Are You Afraid Friday: The Tale of the Twisted Claw
Dir. D. J. MacHale (1992)
The night before Halloween, two boys torment an old woman, who gives them the gift of a vulture's claw that can grant wishes the next night.
Sometimes, classic stories are classics for a reason. While there are dozens of movies that echo Poe's simple tale of guilt in The Telltale Heart and even more that heavily reference Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, there are plenty of other classic horror stories to choose from. This time around, Are You Afraid of the Dark's writer D. J. MacHale decided to take aim at W. W. Jacobs' tale The Monkey's Paw, a carefully crafted object lesson to be careful what you wish for. For anyone familiar with the story, the events of this episode won't come as a surprise, because it's almost a wish-for-wish retelling of that old tome.
Doug (Noah Plener) and Kevin (Maxwell Medeiros) are two kids looking to cause some trouble on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween. They set their sights on Miss Clove's (Ann Page) house, who is rumored to be a local witch, and in doing so accidentally spray her face with whipped cream and cause her to break a vase. She seeks revenge by giving them a vulture's claw for Halloween, alleging that it will grant each of them three wishes. She warns them to be careful what they wish for, and they immediately refuse to take her advice, causing themselves major problems and forcing them to try to fix the problems that their wishes cause.
Perhaps it's the presence of an already perfected story, but The Tale of the Twisted Claw feels like the most complete episode yet. Designed as a pilot episode for the series and shown first in both the show's native Canada and on Nickelodeon, the episode is well-acted, well-shot, and generally pretty damn creepy. There's an animal attack, broken bones, a zombie, and even parental death, all of which are of course undone by the episode's finale. Regardless of the eventual solution, this one could be legitimately scary for kids, introducing them to a vintage story in 90's style.
The reason why I decided to bring Are You Afraid of the Dark to The Horror Revolution is because of all of the fond memories that I (and many of you) have of the show and its impact on my life. This is one of my favorite episodes, and it's one of the most seen due to its positioning in the series and frequent replay on SNick. It's also nearly perfect, a truly excellent episode that is both heartwarming and scary. While there are a bunch of episodes that may not be particularly memorable, this is certainly not one of them, and it's a fantastic introduction to the series (despite technically being the fourth episode).
Who this episode is for: Classic horror fans, Literature lovers, Trick or treaters
Bottom line: The Tale of the Twisted Claw is probably the best episode of the series so far, and it's an excellent retelling of the classic W. W. Jacobs tale. It's relatively intense for a kids show, and it's got some great horror elements that works perfectly as an introduction to the genre for the younger audience. It's also an excellent episode to watch for Halloween, and you can do just that on Peacock!