October 31, 2017

Goosebumps #36 - The Haunted Mask II

Judging a Book by its Cover

First things first. I am pretty sure I hinted or perhaps outright said I was going to do a Give Yourself Goosebumps book for Halloween as I often do. However, after awhile of thinking I realized that I had just read a Shocker on Shock Street was The Haunted Mask II. I remembered that this book takes place on Halloween. What better book to read now? It would feel kinda silly reading a book based on Halloween for Thanksgiving. So here we are.

The cover of my original copy from the 90s features a kid in a hideous green mask. It is a different mask from the first book. I think the illustration is better too. It's more detailed. Instead of just a girl with a mask standing in front of a color gradient we have this trick or treater with bag in hand going up the stairs next to a Jack-o-Lantern. It evokes strong feelings of Halloween. It's got kind of an unsettling angle that these covers often do, making sure the mask is front and center. Also I think two tone border colors fit the book very well. I am not sure if the artist got to pick what the colors for the border are or if they are random, but they work really well on this. The blue and orange matching colors in the picture, his jeans, his shirt, etc.  The tagline "new face old nightmare" confirms that this is indeed a new mask.

But the cover of my original book isn't the only cover art that exists. You may have seen my update "Covering Covers" where I showed some of the alternate art around the world for Welcome to Dead House. I decided maybe in my book reviews I should show some of the alternate art. Today we shall look at France's covers. Yes plural. France had 2 different illustrations for different versions of the cover. Shall we see #1?

Oh my. Well unlike the American cover this is far more... uhh, I hesitate to say realistic. Less cartoony? Lets go for that. It's certainly not realistic. The spider, the wound, all come across as silly instead of scary. Which is weird because you would think the cartoonier American art would feel more silly... but somehow it doesn't. Also what is with that smirk? It doesn't come across like an evil grin. It is like the model smirking at how shitty he knows the cover sucks. Lets see if the second cover fairs any better...

Oh my, not an improvement. The mask is certainly far more silly than it is scary. It looks like he is more frightened of the girl than she is of him! And they've been sitting there having a staring contest long enough to have a spider build a web between them. I'm sorry guys, you have not won me over. Still team America here.

Now, on to the book!

Getting Goosebumps

You may remember that the original Haunted Mask starred a young girl named Carly Beth. Well this time around the sequel stars her friend (or least a bothersome compatriot) named Steve Boswell. He was present in the previous book but was not the focus.

So it's about a year from last time. Steve is now the coach of a 1st grade soccer team. You may think he is a fine upstanding young man to volunteer to do such a thing. In reality it was punishment for releasing a squirrel in the school gym. His friend Chuck talked him into it but got let out of coaching the team by claiming he had an after school job. Who is hiring 12 year olds? Is that even legal? Anyway, soccer team. They are the hogs and they are terrible. Not terrible at soccer, just terrible in general. Well probably at soccer too but mostly they are just pains in the ass. Because they are kids and all kids are terrible. Like all kids they live to make older people's lives miserable. That older person is Steve. Want to know how evil they are? They painted a big hunk of concrete to look like a soccer ball and convinced Steve to kick it. He did. It hurt. Apparently he didn't kick it as hard as he claims though because he didn't break any toes. How first graders were clever enough to come up with this and strong enough to carry a soccer ball sized hunk of concrete I don't know. They were fueled by their little person evil. Here is the thing. That's not even the only thing they did to him that day, they also glued feathers to all his school books in his backpack.

Steve wants revenge. I am with you Steve. You swear vengeance on those twerps. Spitballing with Chuck for the perfect means of getting back at the kids they come upon Carly Beth from the first book. Then Steve has the perfect idea. If he had a mask like Carly Beth had a year ago he could scare the crap out of those rugrats. I am not sure if it ranks up there with "getting a guy to almost brake his foot on concrete" but I suppose it will do. They used to try to scare Carly Beth all the time but after the fiasco with the mask, no more. Chuck decides that it might be a good time to bring back the old tradition. It was not to be, however. The spookers became the spookees. When they tried to scare her HER HEAD FUCKING FELL OFF. Her friend Sabrina screamed and screamed. Carly Beth just laughed. With her real head. Because the one that fell off was fake. Duh. Sabrina joined in the laughter after her performance. There is no scaring Carly Beth these days. Anyway after the scaring the get down to business. Steve wants to know where she got the mask. Carly Beth isn't gonna tell. For good reason too, if you remember the last book. It came alive and took control, giving her orders and terrorizing her more than anyone else. Steve wont take no for an answer and kidnaps her head. Her mom made that, thus Carly Beth needs it back. In the end she relents and tells him.

