October 31, 2014

HorrorLand #16 Special Edition: Weirdo Halloween

Judging a Book by its Cover

Happy Halloween! As you can see I am celebrating with a Grain Belt and some Goosebumps! Not just any Goosebumps though, Goosebumps HorrorLand Special Edition! HorrorLand was the series of Goosebumps  RL Stine did around 2010ish. The books apparently take part partially in HorrorLand, a book from the original series I've already reviewed here, and partially in a setting outside HorrorLand. I always thought HorrorLand was a locale that offered a lot of options for things to happen. I think it's kind of cool he made a whole series off of it. This is going to be the first "new" Goosebumps book I've ever read. I was about 8 when the original series started coming out. I was about 25 when this series came out, so it's a bit out of my age range. While the original idea of this blog was to revisit books I read in my youth, I thought it might be interesting to see where the series went after I left it. When I saw this book at the thrift store in October, I knew this was the perfect opportunity.

Anyway, it looks like Stine left behind the 2 tone ooze design of the original series. It still looks familiar though. You got the drippy lettering and raised letters. The letters don't have bumps anymore though, which is a bit of a let down. The illustration itself is not unlike those of the originals. It's bright and cartoony. This one looks more fun than creepy. Almost a little cute. That pudgy little alien likes his candy, d'awww! Those are some pretty big gaps between his teeth. I doubt he even needs to floss! There are no taglines on this book, which may be for the best. Those could get pretty hit or miss.On the back, however is a lizard gypsy lady. I am not sure if she is related to this book or is just some sort of generic HorrorLand series character. Is she actually a gypsy or is she just a lizard dressing up like one for Halloween? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Part One: Yes this book appears to be in parts. As it's a "Special Edition" I believe it is longer. Your standard Goosebumps are a little over 100 pages, while this one is a little over 200.

We begin with siblings Meg and Chris entering HorrorLand. Meg's a year older than Chris and that makes her 12 year old self totally more mature.That maturity doesn't seem to assist in keeping her from being scared by the amusement park's Horrors! Chris takes this opportunity to do some scaring of his own, which is rewarded with a nice pulling of his ears by Meg. It seems an odd form of physical punishment, but apparently it is because he has big Dumbo ears, suitable for pulling. A bit later Chris manages to get in an actual scare by having no face! Just a nice toothless skull. Near the exit, though, Meg spots her real face in tact brother. What was the deal with that faceless kid though? Was it just an employee in a mask? No, claims Madame Doom, a strange gypsy woman who appears from nowhere. It seems that ol' faceless Chris may just be a vision of their future. With this bold proclamations he lures them to her fortune telling hut. Now, naturally it would be wise to assume she is a charlatan but she seems to know Meg's name. Also, she happens to have a doll that looks exactly like her. Wait, is she a psychic or a stalker? That's just weird Madame. Then in a flash Madame Doom is gone. They ask a park employee where she is, and he points in her direction. When they follow that way they see that Madame Doom is indeed there... in the form of a robotic fortune telling machine. It gives them an advertisement for the Chiller House Gift Shop. A crummy advertisement! How lame! Of course, it might be worth checking out...

In the gift shop they spots all sorts of oddities. For starters there is King Kong's diaper ping which is huge as you can imagine. There is also an "eye-bacus" which is an abacus made out of eyeballs, naturally. After browsing a bit the kids meet Johnathon Chiller, the Benjamin Franklin-looking owner of the store. Meg finds a weird froggy looking doll that piques her interest. It is apparently called a Floig, and when you squeeze it, it's eyes pop out. Fun fact, anything's eyes will pop out if you squeeze it hard enough. Meg decides to add this Floig to her doll collection, even though her collection consists of antique dolls. Mr. Chiller sends her on her way without making her pay. He insists she can pay the next time she sees him... Next time, what does he mean by that?

Part Two:

Back at home the kids find out their parents are going on a business trip and leaving them in the capable hands of Penny the elderly, nearly blind, slightly dimension inhibited, frail, former nanny. Luckily they have plenty to keep them occupied while their parents are gone. Friend Kelly is having a day-before-Halloween party. Meg unpacks her Floig and sets about finishing her vampire costume. The next day parents leave and penny shows up talking to a trio of goldfish. She even named one after Meg. Aww.

So the party rolls around. Meg is dressed in a fancy vampire costume where as Chris just threw on some point ears and called himself a Vulcan. On the way out they spot a baby stuck in a bush. Wait, it's not just a baby, it's a baby in an alien costume. Naturally the baby seems to have strange grasp of grammar. For some reason this alien baby followed them to the party and when they got there Kelly's dog came rushing out at him, only to go skittish when it got near. Strange.

Well the party started out pretty good by tween standards (even though Kelly was dressed like a vampire too!) They had pizza, played games, and told the story of the headless ghost! Unfortunately someone ruined the ghost story by throwing a stink bomb through Kelly's window. It was bad enough to cause some kids to hurl! Fortunately they seem to be the responsible bunch and cleaned up the broken glass and tossed cookies.

After the party at home they find out alien baby threw the "aroma message" because "his feeling is lonely." Apparently his name is Bim and he comes from Weirdo Planet. You know I'm starting to think just maybe this little kid is an alien. Meg and Chris aren't convinced though. Chris tries to toss Bim out and the kid weighs practically nothing... then he sudden weighs a thousand pounds. Meg tries to tear off his mask but... it isn't a mask! He is an alien with cookie habits like consuming "living meat" and then vomiting it out thrice before digesting it. Neat party trick. Penny wakes up in the middle of this but is too old and senile to realize Bim is an alien. They try to kick Bim out but he's not having it. He sort of hulks out when his "feeling is unhappy." He grinds Meg's favorite doll to dust. The only way they can calm him is to agree to rub his back. Bim happily fell asleep. Unsure of how to solve the problem of their alien home invasion the kids fall asleep too. In the morning Bim is gone. Hurray, the problem solved itself! Story over! But wait, there are still over 100 pages left...

So Meg decides to see how Kelly is managing after the aroma message fiasco. Turns out today someone decided to drop a slimy rabbit carcass into Kelly's living room. Why, whoever could have done such a thing? Meg decides to ask her nerdy sci-fi friend if he can think of anything. To convince him she is telling the truth she brings him home to discover Bim happily gorging himself on some animal corpse. Yum yum. Bim happily forces Meg to taste his twice vomited squirrel meat. That is a genuinely disturbing notion. Sci-fi friend does the only sensible thing and runs away. Bim eats all of Meg's dolls and she does the only thing she can to calm him down, rub his back. This makes Bim so happy he vows to invite his friends. The kids decide enact a plan to try and lose Bim at a Halloween party so he can't find his way back.

So that night they carry out that plan. Meg dresses as a vampire again but Chris lost his Spock ears so he paints his face green and says he is a frog. Excellent. They take an uncostumed Bim on a convoluted path to a party then ditch him there. When they get back home their friends Kelly and Sci-fi-guy are there to trick or treat. Our main characters want to explain what they have been through but a perturbed Bim is there desiring to know why they ditched him. Needless to say his feeling is not happy. In fact his feeling is ANGRY. In the midst of Bim totally wrecking the shit out of the place Senile Penny comes in and screams at him, calling him an idiot. Not sure idiot would be my first reaction but oh well. It makes him smaller. The rest of the group starts insulting him to ensure that his feeling is small. Guess what happens when his feelings are small? He gets even more pissed off. Oops. Nice try guys. In desperation to keep him from enjoying their living meat they start throwing things at him. When Meg throws her Floig doll at him, something happens. It turns out Floig belongs to Bim and that's why he came there in the first place. Reunited with his doll, his feeling gets homesick and he leaves. But then his 3 friends show up looking for him! oh no!

Part Three

Well the aliens easily part when they find out Bim already left. Whew. Then Meg gets pulled back into HorrorLand. Wait what? My, so I guess they are really going in a different direction for part three. She is back in Chiller House where Mr. Chiller tells her he brought her back for more fun. Halloween, naturally, is the best time to come to HorrorLand. And he has a fun game for her to play. All she has to do is prove that she is Meg. Seems easy, but he doesn't seem to be interested in seeing her ID. Chiller ignores her so she wanders out into the park. Attempts to call her parents and thwarted as Chiller is the on on the line. He tells her not to try and escape. If it were me I'd try and escape anyway.

Anyway, out and about she samples some free Hallowieners and Apple Spider, which is just fun festive pun snacks. A weird girl dressed like a lizard keeps staring at her, and a gorilla costumed boy convinced her to check out The Haunted Pumpkin. Sadly it started on fire. Nevermind, that was just part of the ride! Nevermind the lawsuits that are sure to come from all the people trampled trying to escape. Everyone seems to be staring at Meg. A horror asks her about masks. Sensing it may be a clue she goes to a costume store in the park and gets a Lizard costume from a joking Horror. The same lizard costume as the weird girl who was staring at her.

