August 14, 2016

Goosebumps Series 2000: #13 Return to HorrorLand

Judging a book by its cover

Well now, that purple pig nosed demon guy's ectoplasm ice cream is melting all over! I hope he has plenty of napkins. It'll take forever to get all that goop out of his hairy knuckles. Anyway yes, we are back into HorrorLand, something I'm excited about. The roller coasters loom menacingly in the red skyed background. How has this place not been shut down by the authorities or sued into oblivion? For that matter, have they closed that pinching loophole from the last book? Oh right, if you want to catch up on where we are at, check out my review of the original One Day at HorrorLand.

I believe this is the first of the "Series 2000" Goosebumps I have read. The cover is familiar but slightly different from the original. Though we have the ooze font, the ooze borders are gone. Maybe the monster filled his cone with them? Where the original series had raised bumps on the title, to simulator actual goosebumps, this one just has raised slimeness. It still is a nice effect. Beyond that the actual illustration itself is raised. It's a nice tactile feel to the books. Overall I like the design. Plus it still has the pun taglines. This book has "Long Time No Scream" for a tagline. Decent punwork but it could have had more to do with amusement parks or the topic at hand. B-. The back of the book guarantees "2000 times the scares" which I find to be a dubious claim. The book is still about 120 pages, so they'd have really work hard to jam pack that many scares into it. It would have to be like, a scare a sentence. you'd go into full fright overload. Fear would become meaningless! Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Getting Goosebumps

Its 6 months after the original trek to HorrorLand which siblings Luke and Lizzy remember none to fondly. At home they are relaxing and watching The Strange Report a TV show in which the co-host couple named the Stranges detail strange happenings in the world. For example on this episode they are talking with Evan about his dealings with Monster Blood. Seems like in Monster Blood II when his hamster got huge someone was filming it. In this era it would end up on Youtube but apparently at the time, the best they could do is The Strange Report.

Full disclosure, I wrote the previous couple paragraphs about 4 months ago. Then because I am a lazy good for nothing asshole I stopped, and didn't think about the book at until now. So I have to refresh myself a bit on what happened to plow through the bulk of this recap and review. Will the quality suffer? Probably! But lets get on with it.

It just so happens as they were watching who should show up but Derek and Margo Strange of The Strange Report. Naturally the kids are a bit taken aback. They joke that they are there to film an alien abduction of the children. In reality they are more interested in the children's dealings with HorrorLand. They have noticed lots of strange things about the Park which seems to move to a new location very often. Which is impressive giving all the large structures, haunted houses, roller coasters, etc, that have to get moved. They want to take the kids back and film it to see what is really going on. Mom is naturally worried, but the promise of 10 thousand dollars shuts her up. Now that's good parenting! They invite their friend Clay who was with them last time as well. He is the most apprehensive, because he is a sane rational human being. Not only is the park crazy, but it's in Florida now so they are likely to be eaten by gators.

After some morbid jokes on the trip there they finally approach. Rational Clay is worried. Idiot Luke thinks it is going to be awesome. The Stranges continue to be strange. The park, it seems, is under new management. Could this be a good thing? Almost certainly not. After getting some typical tourist disguises on and readying their camera, they are ready to park.

Inside the park, the camera immediately gets smashed by a grumpy Horror employee who is enforcing their no camera policy. That seems like a trip to small claims court to me Horror. Luckily the Stranges have a "Mini Super 8." Now if any young kids are reading this, 1) Go away, this page is for adults. I say bad words. 2) Cell phone cameras didn't exist. They used to use this thing called "film" to record video. It is bulky and crappy though hip people will claim it's superior, kinda like they say vinyl is better than digital, but they are wrong.

Their first stop is to get some chicken fingers to eat. Turns out, however, they are just fingers. They also notice a lack of "no pinching" signs. (Pinching was the brilliant way to defeat the Horrors of the previous book because RL Stine is the greatest author of all time.) They decide to enter a pyramid known as The Mummy Walk. It's full of snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes? Luke almost gets bitten and then is shocked they are real because he is stupid. Like even stupid by kids standards, because kids tend to be stupid.

Then a voice came from one of the "ancient mummy cases." I believe the word you are looking for their Mr. Stine is "sarcophagus." All of them seem to have mummy voices inside. Except one empty one. Luke dares Lizzy to get inside. She says no because she is smart. Luke does it himself, because let me repeat myself, he is an idiot. The lid comes crashing down. The Stranges are gone. Lizzy and Clay scramble to save the idiot. Park employees are no help, so the kids use some chains and a pulley to pull off the lid. Luke is gone. While frantically trying to figure out what to do, they stumble upon Luke who escaped via trapdoor. He had been waiting outside the pyramid the whole time.

The next attraction they go to is a dentist office. Not joking. It is a monster dental office. It's full of kids screaming about the horrible things the dentists are doing to them. Drilling their tongues, breaking their teeth. Though it is horribly out of place in an amusement park, it's genuinely a little unsettling since many people have a fear of the dentist. Lizzy gets pulled into a chair and a pig snouted monster dentists gets to work on her. In a panic she punches him and realizes he is made of wood. One of those new fangled wooden robots. In a panic she twists his snout which conveniently happens to be the shut off for them. She frees Clay and Luke. Luke, naturally pretends like he knew they were robots the whole time. Meanwhile the Stranges are bummed that they are robots. Because apparently evil dental robots doesn't make for good TV.