The next day Steve has to deal horrors, not of haunted masks as Carly Beth warned, but of life's one true terror: little kids. Back to Hogs practice. They are still animals. He wore his best blue sweater for school picture day. The hooligans tripped him in mud and got it messy as shit. After practice Chuck comments that he looks like a mud monster. Sorry Chuck, the mud monsters are in Goosebumps #15 You Can't Scare Me.

At home he cleans up and changes into a Georgetown Hoyas shirt. He comments on how he has no idea about the team but likes the shirt. I get that. My aunt used to always give me Notre Dame Fighting Irish stuff, and I liked it but had no idea about the team. This shit happens when you're a kid I guess. It's like people who wear Nirvana t-shirts but have no idea who sang Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I digress. To the Party Place to get a totally not haunted mask. Just one problem, it's closed. Not closed for the day either, closed for good. This is nothing that a little breaking and entering can't solve. They go into the basement and find all the merchandise boxed up. They find the masks in a box all spooky and gross as ever. Unfortunately the owner of that box isn't too keen on thieves. Chuck runs away like a true friend leaving Steve alone to face the music. The owner is a strange man who refuses to sell a mask asserting that they are "too real." He also threatens to call the police which is a totally reasonable thing to do when hooligans break into your store. Not content with one crime, Steve decides to rob the strange caped owner and runs away in a hurry with the mask of a creepy old man hidden beneath his shirt. He doesn't even tell Chuck about it. No doubt it will be quite the surprise on Halloween.

He was home free. Literally, at home. His parents were a bit upset he was late for dinner but he manages to run upstairs with mask hidden. Safely in his room he admires the mask and all it's grotesqueity. A big evil grin with a single gross tooth. Long nose dripping ooze. Scabs. Missing skin. Forehead bone. Spider infested hair. This mask is PERFECT. Steve goes to try it on but mom calls him down to dinner. Later. He can try it on later.

Next day, the day before Halloween, soccer practice continues on as horrible as usual. The Hogs are monsters. Almost. But Steve will show them what a real monster is like. He unfolds his plan by offering to take them all out trick or treating with him as a team celebration. The kids take the bait.

The next chapter begins with a false scare where the mask had moved of its own volition except then Steve remembered that he moved it earlier. Oh well. They can all be winning scares. Steve decides to practice his scaring for Halloween by putting on the mask and spooking Chuck today. He slides on the creepy mask and it tightens on his face. Plus it smells terrible. He tries remove it but it won't budge. Then he notices he feels really weak and... old. The mirrors reflection shows the mask is truly terrifying but not only that, the lips seem to move with his. He practices a creepy cackle, but it comes out in the voice of a withered old man. His dog Sparky doesn't care for the transformation and bites at him. He tries to pet his pooch but scares the beast off. He tries in vain to remove the mask. No doing. It's not coming off.

Mom calls up to Steve but his raspy voice can't reach her. She decides to come up stairs. A logical kid might think gee, this is great, now she can help. Not Steve though, he doesn't want her to know. She just wanted to give him some delicious black and white cookies she bought specially just for him. He tells her he is sick and just wants to stay in his room for now. She believes him and doesn't even go in to check on him.

Steve decides his salvation is with Carly Beth. She had one of these masks and got it off. She warned him what would happen if he got one. He dials her up on the phone but her dad assumes it's a prank call when he hears the croaking old man voice the mask has given him. He must have fallen asleep at his desk because some time later his dad calls him to dinner. Steve explains that he must be getting sick and just wants to nap.

Thankfully the next morning he wakes up in bed to beautiful weather and sunshine. He feels his face and discovers no mask, just his own face. It was all just a dream. A terrible dream. And it's over now. Actually the notion that it was all a dream was a dream. The mask is real. This time truly awake he feels the disgusting mask on his face. Bummer. There is a note from his parents that they went to go visit his Aunt Helen. So wait, they just left a kid that was sick all night and didn't eat dinner alone unchecked and ditched him? Parents of the year right there.

It's time to make the best of it. There is no reason he can't scare those bratty kids BEFORE getting help from Carly beth is there? His parents come back at night expecting to help him with his usual hobo costume. His dad is delighted at how scary his mask is. Mom is just grossed out. They take some pictures and he is off. Off very very slowly. His now age ravaged body aches as he shuffles along.

Eventually he manages to get there and see his soccer team dressed up as ninja turtles and power rangers. Aw the 90s, was there a better era for Halloween costumes? Now is his big chance to scare them. He shows themselves and those little bastards are filled with... pity? They just see a tired old man and try to help him out. Ok come on, no first grader would do that. They would look at him and be like "WHY ARE YOU SO OLD?!?!" Frustrated he raises his cane which only makes him fall over and increase their pity. They ask him if he needs to be somewhere. He has them take him to Carly Beth's house.

The little rascals manage to get him there. Carly Beth is in her duck costume she wears every year except for last years infamous mask. Carly Beth also only seems him as a disgusting old man and begs him to leave her alone. After much convincing she realizes he got a haunted mask of his own. She brings him in and explains the backstory of the mask. The creepy caped party store salesmen made them but something went horribly wrong. The faces are actually alive. They are known as the unloved. Thus the only way to remove them is with a powerful symbol of love. Carly Beth used the replica of her head her mother made her last year to remove hers. Steve must find his own symbol.

Time for Steve to go home with Carly Beth and find his own symbol of love. Steve decided those yummy black and white cookies his mom bought just for him was a symbol of love. Yeah, painstakingly recreating your daughters face with hours of work and dropping by the bakery are totally the same level of love. Doesn't matter anyway because the dog Sparky at them. Lets hope there wasn't too much chocolate in that frosting or old Sparky is gonna be awfully sick. Carly Beth decides Sparky himself is a symbol of love. Sure why not. He loved him so much he ate his cookies. The dog runs around hard to catch before he leaps into Steve's arms so he can bring him to his face.

It didn't work. They decide there is nothing left to do but go back to the Party Store. they look through the boxes seeing if there is anything to help them. Carly Beth finds a suit crawling with spiders. It looks like it fits right along with Steve's mask. To demonstrate she holds it up to him. His face feels like it's on fire. The mask lifted itself off of his face and connects with the suit which begins thrashing around. The old man found his body at last! She shuffles off into the night as Steve erupts with glee at having his own face back. Then they see a ghoulish figure with fiery red eyes and jagged broken teeth! It's Chuck and he snuck away with a mask of his own during their break in. Now he is just having trouble getting it off...

What I Thought

First of all, I like the premise of the book. I enjoyed the first Haunted Mask and I think by keeping it with the same group of kids but moving the main protagonist from Carly Beth to Steve was smart. It wouldn't have made sense for Carly Beth to get another haunted mask. She learned her lesson. Time for someone else to learn theirs.

Another thing that I like is it kinda changed things up from the first one in regards to the scares. Carly Beth originally wanted to scare the pants off everyone, and succeeded. Too well even. Steve's old man mask grosses some people out but he doesn't get much scaring done. The terrible 1st graders feeling pity on old man Steve was great. His plans totally blew up in his face.

Though the solution was a little bit weird, I also appreciated that they didn't use a symbol of love to get it off this time. You can't have the same solution twice. Now of course the resolution they used was odd and kind of out of nowhere, but I think it worked. It also seemed like it could have paved the way for another sequel that didn't really happen. There is another Haunted Mask book in another series of Goosebumps but it isn't Part 3.

There are maybe a couple inconsistencies between this and the first one. One example, Carly Beth was able to remove her mask once before it became stuck to her face. The owner warned her if she put it on a third time it would never be able to be removed. This doesn't seem to be the case with Steve's mask. Maybe it's just because it's another mask?

Overall there isn't a lot to complain about in this book. Sure there is inattentive parenting. That tends to happen. Also I do wish those bratty 1st graders got what was coming to them. That is just kind of a personal wish though. Damn kids. I admit it wouldn't have been as good for the story. Maybe if someone else scared them? Like Chuck or Carly Beth? Or maybe one of the kids could have followed them to the store and put on a mask without them knowing instead of Chuck having the mask as the end? Just a thought.

Basically I think the Haunted Mask was one of the goto classics of Goosebumps and I think this book is a very fitting followup to that. It itself is one of the better books in the original series and is worth giving a read, especially around Halloween.

Rating: 4 out of 5 masks

Up Next

First of all, Happy Halloween. I hope you enjoyed this review and had a festive day. As for what I'm planning for my next update? First I'd like to do another Covering Covers and show off some more of those weird foreign alternate illustrations.  I meant to do one this month but my Scary Stories to Read in the Dark ended up taking a lot of time. After that I'm unsure of what to do. I could read the next story in the series which is The Headless Ghost. I also could do the Give Yourself Goosebumps review I was planning for today. Tough call. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and I'll catch you next time.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Halloween! I'll read whatever you put up next. :)