Friday, August 7, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors

Betty Ann's up tonight. Eric whines, saying her stories are kind of gross but always end the same way. Betty Ann's about to shock him tonight, though. She calls this story the Tale of the Nightly Neighbors.

Our heroes are Dayday and Emma. While Dayday watches Night of the Living Dead on TV one night, Emma startles him. Then she yells at him for watching TV when he could be improving his mind. She stares out the window at the new neighbors who are wearing all black. They're moving in and Emma's curious.

(Someone just gave Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane a run for their money in terms of casting for the newest Addams Family vehicle on Broadway!)

The next day, Emma and Dayday go visit the new family to be neighborly. Bring over a casserole, maybe point out the nearest Hot Topic. They see a guy delivering two huge crates. They ask him about the neighbors. According to the paperwork, they're the Braun family (hey, and I thought Adolph and Eva didn't have any next of kin!). They're from the Ukraine. (Oh, AYAOTD fact-checker? Braun is a German name.)

Emma squeals in excitement. (Oh, don't believe what they say about Ukraine girls, Emma--I have it on good authority that Paul McCartney never even crossed the Iron Curtain.)

Delivery guy leaves the two gigantic boxes in the driveway. Emma thinks that maybe the nightly neighbors are "KGB agents who had to bolt when the Soviet Union crumbled." I bet TV writers got terribly emo when the Union fell because there was no readily available enemy to blame everything on. The way things will be when the last Nazi war criminal dies off and writers won't be able to use Nazis as their go-to enemy.

Anyway, they run into the mailman who reports that he's feeling "weak as a kitten" and has "got a touch of something." Turns out the night that the Brauns came to visit him, he started feeling weak. He leaves to spout more cliches and Emma and Dayday gaze at each other.

Betty Ann narrates that all over town, people are getting weak and feeling unwell and their necks are adorned with large, flesh covered bandages.

Oh, guys. Don't be ashamed--Kat Von D makes a great tattoo and/or hickey cover up.

One night, Lex asks if he can come in. Emma says it's kind of late, in the tone most girls reserve for trying to get the town date rapist to go away.

Emma, in all probability, he's the son of really annoying goth/punk types, not a raccoon. You know, the kinds of people who go to Trash and Vaudeville and buy their kids "I love Joey Ramone" bibs and onesies adorned with chains, and whose kids will all rebel by growing up to be i-bankers with lifetime Wall Street Journal subscriptions.

But in all seriousness, Emma has no idea what the deal is. I know the audience loves a slow learner, but they mean more like Forrest Gump slow. You know, slightly dumb but still lovable. Not Keanu Reeves dumb, which is where we are now. Creepy foreign goth family moves in with thick accents, they only come out at night, everyone starts getting weak and anemic, and our Emma has no idea that maybe they could be vamps? Methinks she should have watched more late night TV with Dayday--maybe they'd have seen an Elvira episode.

That night, Emma has a dream that Mr. Braun sneaks into her house in a cloud of smoke and is about to bite her neck.

Emma screams and wakes up. I sympathize. I had that exact dream every time my parents brought me home a new Bunnicula book. (Hey, in my defense, vampire bunny wasn't cute in MY dreams--he was more like a Monty Python bunny, or a Jimmy Carter-attacking bunny. The director of Donnie Darko so mined my dreams when he came up with Frank the Rabbit.)

Finally, Emma decides that we've had enough exposition, and she's going to go look for coffins in the neighbors' house and see if they really are vampires. The Brauns leave for the night and she enters their house. But it turns out they were planning on visiting Emma and Dayday's house. Dayday tries not to let them in but his mother tells them to come on in.

The Brauns say that they're in the States to study our healthcare system as paramedics. It's really interesting work, says Mrs. Braun, but a bit "bloody." (Since this show is written and created by Canadians, somehow I feel there was a U.S. healthcare joke that went way over my head.) Then the Brauns say they must go, and Dayday, worried about Emma, tries to stall them, asking if Lex wants to play video games. Lex's response:

Oh, come on, Lex, it's the golden age of video games--Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Yoshi's Island. But the Brauns go home and Dayday starts panicking.

Dayday sneaks into the basement to warn Emma. Before they leave, Emma opens the box and it's a refrigerator...of blood.

They look horrified, and so am I. Come on, vampires, are you telling me you guys steal from blood banks? That's as emo as Angel and Anne Rice's Louis only drinking from animals to spare people. And not cute animals--disgusting animals that no one would miss, like sewer rats. Way to miss the point.

Emma vows to hunt the vampires down the next day after school. She wields a baseball bat as she talks. (Well, maybe she's just going to tell them that they can't be on her vampire baseball team. That would shatter them.)

The kids set off for the Braun house. Emma wears a gigantic cross around her neck, as does Dayday. Well, they're from the Eastern Bloc, guys, let's be creative. How 'bout wearing a gigantic Star of David? Or they could be atheists--how 'bout a Darwin fish? I'm so sick of these motherfucking Christian vampires on my motherfucking street.

The kids sneak in and find another padlocked door in addition to the refrigerators they saw last time they were here. Emma tries to open it as Dayday simpers.

Then someone comes downstairs and the kids hide under a table. Whoever it was leaves and the kids go outside again. They see Mr. and Mrs. Braun outside. Dayday hisses at Emma (and Stephanie Meyer), "I thought vampires couldn't go in the sun."

Emma wields her cross and Mrs. Braun just smiles. (See? Told you I was right about my Darwinfish idea.) The Brauns explain that their schedule changed and now they work in the daytime. They also explain that the hospital had a surplus of blood that they were storing.

They bring the blood out to their car. Um, yeah, that's as plausible as the time my friend of a friend's cousin's boyfriend thought there was a surplus of money when he worked at Citibank. Come on, Braun family, are you cribbing cover stories from Bernie Madoff's lawyers?

Then the Brauns ask if Lex could come over that night and play video games with Dayday. Dayday agrees. The kids leave, realizing that they were wrong about the Brauns.

Down in the basement, the Brauns talk as they put more blood in their fridge. They open a padlocked door revealing a coffin that houses Lex. "Wake up, Master," they tell him, saying he was right that they should come to this country for the fresh blood. (Oh yeah? But what about the brain drain? I wonder what the zombie lobby has to say about that.) "And no one believes that a little boy can be a vampire," says Mr. Braun, as he and the Missus laugh and Lex awakens.

To be fair, Mr. Braun, if your vampire had been a little girl, we'd have caught on much sooner. We already knew that young girls could be possessed by the devil, sociopathic murderers, 19th century-era vampires, and we'd soon learn they could haunt video cassettes in Japan.

Oh, for the days when kids' shows could have creepy endings! And for when vampires weren't twisted sad emo creatures, when little girls thought that vampires needed butt-kickings instead of therapy. And for when kiddie vampires were cool. (I blame Jonathan Lipnicki and the people who made The Littlest Vampire for the downfall of child vampires.)