October 22, 2018

The Chalk Closet - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #21

We are now on the home stretch. We are on the 3rd book of the 3 book collection of 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. This section is called, of course, Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. The first story, which I'll be covering today, is called "The Chalk Closet." I don't know what is scary about chalk or a closet where presumably you keep chalk but I guess I'm about to find out.

Travis is a bit of a slacker and as a result winds up at summer school. It's no fun for a lot of reasons: the place is run down, most of his friends aren't there, but the biggest reason is probably the teacher Mr. Grimsly. He is a no nonsense dude. You screw up, and he'll send you to the chalk closet. At first this doesn't seem like much of a punishment. Then, each kid who gets sent there never seems to come back. It was just one or two kids... but then more and more were disappearing. Are they getting kicked out of school or is something more sinister happening?

Travis begins to worry. He tries calling up classmates who have disappeared but there is no response. He has a math test he has to get an A on or he'll wind up in the chalk closet too. He tries his best to study, he really does. Then the test rolls around and the teacher announces everyone's grades to the class. He goes down the list, a bunch of A's for all the students... but then Travis. D. It's the chalk closet for him. He considers fleeing but Mr. Grimsley reads his mind, announcing that the doors are locked. There is no escape. He is shut inside the chalk closet all alone... or is he? He sees the familiar faces of his missing classmates, along with many more he doesn't recognize. They are ghastly visages with their hands up over there ears. Travis wonders why then hears the sound. The chalk screeching across a chalkboard. The sound he'll hear for the rest of eternity.

My Thoughts

I am going to venture a guess. I think R.L. Stine thought screeching chalk on a chalkboard for eternity would be a funny punishment to dole out to some kid, and then engineered a story to make it happen. Do I think he was successful? Well not entirely.

Firstly I think there are some things missing. Perhaps due to short story format, perhaps due to laziness, I dunno. I feel like the protagonist needed to show some more resistance to what was happening. He needed to tell his parents, or tell the principle, or something. Then you can have the "I don't believe you" or even more sinister the "I'm in on it too" Imagine if the whole system was designed to trap kids for eternity. Spooky. The kids all just seem resigned to their fate. Usually there is at least some attempt to figure out what's going on or avoid the problem. Yes he does call the missing kids, but that's it. It's like the bare minimum he could do. I don't know, maybe I'm asking too much.

So what does work? Well the idea of your classmates being marched off one by one and then disappearing forever is kind of creepy. Because it's summer school it is a familiar enough environment because you are used to school, but ever so slightly out of your element. Things are just different enough to feel "off" already. Summer School is a big enough bummer already. But then you add a punishment which already sucks, and make that punishment be eternal? Scary yo.

I would consider this a "middle tier" short story from this collection. I don't think it stands out the most, but it is also not utterly terrible. I kinda wonder if kids nowadays even know what chalkboard screeching sounds like. They all use whiteboards and digital shit now don't they? Perhaps you'll have to demonstrate the sound when you read this to your kids...

Rating: 3 agonizing sounds out of 5

As per usual I'll be posting another short story review tomorrow in this month of Goosebumps. Tomorrow will be "Home Sweet Home," a story whose title doesn't sound particularly spooky. Check back then and see if maybe R.L. Stine stuck a nice wholesome tale in this book by mistake.

October 21, 2018

Catch Up On My October Updates

In case you haven't been following along, all October I am reviewing a story a day from the book 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. That book is made up of 3 previously released books of short stories. I am making this handy little thing with links to all of my updates in October. Here ya go!

Intro to 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps (Click Here)

Book 1 - Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Just click on the story title to go to that review

#1 - The House of No Return
#2 - Teacher's Pet
#3 - Strained Peas
#4 - Strangers in the Woods
#5 - Good Friends
#6 - How I Won My Bat
#7 - Mr. Teddy
#8 - Click
#9 - Broken Dolls
#10 - A Vampire in the Neighborhood

Book 2 - More Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Just click on the story title to go to that review

The Spirit of the Harvest Moon - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #20

Today is the final story in More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. Tomorrow we get to start the final ten stories for the month which comprise the creatively titled Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. The story for today is called "The Spirit of the Harvest Moon." Perhaps it is an apt story for this time of autumn we're in. Time to read.

