off the top of her head and is just spit balling ideas? I guess its 1966 and we’re in a school that sure does look like a school from the 90’s but whatever, budgets are low, I get it. A girl is hiding a basket with some weird stuff in it underneath the floor. She rolls up her sleeves to reveal a mysterious snake tattoo (the music sting makes absolutely sure we know that it is mysterious), something she has absolutely no reason to do within the fiction of the story but it’s good she showed us the audience the tattoo so we know what’s up. Some inept security guards are looking for her, they fail, she escapes, and we cut to the same school in the present day.

We meet our main character Dean, who is like a lot of AYAOTD protagonists in that he is an outcast who doesn’t really fit in anywhere. Apparently he’s also dumb as the first thing he does is sleep through class and fail a test. Dean does have one friend Alex, but we know shit is about to get raw for them as Betty Ann says their friendship is going to be put to the ultimate test. Oh we’ll see about that! Some banter happens about how Dean is dumb and his luck sucks, blah blah blah, whine, whine, whine, maybe next time don’t fall asleep.

A guest archaeologist, Dr. Oliver, is giving a speech in Dean’s next class about priests and blood sacrifices and all getting grossed out reactions that likely no high school student would ever give unless they have been remarkably sheltered.  She brings out this snake staff that she said was recently excavated from an ancient Babylonian sorcerer’s temple. This was an evil ass sorcerer named Goth who would reward people with good fortune if they followed him and did evil things, and crossing him would lead to your destruction. Solidifying Dean’s status as an idiot, he seems very intrigued by this idea. Dr. Oliver then ominously says that of course nobody believes these things anymore while giving a dead eyed stare to Dean, so right away you know this bitch is evil.

After class, Alex is making fun of the whole thing but Dean clearly continues to be intrigued at the concept of being the slave of an evil ancient sorcerer (fun fact, I have spelled sorcerer wrong every single time I have typed it so far) and he goes back to talk about it more with Dr. Oliver. He ends up staring into the eyes of the snake staff, which start to glow, immediately putting him into a zombie like trance. This apparently gives him the power to easily open locks as he makes his way down into the school basement. He eventually finds the not well hidden at all basket from the opening scene and removes its contents.

The next morning in biology class, Dean enters and we know he’s evil now because he’s wearing a black turtleneck as most evil people are known to do. He hands his teacher a blank test and when she calls him out on it, he puts the stare down on her and she backs off, giving him a passing grade. Somehow Alex is the only one to notice this happening despite them doing it loudly in front of the entire classroom. Alex confronts Dean about this after class and he continues to be a dick, insisting she thinks he’s dumb (which he clearly is) and that he’s going to prove to everyone that he’s actually super awesome.

Some time passes and we learn Dean has completely ditched Alex for a new group of friends. One day in the biology classroom, Alex sees Dean (who has upgraded from evil black turtleneck to lame leather jacket) stealing some mercuric acid from one of the cabinets. She follows him down into the basement where he is participating in some sort of ritual where he throws several ingredients into a barrel that will apparently summon Goth, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned until now is a really lame evil sorcerer name. Her spy skills aren’t strong and she drops her backpack (it might have been on purpose, I legitimately can’t tell) alerting everyone to her presence. Despite getting barely any head start and not running particularly quickly, she manages to evade them and get back down to where Dean is. It turns out the thing he recovered from the hidden basket is some sort of orb. He places it in the snake staff’s mouth, the shit lights up, and Goth appears, looking a lot like how the Mummy looks when he is in human form in the Brendan Fraser movies. He tells Dean that there is one more task to be completed before he can be freed. It’s a bunch of stuff about nightshade and vapors, I don’t know, sorcerer shit, you know how it goes. Goth closes all of this out with a very forced sounding evil laugh, though his face makes him look like he is scared.

Once again Alex proves herself a stealth master and knocks a bunch of stuff over while backing away from this horrible vision of a shiny bald guy forcing an evil laugh. Goth tells Dean to stop her and Alex takes off, eventually running into their biology teacher. Alex tries to explain what is going on but her teacher quickly reveals that she too is under Goth’s spell, letting out a far more convincing evil laugh than Goth himself. Alex continues her escape attempt but is cornered in the hallway by some burn-outs who are either under Goth’s control or just really stoned and confused.

