December 24, 2015

Goosebumps Most Wanted Special Edition #2: The 12 Screams of Christmas

Judging a Book by its Cover

It's Christmas time! And there is actually a Christmas themed Goosebumps book. I think this may be the first such thing and it was just released last year in the Goosebumps "Most Wanted" line. I actually checked this bad boy out of the library because I am adult who feels comfortable strolling into the children's section and prying a book out of the weak trembling hands of a child. Hah.

So anyway, in the back we have a very stereotypical haunted mansion looking building except it's been all decked out in Christmas lights. Rather festive if you ask me. Then we have a Santa hat wearing spook who got tangled up in his lights like he is Clark Griswold. Wait, maybe this is the Ghost of Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation? One year he finally wasn't so lucky after falling off the roof, could it be? Nah, he looks a little too spooky. Like the ghost of a goth guy or something. Ghost of a vampire... Can vampires have ghosts? Like the ghost of a guy who hated Christmas but his family forced him to dress up all festively and then he hung himself with Christmas lights. There, I figured it out!

Anyway, what could this book really be about? Well obviously there is going to be a ghost. The ghost of Christmas past has already been done by Dickens. I am guessing it is the ghost of a guy who died on Christmas. Perhaps his family didn't show up to visit him and he froze to death in a blizzard? Or he seems like a Christmas ghost but is actually an alien because why the fuck not. That is something RL Stine would do.

Oh well. Let's Go. Ho ho ho.

Getting Goosebumps

Prologue: 1882. Wait, prologue? Since when have Goosebumps had prologues? Maybe that is what the "special edition"on the cover means? Anyway we start long ago. Twins Abe and Ned have stolen a red cap from their pesky little sister Flora. Ned is quite a jokester. They are like the Weasley Twins or some shit. It's near Christmas and their family has just moved into a big new house. They decide to explore the premises, and decide to go straight for the haunted shake. I'm not sure why a ghost would bother haunting a shack. Surely there is better real estate to haunt. Anyway it turns out the only thing it is haunted by is Ned joking around with a spooky voice. Oh also wasps. Hundreds of angry wasps. They manage to escape them and celebrate with what they refer to as a "Ned dance." Flora decides to join in on the fun in the safest spot available. On a well. Guess what happens. She falls in. Didn't see that coming now did ya? They try to send down the rope and bucket after her but it breaks. The prologue closes on her screaming "get me out" 12 times. Oh man, it's just like the title!

Now, to the present day! Now we focus on Kate Welles. She is trying out for the new school play. She hates Courtney because of... reasons. Also she can see ghosts. This is inconvenient as she is taking a shortcut through the cemetery. Guess what happens? She sees ghosts, just like the last time. Shocking. Now if it turns out that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time in this book I'm going to be pissed. Anyway Courtney and Co. refer to her as ghost girl because of the last time she freaked out seeing ghosts. That is probably one of the reasons she hates Courtney but she certainly didn't bring it up at the time. The ghosts are freaking her out as ghosts are wont to do. Mid freakout she is greeted by her friend Jack who is confused by her screaming. Don't your friends just randomly scream in the middle of cemeteries?

Well they go to Kate's house and she screams about there being a ghost in the house. But get this, it was a line from a play they are rehearsing. Oh RL, what a misdirection you've pulled off you rascal! They are doing a Christmas play with ghosts, like Charles Dickens... kinda. Mid rehearsal she screams because she sees a REAL GHOST that turns out to be Courtney in makeup. Naturally Kate is going up for the same part as Courtney.

So the leader of this school play is Mr. Piccolo who it is pointed out looks nothing like a piccolo. Which makes sense, because I can think of 0 human beings who at all resemble one. He begins by telling a ghost story. You see Cliff wanted nothing more than to be in a school play. He was ill but persevered to star in it. But afterwards no one could find him. After investigating it turns out he did the play AFTER HE DIED. OOOOOOO. And also he is in the audience there! Wait no, that's just Paco the light and sound guy. But it sure did get Kate embarrassed to get freaked out by it. Well Mr. P gives Kate one little task and she manages to fuck it up. He wants her to get the clipboard from his office and she gets locked inside. Eventually Jack shows up surprised to see her there. Courtney told everyone Kate went home. What a cunt. In an epic bout she battles with Courtney and they both fall down the trap door miraculously not dying. Impressive. Underneath the auditorium she gets lost and finds Paco who is actually a ghost! And there are other ghosts! And they want her to... sing. For reasons. When she tries she can't but that doesn't matter because guess what motherfuckers that was all a dream when she got knocked unconscious from the fall. Somehow, however, in this 0 tolerance world of ours neither girl was expelled. They were punished merely by having shitty roles in the play. Some disciplinarian you are Mr. P.