Jenny and her parents are staying at the Pine Mountain Lodge in September. They pretty much have the place all to themselves besides the owners, their son Tyler, and their dog Bravo. It's a little run down and there is no TV but it seems alright... at first. 

The first night Jenny hears a voice coming from outside calling her name, asking her to let it in because it's cold outside. She frets, but apparently not enough not to fall asleep again. 

While her parents are out on a hike Jenny plays with Tyler. She shares the details of her spooky night. He claims she wasn't imagining things. The voice belongs to the spirit of a hiker lost and never heard from again. It haunts the area looking for a body to take control of for one year at a time. If you let it inside it will take control of you. This amps up Jennys fears quite a bit, but her parents tell her Tyler is just playing a prank on her.

That night she is scared to go to bed, but her parents remind her the dog Bravo is outside to protect her. She hears a voice once again begging to be let in, it's cold outside. This time, however, the voice claims to be none other than Tyler. He accidently locked himself out. Whatever his claims, Jenny won't be fooled. She doesn't let him in, and hears Bravo the dog barking and scaring him away. Good dog. As a reward she lets Bravo the dog inside. He thanks her for letting him in, you know it's cold outside.

My Thoughts

You know, Goosebumps feature a lot of monsters, evil poison ivy, green sea blobs, crazy old ladies that will turn you into a doll... but there is something so very classic about a genuine ghost story. I guess they represent our basest fears of death and the unknown. 

This is a fairly simple ghost story, but it works. A young girl in a new place, nearly empty of people, unfamiliar and remote. Kids can be uncomfortable enough in a situation like this, but then they start hearing voices? Oooooo. Who hasn't thought they heard something strange at night, if not a voice, then perhaps a foot step, the house shifting, the wind. You try to convince yourself the sound is easily explainable, but in the back of your mind, you wonder. This is where the fear comes in. It usually isn't a clear voice you can make out the questions of, but there is at least a connection to real fears there.

I've described a lot of the stories in this book as "silly." This isn't one of those silly stories. I mean sure, it's hard to describe a Goosebumps tale as "serious" but it keeps a relatively unsilly tone... until the end that is.

The twist is where it gets silly, but it works as a twist. It lets the air out of the tense situation of a haunting but letting the air out of things makes a silly sound... like balloons! What I'm trying to say is that it was funny. That is a good thing. It is kind of unexpected. I mean, it is expected because this is a Goosebumps book, but it's unexpected in that it is not how one would traditionally expect a ghost story to end...

Anyway, this whole book of More Tales to Give You Goosebumps has had the theme of Summer. Lots of summer camps, summer vacations, beach time and hot weather. This story does a good job of ending this theme, happening right as Autumn begins. It makes the whole book of disconnected stories feel a bit cohesive. 

So in summation, this a good old fashioned ghost story with a funny twist ending. It helps bring a close to a collection of short stories and ends things on a pretty decent note. While nothing about it screams "exceptional" it does overall give off the vibe of "hey this is pretty good."

My rating: 3 Harvest Moons out of 5

Tomorrow we start section 3 of this hardcover collection, Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. The first story is called "The Chalk Closet." What a weird name for a story. What is a chalk closet? Is it a closet just for chalk? Who has that much chalk?!? I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

October 20, 2018

Poison Ivy - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #19

Today's tale is called "Poison Ivy." One time while camping my brother set up his tent in bare feet. His feet became horribly covered in poison ivy. They began to blister and ooze after awhile. It was horrible. Will this story be scarier than my brothers affliction? I doubt it, but let's see.

Much like the first stories in More Tales to Give You Goosebumps this story takes place at sleep away camp. Matt gets sent there, much to his dislike. These kids NEVER like being sent to camp. Did everyone hate summer camp growing up? 

So camp may not be totally great but it wasn't totally horrible... at first. At night Matt hears strange scratching sounds. While checking up on them he sees the patch of poison ivy... moving around. It has long tendrils and he barely escapes. Naturally none of the guys believe him. In the morning though, the whole baseball field is completely covered in poison ivy. Half the kids in camp have itchy rashes by the afternoon! Counsellors armed with weed wackers and weed killer go off to deal with it never to be heard from again.

