AYAOTD? Making a Remake
Submitted for the approval of the Internet, we’ve reimagined the 90s Nickelodeon classic "Are You Afraid of The Dark?"
Back in the day we loved watching reruns of the cozy Canadian horror anthology series. Those days are immortalized in this page from the graphic novel “The Adventures of Jonas” where we and our friends gather round to watch the show in all it’s 4:3 greatness.
That’s why, for Halloween of 2015, we decided AYAOTD deserved a modernized homage.
One of the main directives diving into this was to preserve the campy coziness that’s made the show age so well to this day. We wanted to avoid going full dark-and-gritty reboot, and instead tried to strike a chord somewhere between modern and nostalgic.
For us that meant beginning with imagery that might appear sinister and threatening—menacing silhouettes darting in and out of view, ghosted or distorted by aging VHS tape—but as the imagery progresses, slowly revealing those figures to be something much more innocuous—a bunch of kids gathering at the edge of town to tell stories.
Everything was shot at night and almost entirely in naturally-occurring lighting. To accomplish this from a technical standpoint we used a Sony a7s which forgoes the trendy more-megapixels mindset in favor of fewer but larger megapixels that absolutely drink in the light. We then hooked the Sony up to an Atmos Shogun external recorder which allowed us to accomplish that same light-sensitivity in beautiful 4k resolution. Those two pieces of gear together have become one of our favorite combinations.
One of the more interesting aspects of shooting in this way was scheduling our shoots around the full moon. Our large group shoot—during which all the bicycle scenes as well as the ending campfire scene were shot—was given priority moon time, and some of the b-roll was shot during that spectacular blood moon eclipse of September 2015.
Primary shooting took place on location in our suburban hometown of Colorado Springs as well as one of our regular haunts, the neighboring Manitou Springs, (witchcraft capital of the US as several semi-reputable rumors have it).
A lot of scenes—specifically any that feature a body of water—were shot in the Bay Area, either at the amazing Sutro Baths ruins, along the docks in Sausalito, or in Colma. Colma, CA… also known by its other nicknames "City of the Silent”, and “City of Souls”, is the only place legally zoned for burials in the Bay Area and as a result the entire city is nothing but sprawling cemetery, with dead residents outnumbering the living 1000 to 1. The city’s motto is “It’s great to be alive in Colma." The below photo was taken inside a clown cemetery where I shot a few scenes alone at night.
All-in-all we wanted to create the feeling of a sleepy, spooky little seaside/mountain town where a bunch of bored kids might meet in the woods for a weekly campfire circle.
Costuming was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the production. Come the weekend of the shoot, the instructions we sent out to our actors went something like, “Dress like a Canadian teenager in the 90s sneaking out of the house.” They didn’t disappoint.
Shout out to our Midnight Society members who I bribed with s’mores: Alexandra Farr, Ann Gable, Christine Flores, Drew Bauer, Harmony Nield, Isaac Anderson, Jonny Mancini, Mike Searle, Sami Kelso, Sophie Miller, and Timmy Mancini.
We had to approach a lot of scenes with the guerrilla shooting style of our earlier days behind the camera. Everyone bombed through the busy outdoor arcade on their bikes, and for the football field shot were even going to roll through a HS football game mid play and make a break for it before we thankfully decided it looked much better deserted.
Those gorgeous drone shots were done with the help of our good buddy Steve Moraco who operates the aerial photography company Lander.
The titles at the end were designed by Jeany Ngo who helped us accomplish a contemporary version of aged spooky lettering with an arrangement that harkens back to the show’s often ridiculously structured episode titles.
When it finally came time for post-production we reached out to our boy Slow Magic who covered the show’s truly haunting theme song in that special Slow Magic way. I have to get him to play this at one of his shows one day.
After its release on Halloween my favorite piece of coverage we got was this really great story from The A.V. Club that totally got what we were going for. My favorite line from that was:
"The SNEAKYBOY version does a great job of conveying everything that made the show great—the combination of the joy of being a middle schooler away from adult supervision and the spooky sensation of walking through the woods at night and so on—without all the ’90s cheese. Frankly, if Nickelodeon decided to reboot the show just based on this video, it would be a totally reasonable call."
And the cherry on top, a bunch of the original cast liked our remake including Ross Hull and Daniel DeSanto—leaders of both generations of the Midnight Society respectively, as well as Elisha CUTE-bert who was one of the Midnight Society kids as well before her rise to fame.
Behind-the-scenes photos by ghost.dive