With its 90s Episode, 'Riverdale' Became the Wes Craven Tribute of our Dreams
Somebody has taken their love of scary movies too far.
The much hyped 1992-set flashback episode finally landed and like a fresh batch of jingle-jangle hitting the bloodstream, it did not disappoint. With Season 3 of the show, Riverdale has officially hit its prime and “The Midnight Society” showcases a series that understands it’s strengths (camp pop culture-referencing melodrama with a side of horror) and it’s audience. More notably than anything else, however, “The Midnight Society” confirmed something that has been building since Season 1 of the show - Riverdale is (more often than not) a lovingly constructed tribute to the work of Wes Craven
But before we can jump into the genius of S3E3 (“The Midnight Society”) and all the Craven Easter Eggs to be found within it, there’s a little bit of Riverdale housekeeping we need to deal with. There’s some topless shenanigans, speakeasy showstoppers, and prison brawls from S3E4 (“As Above, So Below”) we need to talk about, ladies and gentlemen!
Let’s Talk About S3E3: “As Above, So Below”
Veronica Has Given Her Speakeasy, La Bonne Nuit, a French Theme (and We’re Already Over It)
Like, we get it V - you’ve been playing Duolingo for the past week and now you’re a goddamn French expert. Please. Stop.
Reggie Seems to Take All the La Bonne Nuit Deliveries Topless (and We’re Totally Cool With That)
Firstly, we wouldn’t be surprised if a local law has been passed against the young men of Riverdale engaging in any phsyical activity while wearing clothes. We endorse whatever vaguely shady madness that might be. But secondly, Reggie is really coming into his own this season. Between the Top Gun moments between him and Archie in the premiere episode of S3 and his precious comedy gurning in this one, we’re waving a tiny flag with his name on. Lastly: Reggie and Ronnie are totally going to hit the bonezone soon, right? Or as V would say: Reggie et Ronnie avoir des relations sexuelles. Soz, Archiekins.
Archie’s Prison Brawler Storyline is the Gladiator Tribute We Didn’t Know We Needed
Archie was basically a seven man brawl away from screaming “Are you not entertained?!” and throwing his (meat) sword at a crowd of Roman peasants.
His name is Archiekins Decimus Meridius, Commander of The Red Circle, General of Pops Diner, and Champion of the Topless Torso
Mark my words: “The Pit” is about two fights away from a mud wrestling extravaganza. Also, Archie will legit kill that Warden.
The Warden is Gross and Deserves to Die
It’s like Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer had a very old, very ugly, and extremely sleazy child together and this chump is what crawled out. We just hope he doesn’t invite Archie to any “pool parties” any time soon.
The Farm is Giving Us Some Major Scientology Vibes
I mean, shit - do the Evernever brigade seriously think Betty Cooper hasn’t seen Going Clear? This is called Auditing, you scumfucks! But also, imagine how brilliant this whole narrative could be if Tom fucking Cruise turned up playing Edgar Evernever. Just rocking into town in cuban heels, jumping up and down on Alice Cooper’s couch, and insisting that The Farm is not a cult but a “beautiful religion”. It would be impossibly brilliant.
Let’s Talk About S3E4: “The Midnight Club”
Okay, are we all up to date? Good. Because now we can get down to what we really came here to talk about: “The Midnight Club” is a godamn masterpiece offering multiple salutes to veritable buffet of teen culture and the late, great Wes Craven. The only misstep the episode really took was in insisting on paying such obvious tribute to The Breakfast Club - a movie so over-referenced in teen shows by this point that I honestly couldn’t tell if Riverdale was paying tribute to the original film or to the trope of referencing it.
Regardless, “The Midnight Club” is a feast of camp melodrama, teen tropes, and bold cultural easter eggs. Here’s a rundown of our favourite things from the episode.
That Saved By the Bell Style Title Card
The Super On-the-Nose 90s References
It’s also ludicrous just how much Lili Reinhart looks like Twin Peaks-era Mädchen Amick as young Alice Cooper. We really wish that Betty would throw all of her preppy, button-downs in the garbage and dress like this all the time because holy fuck.
We’re Totally Taking “The Midnight Club” as a Reference to Are You Afraid of the Dark
“…The Tale of the Gargoyle King.”