The next night, things got even worse. The poison ivy spread to cover their cabins. The weed is alive and scratching at their door. It seems like there is no escape but something makes the killer plant retreat a little. It's Matt's annoying bunk mate aftershave! The plant must hate the smell! I didn't know plants could smell... but then I also didn't know plants could move around like that. Thankfully the preppy kid brought 12 cans of the stuff. They slowly and efficiently make the poison ivy retreat from camp and corner it to the lake. With it gone, finally they can go back to trying to have some fun at camp again. It would be easier to have fun if there wasn't a swirling black cloud coming there way. What could it be? Oh that's right... preppy kid's aftershave attracts mosquitoes.

My Thoughts

Growing up I never really remember getting poison ivy rashes. I may have once, but if so it was mild. I also never went to summer camp though I did go for occasional overnight or weekend camping with my family in a tent. Despite not having strong memories of the consequences of poison ivy, I do remember being worried about the potential. I don't think I could have successfully identified the plant, but it was a fear of getting it while out in the wilderness. In fact I seem to remember having arguments about a plant being or not being poison ivy with my friends. I am not sure what the argument really achieved since we were not about to touch the plant either way. Oh well.

So, as a story that kids can kind of relate to, I think this sort of works. Kids have probably been warned about poison ivy. They may have dealt with it first hand. Or they may have been warned about it and then gone off to camp for the first time and have lingering worries. That is the thing though, they are more worries than FEARS.

It is kind of hard to be scared of poison ivy to the degree this story wants you to. The imagination struggles to think of it doing anything worse than giving you a rash, even if it spreads very quickly. Yes it is said that two camp counselors disappear while dealing with it but we don't really know how. What did the plant do to them exactly? Tear them limb from limb? Why? Eat them? How? it's not a venus fly trap. Did it just grow around them and suffocate them? Maybe.

Perhaps children with more active imaginations can think up horrible things for the plant to do to them much better than adult me. As it stands, I am going to have to consider this story more as a "goofy" one that a frightening one. And yes, Goosebumps is usually pretty goofy too, but at its best it can still deliver a fright. While it is silly, I wouldn't classify it as funny. I guess "fun" would be an ok descriptor.

While I wouldn't consider this the definitive "camp story," I think it would be an enjoyable read for kids at camp. Or it could even be a fun one to read to your kids BEFORE they go to camp. Might just give them a little something to worry about. Maybe.

My rating: 2 killer poison ivies out of 5

Tomorrow is the final book of More Tales to Give You Goosebumps and it is called "The Spirit of the Harvest Moon" I assume it is about a literal spirit. Could be fun. It also seems to bring a close to the summer theme of this book. After that we will begin the final portion of the reviews for the book Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. Should be fun!

October 19, 2018

Shell Shocker - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #18

I'm tired. It's like 11 pm. I've been writing blog entries for 18 days. Let's just get on with it. Today I'm reading "Shell Shocker." Will shells be shocked? Let's find out.

Tara is quite the shell collector. Seashells that is. She's on the beach battling for seashell supremacy with her annoying brother when she decides to put a seashell to her ear. To her startlement she hears a voice. A voice that pleads with her to set it free. You see, she just has to go to a cave and she will get to see the biggest seashell in the world. What a dream come true for the seashell collector. All she has to do is follow the voice to the cave.

Sneaking away from her parents and enters the cave. It's a little spooky. It doesn't help that the walls are covered with spiders. Also the floor is covered with bones. Not to worry says the voice in a shell, those are... uhh... fish bones... from uhh... big fish. No problem. Well the urge to see the biggest shell in the world is too strong. Shockingly she finds it. More shocking is that inside the biggest shell in the world is the biggest hermit crab in the world. It clamps down on Tara as a normal sized hermit crab pops out of the shell that lead Tara to her doom. The last thing Tara heard was that crab telling it's mother what a good job it did luring her there.

My Thoughts

Not gonna lie, I don't know if it's because I'm tired and slightly grumpy... but I kinda think this one sucks. It goes for the "twist" ending except the twist is entirely predictable. At least it's not a twist that makes me angry for how illogical it is. Instead it makes me angry at how obvious and stupid it is.

So for the story. Well Tara is kind of a jerk at the beginning. That is really all we know about her besides her love of shells. She is a jerk to her brother and loves shells. She loves shells so much she is willing to listen to a talking shell. So she's obviously stupid too. I don't care about Tara. I won't say I'm glad when she gets eaten... I'm just indifferent.

