The original Are You Afraid of the Dark? delivered audiences weekly campfire tales that seemed to exist outside of any real-world culture, as the series was little more than an opportunity to deliver Nickelodeon viewers an anthology series of spooky stories. The new take on the concept was reimagined by showrunner BenDavid Grabinski to deliver not only an all-new narrative concept, but also to honor the spirit of those isolated tales of terror. One major difference with this new series is its reflection of the world of horror, as characters regularly reference iconic horror films and are even named after famous filmmakers. Grabinski recently shared with ComicBook.com the balance of infusing those nods into the show's DNA without them becoming distracting.
"A thing that I really wanted to do with the show is find a balance of showing a cross-section of the genre, in a way," Grabinski pointed out. "I want it to feel like this show is a love letter to the original show, but also a love letter to horror, and it's very tricky with these things where they can seem very forced. The easy way out of it, for me, is that they rarely ever say anyone's last name. We say people's first names. Graham is Graham Raimi [in honor of Evil Dead director Sam Raimi], but we never say the 'Raimi' part out loud. It's just written on things. I don't know if this was really a way out, but I tried to find my own internal gut feeling of what was forced or distracted and what's not."
The original series debuted in the '90s and inspired a love of horror in an entire generation of audiences, serving as a gateway to more mature horror efforts. Nearly three decades later, those original fans can recognize those Easter eggs and, while younger viewers won't understand that the town of Argento, Oregon is a reference to Suspiria director Dario Argento or that Rachel Carpenter is named after Big Trouble in Little China director John Carpenter, Grabinski's references can serve as an encyclopedia of which filmmakers to invest in as they get older.
"I think I found a balance that, if you don't know any of them, you won't know the references, but if you're an adult who watches it, you'll feel like there's a love for the genre here," the showrunner noted. "But also for kids, if this does become a gateway show to them where they start to love the genre and this is something they go back to over the years, they'll start to pick up that there are all these things in it. If they're looking for things to get into, they can begin to start seeing those things. It's a weird balance because, to me, I wanted it to feel like the show was made by The Midnight Society. That's a stupid and pretentious thing, but also simplistic."
Grabinski went on to recall an anecdote about how the Easter eggs were so subtle, even members of the cast didn't know what they were referencing.
"There's this guy Cardi [Wong] who played Officer Hideo Yamato, which, Hideo is for [Hideo Kojima] who made the video game Death Stranding, who's a god to me and that is definitely one of the weirder things," Grabinski recalled. "Cardi texted me 30 minutes ago, and I love Cardi, I thought he did a great job. I joke about wanting to do a spinoff of the Yamato Detective Agency where Akiko and Hideo are solving crimes, but Cardi was great. He was the first actor that we saw for the part and as soon as he walked out of the room, I was like, 'Okay that's Hideo. We don't have to see anyone else. That solves our problem.'"
The showrunner joked, "He texted me and said, 'BenDavid, what is Argento a reference to?' and we've known him a long time now. We're obviously friends, because he texted me. I'm just offended because, he could have Googled it. Kids can watch a show and they might Google 'Argento' and then accidentally watch a movie that's really too much for them. Honestly though, Cardi, if you read this, I love you, but you could have just Googled it."
New episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? air Friday nights on Nickelodeon.
Did you appreciate the Easter eggs in the series? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to