Then off Meg went to Halloween Town. She found a haunted house there where all sorts of frightening things happened. There were screams, walls closing in, a talking shrunken head, and she can't seem to get out! The door is locked and a ghoul is closing in. When it lunges at her she jumps out of the way and he crashes through the door, creating an exit for her. Outside she spots creepy staring lizard costume twin. Only, she doesn't just have a twin costume, she is Meg's twin! She looks exactly like her, and her name is Meg Oliver too! Then brother Chris shows up and can't seem to tell them apart. So this must be Chiller's game. The real Meg agrees to answer questions to prove she is the real one, only Chris says that all her responses are wrong. What's going on? He doesn't even remember Bim and the Floig!

Real Meg chases Chris and Fake Meg through the park trying to convince Chris. They go to the Halloween Hopper, which breaks down. Then some zombies have a voodoo doll that looks exactly like Meg. Has that Madame Doom been selling her creepy stalker doll? The zombie throws it into a fire, and Meg braves third degree burns to fish it out. Desperately Meg tries to call her parents again, but Chiller answers yet again. Then she realizes she can use her phone to prove who she is! It has all her contacts and information in it! When Meg calls Chiller back to tell her how she had won his game, the other Meg answers. When she hangs up all her phone's info has been cleared.

Things wind up at the world's most dangerous pumpkin pie.Seriously, that is the name of an attraction at the park. They walked in a catwalk over the giant pie and after a scuffle end up falling inside. Sinking deep inside, they struggled to breathe. Drowning in pie, what a tasty way to die. They managed to be brought to safety by a giant pie cutter.

After showering off, determined to settle the Meg despute, they go back to the Chiller house. They decide to answer more question to prove who is real, since that worked so well the first time. Other Meg seems to know all the right answers. In frustration, real Meg tugs on her brother's ears like she did in part one but this time she pulls off his face! He's a robot! Meg wins the game! And Chiller explains that he scans every entrants DNA and has a bunch of super sophisticated robots he keeps as a sort of doll collection because he's lonely. No wonder he has no friends, he is a creepy dude who steals DNA to make robo friends. I wouldn't want to be friends with him. Robot guards came to take the robot imposters away, but of course they take the wrong Meg. Her screams achieve nothing. In an act of quick thinking she grabs King Kong's diaper pin and stabs herself showing that she bleeds. That convinces the guards she's human. Finally, Chiller agrees to send her home. Her real brother and Penny seem glad to see her, but she was only gone for 10 minutes in their mind... After this fiasco Meg just wants to settle down in her room but once there she discovers... another Meg.

The End.

What I Thought

What a trip. Goosebumps haven't changed that much over the years. The book still felt the same as the old ones more or less, but the little things are different. Instead of referring to Nintendo, Ninja Turtles, and X-Men Comics, they refer to iPods, blogs, and Spongebob. The writing style, however, is much the same. The only real difference is that this takes place in parts and is a little longer because it's a special edition.

Now about it taking place in parts. I am not sure how I feel about this. They weren't very related to each other. While I like the idea of revisiting HorrorLand, I kind of just wish he wrote a better longer single story than what is essentially two stories. The only thing that connects them is that Chiller gave Meg the Floig. It caused Bim to come and got rid of him, but it doesn't really matter where she got it from. She could have easily just picked it up at a garage sale in chapter 1.

That being said I did like the part in HorrorLand. Even though there wasn't much of a reason for it to happen it was a fun parade of Halloween creeps. Sure having a look alike and having to prove you're the real one is kind of a cliche, but little kids don't know cliches. This might be the first time kids are introduced to that trope. I may have even enjoyed it a bit more than the Bim part which is the bulk of the book.

Now about the Bim part. Being a little almost cute thing that gets bigger and dangerouser is kind of a trope too, but once again this may be kids first exposure. I like how he kind of hulked out and lost control, but I'm not too sure about his whole "my feeling is____" dialect. His flesh cravings were actually a bit disturbing though. Always bonus points when a Goosebumps can actually unsettle you a bit. Having a senile old caretaker that doesn't understand the realities of their paranormal encounter is a nice touch too.

So in its own way this was actually kind of reliving nostalgia for me. Sure this book wasn't written when I was an adult, but it is essentially the same product I had was a kid, redone for kids of the era. It was interesting to see how now the kids have cell phones and other modern things. It's also good to see that these things don't change the Goosebumps experience too much. This book really put me in the Halloween spirit, so mission accomplished I guess.

Rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Up Next

So the next book up will probably return to your regularly scheduled original series book Monster Blood III. However at the thrift store I found other newer Goosebumps books. I have a couple of Goosebumps 2000 and a few more HorrorLand books. I will undoubtedly work them in at some point. At the very least they will come after I finish my collection of original books.

So I hope you enjoyed this. Happy Halloween1

October 14, 2014

#28 The Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Judging a Book by its Cover

My oh my, that cuckoo bird doesn't look particularly scary. It just looks... annoyed. Like, it is totally sick of this shit. Popping out every fucking hour? God, what an existence! Also, that has got to be the longest fucking perch for a cuckoo bird ever. Pretty typical though, Goosebumps covers like to have weird angels and crazy proportions. It's creepy I guess?

As for the taglines, the front's is "keep your eye on the birdie!" Is that... a badminton reference? Or... I don't know where else that would come from really. Not particularly clever, funny, or anything. The back's is "don't beat the clock." Which... I also don't get. So beat the clock means you are timed and you get done in time, right? So... don't.... do that? Or... don't... physically assault your clock? Whatever.

One thing on this cover I do like is the color scheme. I comment on color schemes every so often. Some of them just seem sort of randomly chosen. This one compliments the blue walls and yellow bird. I like it!

Getting Goosebumps

Michael is a pretty average 12 year old kid. Because all of RL Stine's main characters are pretty average 12 year old kids. But Michael's little sister Tara is not so average. She is kind of a pain in the ass. In fact, she is sort of an evil cunt. Now that's not something I usually say about 7 year old girls, but she's fictional so whatever. His parent's always think she is the sweetest little angel, but Michael knows better.

Now speaking of his parents, his dad totally loves this antique cuckoo clock from the antique shop. He's been looking at it for years in a nearby antique shop, and the owner finally decided to sell it because there is a small flaw in the clock. Since no one can tell what the flaw is, it doesn't bug them. One weird feature is that it has a hand that points to what year it is, up to the year 2000. I guess the makers of the clock figured Y2K was gonna end the world at that point, so no need to go higher. Oh also, apparently the clock is magic. If you know the secret of the clock you can go back in time! Har har, surely Dad is just making up stories.

So back to the bitch of a 7 year old sister. In the opening 3 chapters, she purposely causes Michael to step in gum, stomps on his feet, teases him for being startled by the cuckoo coming out of the clock, bothers him while he's doing his homework, jumps out of the clock with a Halloween mask on to scare him, and laughs at him again for being started by the cuckoo clock. And seriously, she's just getting warmed up. She also ruined his birthday by ripping down decorations, scratched his brand new bike before he even laid a finger on it, told his crush that he is likes her, opened his presents while he was in the other room, and tripped him while he was carrying his cake so he fell into it and got cake all over himself in front of everyone. Seriously, this is just the first 3 chapters. Hella short chapters too. And of course mom and dad always side with the cute little girl. Michael just wishes he could go back in time and do his birthday over again. Surely he shall never get that chance! Chapter 4 is just a flashback to all the horrible things his sister did to him a few days before. She was abusing their family cat then it scratched Michael. She purposely lead friends from a play Michael was in, into his room while he was changing. Girls saw him in his under pants! Two days earlier she got Michael beaten up by an athletic kid by hiding his had inside Michael's backpack. Now do you understand why I called this 7 year old brat a total cunt?

I guess now you can understand while Michael would want to get back at her. During one afternoon their
dad caught Tara playing with the cuckoo clocks dials. Now if Michael messed with the clock the parents would think she did it! So he sneaked out one night and turned the cuckoo bird's head backwards. Not the most clever of tricks, but perhaps it shall do the job.

The next day, instead of the glory of framing his sister he instead got... deja vu. His parents were acting like it was his birthday again. In fact... it... was his birthday again. He got his bike again. Tara scratched it again. Every horrible thing she did on his birthday happened again. In fact, despite knowing what was going to happen he couldn't even prevent himself from falling into his cake. It was terrible!

The morning after he woke up really early and had to talk to his parents about how his birthday had already happened before. His parents didn't understand him though, because his birthday is 2 days away! Maybe that clock really is magic! But wait, the cuckoo clock is gone... because it is before his father bought the clock! It must still be at the antique store. Naturally his attempts to convince his family that something is wrong are futile. He has to go to school and relive a day he already lived through. He remembered everything that happened and... oh no! The day his female friend see him in his underpants. Even though he knows its coming he can't find a way to stop it.  The next day he relived the incident of getting beat up by the athlete.

Things didn't get better from there. The next day when he walked into class they wondered what a third grader was doing there. A THIRD GRADER!??! He went back in time 4 years in just 1 night. Back and home things weren't any better. Even as a 3 year old Tara is a cunt. She still tormented the cat, and she pulled Micahel's hair. The next day he was a second grader. 2 year old Tara poked him in the eye. Was she a cunt from birth?

Finally Michael came up with a plan. He rode a bus to the antique store, which is slightly odd for a second grader to go. He managed to claim his parents were cool with it. He had to be careful though, his dad works right next to the store and he can't be spotted. Especially because he's going to have to break his way in. The antique store owner is on vacation! He ventured off to find a brick and came back. Just when he was about to throw it, his dad came up from behind him, surprised to see him. Despite Michael's attempts to get dad to go get the clock, it was not to be.

The next day Michael woke up in Tara's room. That's weird. Mom and dad don't seem to know where Tara is. That's because she hasn't been born yet! Now life as a kindergartener sucks. He has the mind of a 7th grader but has to go through shit like "learning" to tie his shoes.  Throughout his day he couldn't think of a way as a kindergartener to get to that antique store.

Then he regressed to nursery school. His female friends he remembered from the future were here and thought he was a gross boy. They teased him and typical little kid shit. His crush dared him to climb a tree. He can do that no sweat! Wait... Isn't nursery school the year he broke is arm?

Well he woke up next day and his arm was fine. Unfortunately he was in a crib, wearing diapers. And his mom... had to ... change his diapers. I gotta imagine that's unpleasant for a 7th grade mind to go through. Luckily though, it just so happens at this point in time Michael's parents had to go to the antique store and look for a table. With some babyish requests to get down out of his stroller, he toddled over to the clock. And as luck would have it, it just started to chime! But how could he reach it as a toddler? He pushed a chair up to the clock and turned the birds head around. He managed to turn the year setting back to 1995 before his parents caught him and pulled him from the clock. The store owner was trying to set it back to the right year but then a flash of light happened.

Did it work? Well it was back to the day of his birthday! I guess that's good and bad, it means he got the time right but he is going to have to relive all those horrible things for a 3rd time! Oh no! But wait, he got the bike and Tara didn't come in and scratch it. Where is she? Mom and dad don't seem to know who Tara is. Her room is now a guest room? Oh well, he had the best birthday party of his life? Maybe something about the flaw in that clock has to do with why Tara is gone? Michael examines the clock and notices that on the year gauge, the year 1988 is missing... The year Tara was gone. He really probably should go back in time and fix this. I mean... Maybe... Whatever, he might get to it... Perhaps...

What I Thought

I liked it! I actually thought it is one of the better books in the series so far. For once there was a character I felt pretty strongly about. Now granted I hated her, but those are strong feelings! And you were supposed to hate Tara. Also there was no twist ending that made everything stupid. Like... the clock also being a vampire, or him being a Benjamin Button kid and the clock having nothing to do with it or something.

Now I think this is an interesting example of not completely linear story telling for kids. I feel like they probably don't experience that much until they get older. Now granted it wasn't an extreme case of that, but they did do it. Michael explained about his recent life, then went back to days before, and then to days before that. I think exposing kids to flash backs like that makes them think a little more than usual. Also it sort of foreshadowed how he was going actually go back in time. If I didn't know better I might think he did it that way on purpose.

I liked how even though Michael knew what was happening when he was back in time, he was powerless to stop the terrible events from reoccurring. It wasn't some mystical force keeping him on the same track, it was just happenstance, perhaps things he forgot or couldn't figure out. But it was interesting how he was doomed to repeat the embarrassments.

Also it was interesting how the villain was sort of his little sister. I mean, usually there is some villain at work here, but the only despicable being working against Michael was Tara. The actual mystical things happening were just an accident, not the work of an evil wizard or a scientist or something. So while he was working to undo the time travel, he wasn't working against a villain. The only one he was clashing with was his little sister. And I think anyone who has a sibling probably knows about not getting along with them, even if it's not to this extent. I mean I had an older sister, but she was also pretty evil to me growing up.

So the favorite thing was the ending. Stine could have very easily turned this into some moral tale. He could have gone back in time and see how his little sister actually really loved him when she was little and was just going through a phase. Or he could have gone back and seen that he did something really awful to her when she was younger and changed it so she wouldn't have been so mean to her. But nope, Stine wasn't having any of that shit. He just erased her from assistance and shrugged and said "meh." And that is fucking awesome. I mean normally I would be for there being some sort of lesson or moral or something more to the story. But come on, the kid wished his little sister was never born and didn't go through some trite Jimmy Stewart It's a Wonderful Life BS. I approve.

Rating: 4/5 clocks

Up Next

The next book in the series is Monster Blood III. That wacky blood is at it again I guess! I think Monster Blood is the most sequeled book he wrote, at the very least in the original series. Understandable, because it was one of the more popular books.

However, Halloween is coming up soon and I want to do something special for it. The past few years I have done some of the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" series of books, but I am doing something different this year. So check back on Halloween for that, and sometime in November for Monster Blood III.