They Definitely Drew More Frown Wrinkles on K. J. Apa So He’d Better Resemble Luke Perry
Apa also nailed the whole “squint to look earnest” thing that Perry used as the centerpiece of his acting abilities during his Beverly Hills 90210 era.
Cole Sprouse also Gave Us a Killer Impression of Billy “Bubble Butt Boyfriend” Loomis from Scream (A.K.A The Eternally Hot Skeet Ulrich)
We’re just disappointed they didn’t have a moment where young F. P Jones licks “corn syrup” from his fingers like he’s just fingered the Clarissa editors during a full moon. We have very specific fantasies, folks.
Zach Attack from Saved By the Bell Had Some Serious Competition Back in the Day, Huh?
That weirdly specific “the entire friendship group started a band together and play a song every episode” trope of 90s teen shows is one of our absolute faves so we basically died when The Fred Heads showed up …
Catfights Were Apparently a Legit Thing in the 90s
Teenage Alice Cooper to teenage Penelope Blossom: “What did the five fingers say to the face?! SLAAAAAP!” This happened not once but twice. It’s probably why Kathleen Hanna started yelling for “Revolution - grrrl style, now!” a few years later - all those pesky fucking catfights we were all having in the early 90s.
There Was Even a Weird Shoutout to The Simpsons Involved in the Whole Thing
“Wait a minute. Bart’s teacher is named Crapabble?! I’ve been calling her Crandall!”
Let’s Talk About All Those Wes Craven References
Because first and foremost, The Fred Heads went and covered the second greatest horror movie affiliated song ever made (beaten only by “Pet Semetary” by The Ramones) and our hearts straight up exploded.
Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” Finally Gets the Mainstream Attention it’s Always Deserved
This is a home run of a musical interlude, by anyone’s standards.
Complete With Some Sensational Gurning
WHERE IS THIS MAN’S OSCAR ALREADY?!
Now’s a Great Time to Remind Y’all That Jughead Had Already Dropped a Mean Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Reference in S2E2 of Riverdale While Berating Archie, Prior to All This
This was back when Archie was staying awake all night to protect his Dad from The Black Hood and went full Nancy Thompson in his bid to do so. The fact that Jughead chose to reference the third movie instead of the first to illustrate this point had to have been a set-up for this eventual masterpiece of trash TV and the cover song of our dreams.
There Was Also a Less-Than-Subtle Reminder That Betty (and Alice) Live on Goddamn ELM STREET
Which Reminds Us: The Cooper Residence Looks Almost Identical to the Thompson Home in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Add onto this the fact that Betty lives across the street from Archie just like Nancy lived across the street from her crop-top loving boyfriend, Glen and WE’RE YOUR BOYFRIEND NOW, BETTY.
And Then There’s the Whole Manner With Which Principal Featherhead is Killed, and Later Found, by the Godamn Janitor
In Scream, the Principal (played by the wonderful Henry Winkler) is murdered in the school just like Featherhead is. Coincidentally, the framing of the scene in which Featherhead is found is very reminiscent to the moment where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) launches out of a closet to stab Billy in the chest and to Sidney’s Dad bursting out of the closet at the end of the movie.
We’re going to go ahead and suggest the fact that Featherhead is found by the poor school janitor is also a cute throwback to Wes Craven’s cameo in Scream: As a janitor dressed uncannily similar to ol’Fred Krueger who also happens to be the last person to see the Principal alive and well (save for Ghostface).
Finally, the Manner With Which Alice Tells the Tale of The Midnight Club’s Deadly Game of Griffins & Gargoyles is Very Similar to Nancy’s Mom Telling Her the Tale of How the Parents Killed Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Right down to Betty’s reaction to Alice’s story basically being “well, hey - that’s cool that you’ve sat on this secret for a few decades but now my peers are being slaughtered so maybe you should have come clean long ago.”
We’re loving this whole deadly Dungeons & Dragons storyline they’re working with this season and honestly have no idea where it’s heading. But as we pointed out in our recap of S3E1 & S3E2, the storyline seems to be gearing toward the town’s children paying a penance for the mistakes of their parents. Just like in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Don’t be surprised if Betty proclaims that she’s “into survival” before the season’s end and destroys The Gargoyle King by booby trapping the Cooper residence and saying to the monster, “You’re nothing. You’re shit!”. Keep making our Nightmare dreams come true, Robero Aguirre-Sacasa.