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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a reboot of the same-named teen-geared 1990s horror series. The show is very scary -- not in the blood-and-gore sense, but in the creepy, mysterious style that implies terror and messes with your sense of reality. There are some physical frights, too: bumps in the night, clowns that leer at and chase teens, a zombie who tries to drag a girl into the water, and plenty of jump scares, as well as the implication of people's disappearances. Perhaps scariest of all is the basic premise that a person's nightmares can come true. This fantastic series is best reserved for older tweens and teens who can handle the content. Those who watch will also notice how the Midnight Society is a great equalizer for its members and allows them to relate to each other, despite differences in their social standing.
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What's the story?
In ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, Rachel Carpenter (Lyliana Wray) starts the year at a new high school and quickly resigns herself to life as a social outsider. But when some classmates notice her interest in the horror genre, she earns an invite to the mysterious Midnight Society, a selective group that share their love of scary stories around a campfire in the middle of the night. After Rachel uses her recurring nightmares to create a story of her own and earns a place in the club, the five friends are shocked to discover that the dream starts coming true in their own town. Suddenly Rachel, Gavin (Sam Ashe Arnold), Akiko (Miya Cech), Graham (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and Louise (Tamara Smart) are thrust into a mystery that's all very real ... or is it?
Is it any good?
This self-contained three-part series is shivery, quivery fun for tweens and teens who like scares. Viewers are introduced to Rachel, a thoroughly sympathetic new kid in town who doesn't make acquaintances easily but falls into a group of like-minded horror fans and discovers the kind of friendships she's longed for. Unfortunately her happiness is short-lived, as the Midnight Society members threaten to turn on her when she can't explain how her nightmares wind up threatening their town in a very real way. As they attempt to solve the mystery and get drawn into the fearsome happenings, Rachel becomes more concerned with keeping her friends alive than with keeping her friendships going.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? takes a refreshing stance on the diversity of the characters; both boys and girls are represented, and there are notable racial and social status differences among them, all of which reminds viewers that people can relate to each other on various levels despite what separates them. It also does a good job escalating the fear without actual violence. Most of what scares here is the power of suggestion, the hint of the unexplained, and the characters' visceral reactions to what they see and hear. Depending on your tweens' sensitivities, this may make it a slightly safer option than a show with more physical violence. Ultimately it's a real know-your-kid scenario; the scares are real, so knowing up front whether these kind of scares will affect yours is the key.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fear and its effects in real life. Kids: What kinds of things scare you? Are these tangible or imaginary fears? How do you take control of your fears so that they don't control you?
In what ways do the characters' friendships in Are You Afraid of the Dark? challenge stereotypes? Have you ever found a friend in an unlikely place? What qualities -- like honesty or compassion -- do you look for in friends?
Do your tweens find this series scary? Does its lack of physical violence work for or against its ability to scare viewers? Is it fun to be scared by what you watch?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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