‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ vs. ‘Goosebumps’
For this edition of Showdown! I put the two cherished children horror anthologies of the 90’s s against each other: Are You Afraid of the Dark? vs. Goosebumps!
Are You Afraid of the Dark was a joint production between the Canadian company Cinar and the American network Nickelodeon. It ran for seven seasons and had a total of 91 episodes, airing from 1991 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2000. The series was about a group of friends in The Midnight Society who met in the woods to tell scary stories around the campfire. Each episode featured a member of the group telling the story. Throughout the series we were presented with these members and their own mini story-lines including romantic relationships and sibling rivalries. The stories they told varied but most were supernatural and many were based on urban legends. Despite being a long-running show, they never ran out of ideas and always came up with an interesting (and often terrifying) plot for each episode.
Goosebumps was another Canadian-American children’s horror anthology of the 90’s that had a total of 74 episodes across four seasons. The show was based on R. L. Stine’s popular Goosebumps book series and aired from 1995 to 1998 on YTV in Canada and Fox Kids in the United States. Each episode of Goosebumps offered a different story with different characters, with the exception of a few two-part episodes or sagas and some episodes were even introduced by the one and only R.L. Stine himself. Like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the plots of these stories varied, with many of them being about unnatural creatures. From werewolves to ghosts to monsters, Goosebumps offered a variety of plot-lines to keep audiences hooked. Both shows provided us with some great episodes so it’s really up to the viewer what they prefer.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? featured many young actors that are well recognized today including Rachel Blanchard, Joanna Garcia, and Elisha Cutheberts as members of the Midnight Society and such familiar faces as Ryan Gosling, Neve Campbell, Melissa Joan Hart, Jewel Staite, Will Friedle, the Mowry twins, and Jay Baruchel in various episodes. Watching the show today is always amusing when you see younger versions of your favorite stars pop up. Not only were a lot of the cast then (or soon to be) famous, but the performances were generally very well done. AYAOTD didn’t cast just anyone in these roles and the acting ability of everyone involved really played a part in the show.
Goosebumps also had a few future stars in its cast line-up. Current scream queen Katharine Isabelle as well as Laura Vandervoort, Hayden Christensen, Kevin Zegers, Adam West, A.J. Cook and even Ryan Gosling all made appearances on the show. Despite these guest stars, Goosebumps was hit or miss when it came to acting ability. Some cast members were awesome and some, not-so-much. Overall, AYAOTD had a better record for acting ability and star power.
Winner: Are You Afraid of the Dark
With 91 episodes under it’s belt, Are You Afraid of the Dark? provided viewers with a plethora of creepy tales. Whatever you fear, it was guaranteed to be featured on this show. Some of the most freaky and memorable episodes include The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner about a super-villain come to life, The Tale of the Dollmaker about girls turned into dolls, and any of their incredibly traumatizing episodes about clowns. Even as an adult there are still episodes of this show I can not watch alone or in the dark. The opening to the show is also supremely creepy (again with the clowns!). Whether it’s ghosts, vampires, clowns, or aliens, AYAOTD had something scary for everyone.
Goosebumps has its fair share of freaky episodes as well. The Haunted Mask is a fan favorite, about a girl who puts on a scary mask and transforms into the creature she’s pretending to be, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Welcome to Dead House and the Night of the Living Dummy saga are others that I remember being particularly creepy as a kid. Going back to the series as an adult I admit that none of the episodes scare me anymore but they do bring back a sense of nostalgia. At the end of the day, AYAOTD’s tendency to stick to the supernatural was scarier than Goosebumps’ creature features.
Winner: Are You Afraid of the Dark
Both Are You Afraid of the Dark and Goosebumps are classic 90’s TV productions. As children, their special effects were terrifying including monstrous werewolves, transparent ghosts, and other supernatural occurrences. When you go back and view these programs as adults, they can seem a bit dated because of the major advances in technology since then but nonetheless, the shows both worked with what they had. Neither was any better than the other and kids especially enjoyed both for what they were.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a favorite for many kids in my generation. I fondly remember huddling under the blankets at night watching and being terrified but always wanted to watch more. Nowadays you can find the episodes on youtube, occasionally on Teennick.com or on Amazon, but most of today’s kids haven’t been exposed to the greatness that is AYAOTD. Regardless, those of us 90’s kids who were fans can never forget the show.
There is almost no one our age who doesn’t know what Goosebumps is. Whether you read the books, watched the show, or both as a kid, the name invokes a serious sense of nostalgia. We can all picture the green ooze dripping down the TV screen and the characteristic opening theme song with the dog whose eyes light up. And who can ever forget “Viewers beware, you’re in for a scare!”? Luckily for us, we can revisit the series anytime on Netflix Instant or iTunes.
Both series were (and are still) much-loved, especially by the generation of now 20-somethings who were glued to the TV screens in our youth waiting for the next scare. However, at the end of the day it’s Goosebumps that is more memorable and brings in the ultimate nostalgia.
As a kid I loved both Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? and I still watch certain episodes around Halloween to this day. Both shows offered a variety of episodes with scary plots and creepy creatures sure to get at any kid. But at the end of the day there can only be one winner and thanks to their extra scary and original plots (including the Midnight Society) and impressive cast, that winner is Are You Afraid of the Dark?!