It's really a very simple story. I could sum it up much quicker than my already short two paragraph summary. "This girl finds a seashell that tells her to go to a cave and she does which results in her getting eaten by a giant hermit crab the end."

I just can't find much redeeming about this story. It kind of feels like filler to get to the goal of 10 stories per book. Sorry Stine, I think this one is a no good.

Rating: 1 seashell to lead you to your doom out of 5

Tomorrow's story will be "Poison Ivy." I assume it's not about the DC Comics villain. But if it's about the plant... how can it be scary? Poison Ivy is much more annoying than it is frightening. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

October 18, 2018

The Cat's Tale - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #17

Ah, I see you've returned... or maybe you're here for the first time. Welcome. I'm about to review the 17th story in 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps called "The Cat's Tale." Cats are an icon of Halloween. Black ones mostly. They're often associated with witches. I assume it's because all witches are all barren spinsters. Other cats seem scarier to me though, especially hairless ones. I think it's weird that witches will sell their soul to the devil but can't abide by a tabby cat. Choosy choosy. Anyway, enough random rambling, lets see what the story is all about.

Maria's family moved from the big city to the country. While her brother enjoys it, she prefers the hustle and bustle of New York. These feelings are strengthened when a thunderstorm knocked out the power to their house. That night a ferocious beast attacked her through the window. It turns out to simple be a stray cat. A BLACK cat. Told ya.

Maria loves the new cat and names it Misty. She pampers it, and even stays home from a day of fun to bond with the cat. Soon though, things take a strange turn. Maria wakes up one night unable to breathe only to release she is being smothered by the cat! The next day she goes to the pool but is oddly scared of the water while on the diving board. She's never been afraid of the water before. Then a fuzzy black something trips her off the diving board into the water. It keeps getting weirder. She starts hearing strange whispering rhymes about how the voice will take over her body before the 9 lives are up. Oh well some tuna salad will cheer her up. Wait, TUNA? I THINK THIS CAT IS TAKING CONTROL! Theory further confirmed when while with friends Maria catches a mouse. Gross. She HATES mice.

Well enough is enough. Maria takes the cat to an animal shelter. Somehow the cat made it back to Maria though. Time to get serious. Maria puts Misty in a pet carrier and sets off to ship the cat away. It wouldn't hurt to get a soda though, it'll just take a second. WHAMMO, a truck hits the cat. The driver is apologetic but Maria is kinda fine with it.

Guess that problem is all solved. Whew. Except... she is hearing whispering rhymes again... about having 8 lives left and getting control of her body before the 9 lives are up. Oh darn.

My Thoughts

The more I read these things the more appreciation I have for stories that take something completely normal, like a cat, and make it scary. I mean, yes, it is not really scary because it is a Goosebumps book. I just like the idea of a 9 year old with a cat at home that has to give their pet a second glance before they go to bed at night because they can't help but wonder, "what if?" Finding a stray animal and wanting to keep it is a common thing in childhood. Usually the worst that goes wrong is it shits in the house or tears up your furniture.

Beyond that... man is it hard to keep finding things to say about these stories. R.L. Stine does have this thing where he seems to thinking rhyming chants are scary... I think I might have to disagree with him about that. I mean I guess "double double toil and trouble" is a witchy rhyme that goes back to Shakespeare... and if that's good enough for Shakespeare why can't a rhyming cat work for Stine. I just think there was probably a scarier way for it to come across that a cat was trying to steal her body. For one thing, it doesn't even make sense that the cat would warn her. I mean now that she knows, all she has to do is murder a cat 8 more times. If this story was full length, I bet the dead cat would keep showing up. That could be fun. It's also probably already been done by someone else. Oh well.

Rating: 2 black cats and 1 guy in a black cat mask out of 5

Tomorrow another tale, but this one probably won't have any tails. It's called "Shell Shocker" and I'm hoping it'll be about a turtle but it probably won't be. Turtles just aren't scary. Except snapping turtles. Those things will fuck you up. See you tomorrow.