After a stop to check out some caramel covered shrunken heads they lose track of the Stranges again. What responsible adults. While searching for them the kids get apprehended by some Horrors that catch them in a net. Clearly the most efficient way to catch children. The Horrors take them all to the master of the Dungeon of No Return. Sounds charming. It's full of lovely stuff like torture racks and thumbscrews. Fun for the whole family. The plan for these children however, is to be fed to ferrets. Which lets be honest, is not the most frightening creature. I mean sure they are fierce for their size and probably have pointy teeth. But kids don't stay up at night afraid that ferrets are going to come eat them. Maybe Stine was just sick of using rats and couldn't think of any scarier small mammal? There are probably way scarier animals he could have used though. A wolverine? That think will fuck up your shit. And I'm not talking about Hugh Jackman.

Well they accidentally press a button that spun the wall around leading them to relative safely, because every good torture dungeon must have an easy way to escape. They see a sign for Amaz-O the magician who I think comes from the Goosebumps book Bad Hare Day but I haven't reread that one yet so I can't totally confirm that. Lizzy ends up being his assistant for a trick involving a tiger. Now THERE is an animal to be afraid of. I wonder how many ferrets a tiger could eat? Anyway, of course something goes wrong. The tigers are gone, but Lizzy is in the cage. Everyone is leaving and she is locked inside. Oh wait, no she's not the cage is open. You'd think she'd check first before she fears for her life.

So everyone is gone and Lizzy goes looking for them. She ends up finding the Stranges being kicked out of the park. They want to toss Lizzy out too but she run away only to find Luke and Clay chained up at Vulture Beach. Naturally vultures were attacking them, but Lizzy finds their one weakness: sand being thrown at them. The boys slide out of their chains by the ancient art of "not balling their hands up into fists." It's like that episode of the Simpsons where homer gets his hand stuck in a vending machine because he won't let go of the pop.

Now trying to outrun all the Horrors of the park, the kids get the genius idea of theft. They steal Horror costumes from the gift shop. It works, somehow. They convince the Horrors at the front of the park that they are there to relieve them and manage to escape the park. There are like 20 pages left in this book though so they are about to do something really stupid. They find the Stranges who instead of helping them escape, bring them back to the park. The Horrors pay off the Stranges. This is all a super convoluted plan. Last summer the kids all saw too much and were ready to tell everyone about it on TV. Thus they must be dealt with. The plan for them is "The Final Jump" a park ride which consists of visitors apparently committing suicide by jumping. At the last minute 3 DIFFERENT Horrors come get them because they have different plans for the kids.

RIDICULOUS ENDING TIME. The 3 rescue Horrors are really human beings from a rival TV show called The Weird Copy. Turns out while the Stranges were pretending to film the kids the Weird Copy people were actually filming them and the Stranges to expose them all. Now the park will be shut down and the Stranges arrested. They just need to shoot a few more scenes... AT TERRORVILLE.

The end.

What I Thought

I have long maintained that out of all the Goosebumps books HorrorLand has the most potential. Think of all the amusement park rides and attractions there are and think about all the ways you can turn them scary. The problem is, sometimes instead of making a genuine scary attraction RL Stine is like, "hey you know a the scariest part of a theme park? Yeah, the dentists office..." And it doesn't really make sense. Maybe the dental scene would have worked better if it was behind the scenes and they were part of the Horrors' health plan? Am I thinking about this too much for a kids book? Probably.

So, they could have either brought the same kids back or had all new kids visiting HorrorLand. Since they chose the prior, I think having a TV show trying to expose them was a clever idea. I just wish they would have played with the concept that the kids had already been there once more. Like, they mention that they don't see any no pinching signs, but it would have been more interesting if the kids got in to trouble and tried to pinch a horror only to have it not work. (Despite this suggestion I maintain that the whole pinching aspect of the first book was stupid.) This, however, might rely too much on kids having knowledge of the previous book. It could have been fun though. Like they go in with all these notions that they know what is going to happen, but it is all different this time, to their shock.

Here is the thing about this book, and a lot of Goosebumps in general. It's too convoluted if you stop and really think of it. So the Stranges are paid off to deliver the kids to the Horrors. Why do they bother to take them around the park and stage the whole thing? Why not just lock them in the car, pull up the park, hand them over, and drive away. The whole aspect of them actually being in the park makes no sense if they've been paid off. So maybe it wasn't their plan to sell out the whole time, wouldn't the allure of exposing real live actual monsters in a sinister park make them far more money on TV then anything the Horrors can pay them off with? But the way it was written makes it sound like they were in cahoots with the Horrors the whole time, which makes a whole lot of their actions make absolutely no sense.

So, I would like to pitch a different ending. So they get out of the park, escaping just in the nick of time, afraid for their lives. But they got it, they got the footage. The Stranges are psyched that their TV show is going to expose this horror show for what it is. Then Dereck realizes... he forgot to take the lens off the camera! Where can I put in my application to be the new RL Stine?

Ultimately, while I think this book had an interesting premise, and I like the setting of HorrorLand I don't think it lived up to the first book. There were some interesting attractions that were mentioned, and the food stuffs were funny. However, the actual attractions they visit were a bit meh, and the plot gets too convoluted. I don't care that I'm a freaking adult and that kids don't think about this stuff. Even a kids book should hold up to a little scrutiny.

Rating: 2 Beach Vultures out of 5

Up Next!

I don't really know. It's been so long since I have done one of these and I'm sorry. I'm probably going to go back to the original series. So there is a good chance the next book I'll cover is The Barking Ghost. Who doesn't love a spooky puppy? As always thanks for reading, and I'll really really try to get the next one out in less than 5 months.