Part 2! Man this thing is broken up into multiple parts? CRAZY! Anyway this one is called 12 Screams. Apparently there will be screaming. 12 times. Mr. P wants them all to rehearse in an old abandoned house the town over. Because what is unreasonable about an adult man wanting to take a bunch of youths to a dark dank abandoned house away from their parents and the seeing eyes of society? I am going to go out on a limb and say this was the house from the prologue. The whole place is in a nice state of disrepair. Rotting stairs. Lack of heat. Vermin. Mold. A nice safe wholesome place for kids. Exploring the estate, Kate almost falls into a well. What is with wells enticing children to fall in them? Afterwards Mr. P rounds up all the kids and confirms that this is indeed the house from the prologue. And it turns out that since Flora's death they have been haunting the premises. Then there is a bit of a discussion about who does and does not believe in ghosts. Then a real treat, we are treated to the song from the play. In a parody of the 12 Days of Christmas they sing.

"On the first day of Christmas my true love screamed I see, a buzzard in a bare tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love screamed I see, two haunted houses and a buzzard in a bare tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love screamed I see, three ghostly spirits, two haunted houses, and a buzzard in a bare tree."

Beautiful. It is interrupted by the ghosts of the twins Abe and Ned. Maybe they just like spooky Christmas carols? If anyone would, it'd be ghosts I think! They finally spoke to Kate saying cryptically, "we'll be back, Flora."

That night while trying to sleep Kate heard someone whispering, "help me." Doing the only sensible thing to do in a dark dank haunted house she goes outside to see what is going on. It comes from the well and in it she can see a floating red cap. Suddenly he is startled by the reappearance of the ghost of the twins. They want her to be their little sister Flora and come home for Christmas. They seem fine with the prospect of murdering her so she can live with them forever and celebrate Christmas. They don't seem swayed by the pleas that she is not Flora. An irrelevant fact really. Luckily Mr. P comes out to see what in the hell she is doing. She wisely claims she was just getting air, as no one will believe her ghost tales.

The next day they go back to rehearsing. Mr. P demands a "crisper" performance. I don't know what "crisp" singing is. Kate has another freakout when the twin ghosts appear but naturally no one believes her. And in the world's most graceful stunt she runs from the room and right into a bookshelf knocking her unconscious. She should really be taken to the hospital at this point. Two bouts of severe head trauma in a couple days? She is probably concussed. The fact that Mr. P doesn't get her medical attention is almost as negligent as taking a bunch of kids out to a dangerous broken down old house.

Now Kate meets Ma and Pa who are glad to see their Flora finally home. They beckon her to sing Christmas carols with them, so she sings a ghastly one from the play. They don't seem to take kindly to it. She actually apologizes for offending the ghosts who want to kill her and have her live eternally as their undead sister. She apologizes repeated. Sigh. Then they pull out the worm infested corpse of Father Christmas. Lovely. Next they serve dinner. The skeleton of a turkey and a rotting dead mouse, yum yum! Then it was time for presents. They were so outraged Kate/Flora didn't get them anything that they threw her out the fucking window. Man, and I thought my family was dysfunctional around the holidays. Thankfully for Kate there was a slanting roof below the window and she was able to catch herself. But Ghosts are all floaty and incorporeal and shit so they fly out after her to continue the harassment. That is when she reasons with them. She claims she can bring Flora up from the well. Pleas are made for 2 days of preparations but the ghosts demand she do it now. Luckily she has a genius plan. In Mr. P's play based on these ghosts the girl is saved by them screaming "come up," 12 times.

Does it work? You're god damn right it works. Except Flora needs help coming up the last bit of the way. Why would a ghost need help climbing up a well? I don't rightly know, but she does ok? Kate tries with all her might but the little ghost girl is pulling her down into the well. How much could the ghost of a 6 year old girl really weigh anyway? Courtney the bitch comes to ol' Ghost Girl Kate at just the right time. Though she mocks Kate for believing in ghosts she helps her dangle down the well and pull up Flora. In thanks, the little ghosts lets Courtney see her, freaking her right the heck out. Now Courtney is the new Ghost Girl! They rehearse the play, and everything is right in the world for Kate. Except the Flora shows up and would rather live with her than her family. The end.

What I Thought

So first of all let me say that I think the idea of a Christmas Goosebumps is pretty fun. It doesn't seem obvious at first to make a spooky Christmas story but in the end I think it can work. I am honestly surprised it took him this long to do it (as far as I know this is his first one anyway.) It was also sort of nice that it didn't just use established Christmas characters. You could have just had an evil version of Santa. Or a mean Christmas elf. Or something.

Of course, as with any Goosebumps there are flaws. Firstly, why are the ghosts of the family haunting the house the same age they were when Flora died. Did they die immediately after? Did they not grow up and have lives of their own? I mean I could see the parents never getting over it... but the young twins? Why are they child ghosts? Didn't they get older, move out, get married? Did they die of grief or something? I don't get it. I mean, he could have at least said they all froze in a blizzard that year or something.

But like usual, it's hard to comment a lot on stuff you would usually comment on about books. The characters? They were exactly like every other Goosebumps character. Kate is generic preteen. Instead of playing Super Nintendo and stuff she goes onto Facebook because it is 20 years since the books of my youth. It still kind of feels like an old man writing about what he hears kids are into instead of knowing what kids are actually like. I mean for one thing you have to be 13 to be on Facebook. Kate is violating their terms of service!

When I started the book I skipped passed the page that mentioned it had a prologue. I was impressed that he broke from the norm and had a book based in the past. When it ended quickly and went to current times I was actually moderately disappointed. I mean, when it comes right down to it all these books are just too similar. Even though he does his best to vary monsters and stuff, you still just have generic stock kids that are 12 years old doing the same kind of stuff over hundreds of books. I feel like maybe it wouldn't be bad if he mixed it up a little bit.

As for the Christmasness of it? The song parodies in the play amused me, maybe for the wrong reasons. The practicing of the play and all that actually reminded me lot of the Phantom of the Auditorium. Including nonsense with the trap door. In fact I think the whole play part was maybe a little too much like that book. When it got to the abandoned house it got more interesting (if not questionable.)

It still comes down to the fact that after so many of these books for decades, he is still pulling off the same tricks. They just stop working after so long. You see the dream sequences coming. You know when it is a false scare. You know the twist at the end is coming. It can't help but not be fresh when he doesn't mix it up.

Still, even though it follows the formula pretty closely, it manages to be some festive fun.

Rating: 3/5 Festive Undead Beings

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good scare.

October 30, 2015

#48 Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns

Judging a Book by its Cover

Happy Halloween! This cover is extra Halloweenie with its 6 Jack-O'-Lantern heads. Even a little bulldog has one! As a whole it is like halfway between really cute and slightly eerie. The mysterious light behind them makes it seem more supernatural than festive but those faces though are almost all jolly rather than creepy. Honestly though, that's fine. Halloween is a fun holiday and I'm fine with the cover being more fun than scary. It has just enough spooky to make it pass. Their dark greyish attire almost makes it look like some sort of cult situation. Maybe I'm just making that connection myself. Anyway, I like the color scheme. Orange and green might have been overkill on the Halloween theme so I think the yellow works.

Now we have a couple blotches of promos on the front. Join the Goosebumps fan club! I always wanted to, but never got to. I am not sure what you even got. Probably nothing worthwhile but it felt like a cool exclusive thing I was missing out on. Also, there are Goosebumps trading cards inside! Sounds kind of cool, but they were just little flimsy cardboard things with bumpy perforated edges. I still have a few of them lingering around that I must have used for bookmarks or some such, but they really were not collectors items. I can't see anyone putting them in protected sleeves and displaying them. All they really were, were tiny images of book covers... who cares? Maybe if they were unique art it would have been interesting. Anyway, the front tagline is "Put one head in front of the other..." Ok, I get it, lets just take a cliche phrase and add something related to pumpkin heads to it. How about "A head in the hand is worth two in the bush?" Or maybe "There are plenty of pumpkins in the sea?" Oh oh oh, I got it! "Absolute pumpkin corrupts absolutely" The back sinks even deeper in terms of genericness with "pumpkin power!" I say "we're here, we're pumpkins, get used to it!"

So, can I guess the plot from the cover? Well I assume there will be people dressed with pumpkin heads who turn out to REALLY be pumpkin heads. They uhh... come out on Halloween to gather up children to bring home to their pumpkin patch? Or maybe they have magic pumpkins that turn kids to pumpkin heads like them... We'll see I guess!

Getting Goosebumps

This book stars Drew who is a female like Barrymore not a dude like Carey. She is the tiniest girl in school so people call her Elf. She is totally into Halloween but there is just one problem, her classmates Tabitha and Lee keep ruining it! Also, Lee is black. That is not particularly relevant to anything except I don't think I've noticed any black characters in Goosebumps before. Yay diversity! Also there are twins named Shane and Shana who also hate Tabitha and Lee's Halloween ruining ways.

Lets begin with a flashback shall we? Tabitha and Lee were throwing a Halloween party. Drew showed up with her friend Walker. Tabitha is dressed like a princess because she is a prissy little bitch. Drew is a Klingon because she believes in the honor of battle or whatever. She gets mistaken for a mouse so either it is a terrible costume or Tabitha is an even bigger bitch than I thought. Anyway the party is as bumpin' as a junior high party can get until two thugs break in from the basement! Mom and dad are gone, the phone line is dead, this is real trouble! The intruders force the kids down on the floor and make them do push-ups for an eternity. Strange burglars. Suddenly Drew notices that Lee and Tabitha aren't down on the floor with em. Bastards pulled a prank with Todd and Joe high schoolers from the neighborhood. Naturally the kids don't take kindly to this prank.

Shall we jump forward? Next Halloween Drew and crew want to get even. They plot to throw a revenge party to get even! What diabolical plans do they have? Covering Tabitha and Lee in pigs blood? Pushing them into an open grave? Shackling them in the basement? No, even worse! Vaguely scary props to spook them OH NO! You see they had some interesting ideas, but they were deemed unfeasible. For example the trap door in the living room wouldn't be appreciated by the parents, also might break their legs. So instead it was fake puddles of blood and green slime. Also a recording of a spooky voice. Yeah, that is way scarier than home intruders. Anyway, my doubts aside, they worked pretty hard on things. In fact they put so much effort into it that Drew didn't even come up with a costume so she had to go as the Klingon mouse again. But all the planning will be worth it once those jerks show up an- Wait is that the telephone? Oh crap, