Review: Are You Afraid of the Dark?, ‘The Tale of the Mystical Mirror’

A couple days ago, I wrote an open letter to Amanda Bynes, kindly imploring her to cease her train to crazy town and return to her potential to become a solid C-list sitcom actress (she didn’t listen, by the way. I really wish she had. Amanda, please recognize your problems and get help.). While typing it up, I listed a myriad and very abridged version of my childhood television vices, one of which was Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Tonight, after a glass (or two, or three, who’s counting? Are you counting? Stop that!) of wine, I am going to buckle down in my sweatpants, venture into YouTube, and revisit that shit. Depending on the tides, this may happen more than once.

In this very moment, we will revisit The Tale of the Mystical Mirror.


The Tale of the Mystical Mirror, huh? What do you think this one is going to be about?

Without even pressing play, my mind is rife with fairy tale imagery. There is going to be a pretty girl main character who finds a magical mirror that either predicts the future or answers Pretty Girl’s questions about the mirror, and by the end of the episode, someone will be eating a pig’s heart.

This show was made for kids, I’m not quite sure about that last part.

Don’t question me!

Anyway, we start off Tucker (Danel DeSanto) roasting hotdogs in a fair isle sweater that would fetch a fortune on the vintage market in Portland, but his hotdog glee is seriously cramping the style of Midnight Society founder (and scarier, older brother) Gary (Ross Hull), who tells him to cut that shit out because they’re not picnicking out in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night, they’re being super serious story tellers. Tucker’s awkward thermal vest wearing friend who IMDB names “Stig” comes up and tells Gary to ~lighten up~, while squirting mustard everywhere because they apparently don’t teach Canadians to be in control of their condiments. Gary takes away their wieners and is subsequently called a killjoy; the others start filing in.

When the girls arrive with a bag, Stig, hotdog at the ready, asks what’s inside. When Betty Ann (Raine Pare-Coull) says that it’s makeup, Stig runs away faster than the Wicked Witch of the West when she sees a raincloud. Apparently, her parents gave her the cosmetics for a family portrait that she’s practically being forced to partake in, which makes perfectly logical sense for her to be carrying around the bag in the middle of the night to the Midnight Society meeting – she has to keep the bag around as a reminder that come 10:30 am the next morning, in the Sears portrait studio, her childhood, through the use of rouge, concealer, and drugstore mascara, will come to an end. As she sits on the stump, she muses:

“I just don’t like the idea of changing your looks to fit someone else’s idea of what beauty is.”

Poor, naïve child.

Kristen (Rachel Blanchard) feels the same way. She shakes her head, having been a lipgloss wearer since the ripe old age of 13, says “it’s only makeup.” Betty Ann knows this, she knows it’s not something she should be worried about, but she’s probably heading into puberty and feeling kind of alien in her own body. She thinks that sometimes society places too much emphasis on looks; Stig, on the opposite side and trying to deep throat his mustard laden hotdog that looks like all bun and no sausage, says he’ll “chow down” to that, but I get the sense that he’d probably chow down to anything.  Kiki (Jodie Resther) must share my sentiment, because it looks like she has to control her gag reflex as Stig turns into a flesh-toned Hungry Hungry Hippo.

Beauty is the focus of the story as Betty Ann solemnly tell us that “sometimes…mirrors lie.”

Holy thinly veiled coming of age story, Batman!


We start off the story with a woman in a maxi skirt tromping through the forest dramatically; if she’s trying to escape something, she’s going to have to stop flailing her arms like an extra in Team America. She pauses, listening as the woods echo her name, “Taaannniiiiissss.” We see the villain, now. A mysteriously cloaked figure, eerily whispering her name before TAKING HER SOUL. Or something. Not sure what happens, because she screams and the screen cuts to black. We now find ourselves on a trendy street with two young ladies.

Cindy (Lexi Randall) looks particularly homely in her floral denim jacket and is voicing her suspicions of being accepted at this store. The other laughs, telling her not to worry – besides, the girl that used to work there ran away. They need a replacement. Inside the store is the template for every pseudo vintage fashion boutique in North America, complete with blasé girl (Vicky, played by Andrea Lui) behind the counter who probably wouldn’t notice if you took the only article of value in the establishment and waltzed right out of the store.  Laurel (Laura Bertram) sits her friend down and proceeds to give her a ~makeover~, which promptly ends as Cindy enters klutz mode and knocks an open bottle of perfume onto the table and onto Vicky’s dress. Vicky makes a fuss.

Why would you leave an open bottle of perfume on the table? That makes no sense?

I have no idea. It is a possibility that it was clear nail polish, but only if they sold clear nail polish in McDonald’s small beverage sizes.

Ms. Valenti (Jayne Heitmeyer) enters into the room in a sweeping motion of Aquanet and shoulder pads, telling her two employees that her new fashions had just arrived and she plans on showing them to her prized lovelies. Vicky is stoked, but Laurel can’t make it, as she has a date. As some kind of bum-prize consolation, she introduces Ms. Valenti to her awkward friend, which looks a bit like a flounder coming face to face with a shark part timing as a cosmetician. Cindy says that she’d like to be considered for the new job opening, which is actually met with consideration from the youthful owner. Where she would usually be laughed out of the store, Ms. Valenti states that Cindy might just be a ~diamond in the rough~.

Makeover time!

You betcha! Ms. Valenti leads Cindy to her personal dressing room, which is filled to the brim with pictures of herself.


Danger, Will Robinson! Ms. Valenti, as she gazes with longing at herself within a gilded mirror, states that the store has been in her family for years. In fact, it feels like she’s been there forever. She then goes on a little monologue about how it’s Schönheit, Schönheit über alles. Cindy seems to be getting major heeby jeebies and is getting second thoughts, but Ms. Valenti practically sinks her manicured claws into the neck and says “I hope you take [the job]. I’ve been waiting for someone like you. You could make a fine beauty, with a little help.” Have you figured it out yet? Are they laying the hints down thick enough?

What are you even talking about?

Really? Really? Ugh, anyway, makeup montage! While that’s going on, Vicky and Laurel are fighting over a striped watch. “Vicky, I need the watch back. I’m going on a date with Ron!” As Vicky huffs, Cindy is revealed. Ms. Valenti asks “how does she look?” and the only answer that I could think of was “like a child prostitute” – I’m not the boss though, because Vicky and Laurel nearly die of hysteria at the sight (not really Vicky though, she’ll probably die of rolling her eyes too hard). It’s also great, because now Cindy is learning that if you wear enough makeup, guys will swarm all over you for your “true beauty.” As Ms. Valenti hands Cindy a token of her employment, her hand starts shaking like crazy and she makes a beeline to her beauty sanctuary. Cindy takes a sneak peek into the beauty room and sees Ms. Valenti clutching her mirror as inorganic colors swirl inside – obviously spooked and obviously having third, fourth, or fifth thoughts about the situation, she clutches the walkman-sized compact of jobyness that Ms. Valenti gave her and tries to forget about what she just saw, instead of, you know, quitting. Later, we see her sticking it into her fanny pack while Laurel complains that Vicky never gave her back the watch, so they have to walk through the sketchy, unlit woods of Canada to fetch it.

They’re going to get the watch back from Vicky? If it was a present from Ron, why would she would loan it out to a girl she doesn’t even like?

Have you never heard of the term frenemies? It’s all part of the plan. Since Cindy and Laurel don’t know where Vicky lives, the decide that they’re going to go to Ms. Valenti’s house – they remembered that Vicky was going to go there after work to drool over the new designs. Meanwhile, inside the (weirdly candlelit) abode, Vicky is drooling over a giant floppy hat with fake flowers pasted onto it. “Oh my god,” she exclaims, “my friends would die if I got this.” Mine would, too, but not for the same reasons.

Ms. Valenti, in her floor length black gown and her not-suspicious-at-all black murder gloves, gives it to her and tells her to check herself out in her mirror. Vicky, who is used to looking at herself in the mirror, instantly becomes Narcissus and can’t stop staring at her reflection. Ms. Valenti starts serenading her with would-be positive thinking, we’re talking ~you can be whatever you want to be, the mirror shows you what you want to see~, etc. If it weren’t for the the undertones of “I’m about to steal your soul to keep my youth,” she’d be a fabulous public speaker. She then gives Vicky a chalice with some unknown liquid inside and accepts. What the hell is wrong with the youth of today?! STRANGER DANGER!