She winds up at the gym where Dean greets her like a James Bond villain. Dean gives her this big speech about how his luck is finally turning around and how he is no longer being dumped on and is finally in control. You know, this would probably mean a lot more if we actually saw examples of the bad luck he’s always referring to. All we got to see is him fail a test he clearly wasn’t prepared for. That’s not bad luck man, you should have fucking studied for your biology test. Outside of that all we have to go on is Betty Ann assuring us that he totally gets dumped on and has bad luck. It makes it really hard to feel anything for this asshole.

Dean keeps going on about how Goth has given him all this power and shit but again, what powers have we really seen him use? We saw him tell some people to chase Alex and I guess they did listen but that’s about it. We need some more details story! This feels like the Coles notes version of a much bigger tale. “This dude was totally being dumped on at school and wanted power so this evil wizard give him hella powers and it was rad.” Dean assures Alex that she will be one of them soon enough and then scampers (no I’m serious, it’s a total scamper) out the door. There’s a pretty funny shot where after this whole bad ass speech, it shows Dean and his cronies ride away on bicycles. It makes it even harder to take this fucking guy seriously, and I was already struggling.

Stealth Master Alex heads to the school that night to attempt to stop the ritual to bring back Goth and is captured almost immediately by Dean’s cronies. Dean tells them to put Alex “in the van” despite the complete absence of a van since we just saw them roll up on their bikes. Alex, along with a bunch of barrels of mercuric acid, are taken to a closed off area of the school containing a large empty swimming pool. They put the orb back in the snake staff’s mouth and start filling up the pool with the acid. Also Dean starts jumping in and out of this bizarre accent, as though the actor is trying to make his character even more ridiculous. I can’t accept this was an honest attempt to play badass but then the 90’s were a very different time.

Alex removes the orb from the staff but it’s too late as Dean has a garbage bag full of leaves that I guess is the last step needed to have Goth rise out of a swimming pool with a tiny amount of acid in it. Ancient rituals are fucking weird man. Goth is successfully summoned and begins very very slowly ascending out of the pool, all the while spouting generic threats about how he’s gonna fuck up all the shit out there and how he has a wrath and all that stuff. Alex throws the orb into the pool which snaps Dean out of Goth’s spell because reasons. Dean tries to intervene but Goth freezes him in place. He tells Alex to grab a nearby barrel of chlorine (they sure got fucking lucky that barrel was conveniently still there in a room that has been sealed off for decades) and pour it into the pool. She does, with Goth making no attempt to stop her despite revealing the power to freeze people only seconds ago, and Goth explodes. Everyone wakes up confused and the day is saved! Oh and the reason Dean knew the chlorine would kill Goth is because of the biology test we saw him fail earlier. Call backs! Everybody leaves and we don’t get to see the horrible traumatic aftermath that these students will now have to deal with for years to come.

Oh but we’re not done yet though! The camera knows enough to stay behind at the pool and not follow everyone out the door so it knows something is about to go down in here. Sure enough, Dr. Oliver comes in and reveals she is way evil and is also the girl we saw at the beginning with the snake tattoo who hid the orb in the first place. She says she has hidden orbs at tons of other schools and that they’ll just keep trying to pull of this whole Goth business until they are successful. She unfortunately also says the ultimate clichéd line of “To think when I was a young girl, they thought I was mad!” and lets out like the third or fourth evil laugh of the episode. Her evil laugh is better than Goth’s by a mile, but I would rank it below the biology teacher’s.

The end!

Yeah I remembered right, that wasn’t a great episode. It just feels so slight. We know nothing about Dean’s plight so we don’t really give a shit that he goes through what he does and everything is wrapped up a nice convenient package. Goth himself is just goofy looking and not intimidating in the slightest, and this is a show that has a fair share of creepy antagonists so I know they can do it. Overall, blah. My memories of the next episode are even worse so get ready!