October 17, 2018

Dr. Horror's House of Video - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #16

Stop! Collaborate and listen... I am back with a brand new edition... of my blog about Goosebumps. Today I'll be talking about the 16th of 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. This story is called "Dr. Horror's House of Video." Back in ye olden days before Youtube and Netflix people who are old as dirt now used to get their media by going to a "store," and buying or renting "tapes" also known as "VHSes." There used to be a lot of these places. Some were big national chains like Blockbuster Video. Some were small local shops like the one I went to called 8th Street Video (even though it wasn't on 8th street.) Now I presume this story is going to be about a shop not unlike these, but perhaps purveying mostly in the horror genre. Am I right with this assumption? I hope so, otherwise I'm probably going to go back and rewrite this paragraph so you'll never know how wrong I was... Not let me read the dang story.

Things open with a giant plant monster rampaging. We quickly find out that is just a movie being watched by Ben Adams, 12 year old horror connoisseur. He is on a boring summer vacation with his parents without any friends or even other kids his age to play with. What else is there to do but watch the horror movies he loves?

Mom and dad are kind of sick of him being a couch potato. Mom takes him in to the city and what does he find but a movie store called Dr. Horror's House of Video. He'd soon find that this is no ordinary video store. Dr. Horror the owner makes his very own videos in the garage in back. They look pretty darn high quality too. The lizardman movie playing on the TV in the store is great! Unfortunately mom comes in and hauls him back home before he can see the ending.

Well later on Ben decides to shock his parents by going outside and riding his bike. Of course you know he's riding that back right on back to the video store. Sadly, it is closed but he could just sneak in and watch the rest of that video. I mean it's not like he's STEALING. He spends an hour in the store watching the movie, a timeless classic than ends with Lizardman eating a young lad, and the rest of the townsfolk for good measure. There is just one problem, he's locked in.

Ben spots a back door with weird sounds coming out of it. He knocks his way through it only to discover the actual Lizardman who grabs him. He is surrounding by a whole smorgasboard of monsters. Mummies! Vampires! Wolfmen! Amazing. This is where Dr. Horror shoots his videos, and man do the costumes they use look amazing. Most amazing of all though, is that Dr. Horror wants Ben to play the victim in the sequel to the Lizardman movie. Of course Ben says yes.

His part is pretty simple, he just has to get tied up and eaten. The first take goes bad because Ben is having too much fun to be scared. Then he realizes he should have makeup on too, I mean this is a movie. All the monsters make up is amazing. He reaches to take the Lizardman's mask off but it won't budge. The vampire ties him up tight. The mummy takes off his wrappings to show off his decaying flesh. You know... I think these monsters might be REAL. They move in for the kill, but Dr. Horror calls cut. Whew, things were getting out of hand. The director then fixes up Ben's hair and calls for the cameras to roll again... Wait.. WHAT?!?!

My Thoughts

There is a certain type of kid I think this would have especially appealed to. The kid who owned a camcorder and recorded his own low budget flicks. The kid who would grow up and a little older put stuff on youtube when it was first invented from a little handycam. You may not be/have been that kid, but you probably knew one. Maybe that kid even asked you to be in their movie. Maybe they didn't even have a camcorder but they still acted out movies without recording them.

Of course you didn't need to be this kid to enjoy it. I'm sure many more my age fondly remember going to the movie store, which was so much a different experience than going on netflix to pick a movie. You got to pick 1 movie, and that was it because that was how much money you had. That was it, you watched it, and maybe even watched it again if you loved it, and that was it until you got more allowance. Ah the good old days.

Beyond the nostalgia this story is kind of fun. While it focuses on the "not entirely classic" horror move villain of a lizardman, we have more classic ones like mummy and vampire in the back. These are what I would call "traditionally scary." They are familiar even to kids. The danger is pretty direct, they want to eat him. Fear of being eaten by a monster is pretty visceral. You just have the added layer of the monsters being assumed to be movie actors. Is that twist kind of predictable? Sure, but it works, and it makes enough sense in the story. It is not the kind of twist that drives me mad by how illogical it is.

All in all a solid entry. I am not sure it is the most memorable story out of the lot so far, but it stands out strong. It makes horror movies which already scary even more scary by the potential that they are real. Spoooooky.

Rating: 4 VHS tapes out of 5

Tomorrow's story is "The Cats Tale." I can almost guarantee that this cat will be black because someone decided black cats are scarier than normal cats. I don't know who decided this because the meanest cat I ever met was a fat orange tabby ironically named Buddy. That thing LIVED to bite little kids. Bastard. Anyway, check back for my next review tomorrow.