Presumably, Vicky’s soul is sucked away. She also might be dead.


Totally. Anyway, Ms. Valenti catches the girls snooping around and invites them in, explaining that Vicky never showed up (you just can’t find good help these days). Laurel would care, but her attention immediately turns to the same hat of lost hopes and dreams that Vicky was lusting after, and the watch (and her date) is forgotten as she notes that “Vicky would die if she saw this.” Must be the magenta flowers. Cindy would also give into the floral temptation, but what’s that!? Out of the corner of her eye?!

The remainder of her pride?

If by that you mean The Watch, then yes! You are right!

Cindy excuses herself to the bathroom, but not before Ms. Valenti tells her to put on some makeup, because bitch is looking seasick. On her way to the bathroom (and looking for Vicky), Cindy is treated to a montage of photos along the hall of Ms. Valenti in various beauty pageants through the span of many, many years – she’s taking her sweet old time, though, and in the meantime her friend is being brainwashed. That’s what you get, slow walker.

Since her friend isn’t in the room alone with a freaking weirdo or anything and she forgoes finding the maybe dead body of an acquaintance and goes to the bathroom to put on the lipstick the blonde harpy who might be a murder so kindly suggested, only to find that there is no mirror in the bathroom. Cindy takes the compact out and opens it, only to see that the portrait of Ms. Valenti behind her reflects an old woman, instead of the young Ms. Valenti she knows!

What a twist!

Shocking, I know. Cindy then does the smart thing and starts wandering around the house with the mirror to make sure she’s not going crazy. Ms. Valenti, since she’s been doing this for many a year, catches wind. Laurel is way gone by this point and Cindy is shown out without much fuss, which is pretty messed up considering she has a pretty good hankering as to what’s going to happen to her friend. Lurking in the woods by the house, she starts creeping around and spying on Ms. Valenti’s weirdo underage alcohol ritual, interrupting it just in time to get Laurel out of there. Convenient.

Run, run little baby ostriches! Laurel doubles over in pain and her eyes start glowing like an Animorph cover. Coupled with Cindy’s screaming, Laurel turns into the best, and I mean best, dog I’ve ever seen in a TV show ever.


If possible, Cindy is worse at running than the first girl we saw. She runs and runs and runs and eventually comes to the campsite of youthful regeneration…which is, uh, found in the hair blood of the dog, I guess, which is a lot worse than my original train of thought which turned the girls into weird energy balls that she soaked up like sun rays. They’re defenseless animals! This bitch is officially evil.

So, humans < dogs?

You’re a quick study.

Cindy, apparently being as much as a cuddly dog advocate as I am, rushes forward and picks up the beloved mirror, threatening to smash it unless Ms. Valenti undoes the damage she’s wrought upon her youthful soul. Ms. Valenti starts making piecrust promises of beauty and eternal youth to get her to put the mirror down and gingerly step away from the esteemed possession. You’d think someone like Ms. Valenti would have realized by now that the special flower of Cindy isn’t into all that vapid shit and she doesn’t care about your eternal beauty crap. BAM, SMASH, INTO THE FIRE THE MIRROR GOES.

Before our eyes, Ms. Valenti’s hot blonde appearance decays into the marital ex of the Cryptkeeper. By the time she regains her shit, the doggirls are back to just being regular bitches who apparently didn’t learn their lessons because all they can remark upon is how Ms. Valenti was “so beautiful.” The house and the beauty store disappeared, which I guess did not arise any questions from the townfolk, and we’re back to the Midnight Society, where Betty Ann looks around for the non-beauty based approval for her story. We’re left with the poignant question of “are you a beauty or a beast?” and the even more poignant answer of, “neither, I’m just me!”

We can all learn from this show.

How about a rating?

Kid Shannon would have been touched by the sentiment, giving it four out of five husky puppies.

Adult Shannon is far more jaded by the world and gives it only six out of ten chalices filled with poison.


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