November 19, 2012

#15 You Can't Scare Me

Judging a book by its cover:

I remember thinking it at the time I first saw the book and I still think it now, the monsters in the cover
reminds me of swamp thing. Perhaps they're more mud based, whereas swamp thing was a little more plant based. Still, a mucky humanoid emerging from a foggy marsh... easy to make that connection. Also the border color really fits well with the illustration. I feel like that rarely happens. They are usually kind of arbitrary but this one almost feels like they picked it purposely. Impressive!

The taglines are a let down. On front we have the super generic, "They're coming for you..." On back we have the also generic "It's gonna be a scream!" Couldn't come up with a single mud monster related pun? For shame!

Some things specific to my copy of the book (which I didn't take a picture of because my camera is still broken) The cover is pretty torn in one corner and taped up. Also my name is written on the inside. This is evidence that I actually brought it to school. I am pretty sure this is one of the first Goosebumps I ever read. The books got beaten up more at school because you got like, 10 minutes of reading time then you had to jam it back in your desk. Then it gets all bent up when you are shoving math books and such in it. Eventually teachers frowned on you reading these, and encouraged you to read "real" books. But for awhile these were good to go and earned you cred with teachers. It's interesting to note that my signature looked way more legible back then. Let us go back to that time, and experience the horror I undoubtedly felt reading this in... SECOND GRAD OR THIRD GRADE!

Getting Goosebumps:

The sixth grade was on a class field trip in Green Forest to observe flora and fauna. "Main character" Eddie, and "sidekick" Hat (yes Hat because he wears a hat...) are joking around with friends Molly and Charlene. Courtney and Denise are the class suck ups, walking around being very serious about the field trip. They find, (or claim to find) a whole slew of animals. All Eddie manages to find is a little green snake that scares the living crap out of him. Courtney finds it hilarious and makes fun of him the rest of the trip.

At the end of the trip she actually manages to have bees calmly walk around her hands, as everyone watches. Then, in a total bitch move she throws the bees at Eddie and Hat. Needless to say, they immediately scheme with Molly and Charlene to get back her. Their plan of action is to hide a large rubber snake in her lunch bag. How could it fail? Well the teacher forgets his lunch and Courtney offers to share hers. Mr. Melvin was the one to open it and get startled by the snake. Courtney, however, valiantly stomped the fake snake in half. Molly's brother, the owner of the rubber snake, is gonna be pissed!

Next car on the humiliation train for Eddie was a woman desperately trying to get someone to rescue her cat from a tree. Eddie is scared of heights though. Not even Hat egging him on could get him to do it. So just as the woman was ready to call the fire department, Bitch Courtney showed up and rescued the cat all by herself. She also accused Eddie of planting the snake. They need a better plan.

Plan B is to take the science lab's tarantula and drop it on Courtney's head from the balcony in the gym. Easy plan. First Eddie and Hat sneak into the science lab at the end of school. The teacher's not there, so they get to kidnapping the tarantula. Unfortunately they forgot to bring something to put it in. Lucky for them there is a plastic container in the room, so they poke some holes in it and get to kidnapping. Then there here footsteps outside, the teacher is coming back! They decide to hide in the supply closet. It's dark and cramped. Luckily the teacher just comes in to flick off the lights and leave. Unluckily they can't find the latch to open up the closet from the inside. They fumble around and the tarantula gets out of its container. It starts crawling up Eddie's leg and he freaks. Finally they escape the cabinet and recapture the spider. Next morning comes time for the prank. Molly and Charlene are the ones to lure Courtney to the right spot. Hat is the one to drop the tarantula and it lands *plunk* right on Molly's head. Whoops! Wrong person! She doesn't take it so well, and after hysterically flailing she throws it at Charlene. Charlene also freaks, and it takes Courtney to calmly, smugly, deal with the tarantula. The gym teacher then deals with Eddie and Hat, but making sure they clean out the science lab for the next 2 weeks, and write an essay on why it's not ok to steal animals and drop them on people's heads.

Time to go back to the drawing board. Eddie consults his brother. His brother has been shooting a video with his high school friends about a local legend of mud monsters. It's a horror film and he made awesome scary mud monster costumes for it. He suggests Eddie think bigger. Perhaps a giant scary dog. Charlene's dog Buttercup fits the bill. He's a big lovable St. Bernard, but when you whistle he gets angry and growls. Eddie even gets shaving cream to put on its mouth so it looks rabid. Buttercup, however, gets distracted by a squirrel and runs off. Charlene's distraught and they break up to look for him. Eddie gets lost, and a giant black monster dog lunges at him. Its terrifying, but Hat comes and manages to scare it away. When they finally decide to head back home and see if Buttercup wound up there, they see Courtney standing with Buttercup and the giant monster dog trying to see if she could find their owners. That's when Eddie decides there is no scaring Courtney.

It turns out that Courtney is actually the one to give them their final idea to scare her. Apparently she believes in monsters, like the one in Loch Ness, and Bigfoot. If she believes in monsters, maybe she'll be scared by the mud monsters appearing at night. Eddie's brother gets convinced to help by getting a servant for the month. Molly is the one to call and get Courtney to show up by the woods. When they get there it turns out even Denise is there and they have a video camera! All they need to do is wait for Eddie's brother and crew to show up as the mud men. Finally they start groaning and emerging from the woods but Courtney is looking the wrong way. After waiting moments to see Courtney freak out, Eddie's brother REALLY shows up. And more and more mud monsters come out of the woods. Courtney finally notices, and then everyone freaks out and runs away.

Things didn't turn out as expected. Eddie and his friends are uneasy all the time now. They are nervous and don't really leave the house. On the other hand Courtney is bragging to everyone she knows about how she finally saw a real live monster, and can prove they exist. Eddie would like to finally frighten her, but he is just too scared.

What I thought:

This book was kind of unique. The actual scary element of the book didn't present itself until the very last chapter. All of it was centered around the main characters trying to scare Courtney. While that's interesting to read about, it isn't particularly scary to the reader. It had to rely on other scares. False scares that Stine seems to overuse like people coming from behind with cold hands. Also, things like the "monster dog" that was pretty unrelated to anything. The mud monsters were only talked about a little, the brother doing the movie on them. It wasn't until one of the final chapters that the legend is really discussed, and it isn't until the very final chapter that they actually appear.

That being said, I kind of liked it. It felt a little different than other Goosebumps. As the scary elements aren't particularly scary anyway, so it's fun to see this kids go to such lengths to try and startle smug ol' Courtney. I was really rooting for him. scaring friends certainly has been presented in Goosebumps before but making it the focal point was entertaining.

I feel like I should be taking a tally of things that appear over and over again in Goosebumps. Kid with a stupid nickname? Check! Silly 90's clothing details? Check! Trying to scream but no sound coming out? Checkeroony! The last one really is wearing thin. If I'm sick of it now, how will I feel at book 40, 50? We shall see I guess.

Rating: 3 out of 5 mud men

Up Next:

One Day at Horrorland! After Escape From the Carnival of Horrors I'm looking forward to this book. An amusement park presents a lot of possibilities. I believe the newest Goosebumps series is actually based in Horrorland, so in a way I guess this book spawned the most sequels? What happening at the beginning of it all? We'll see next time.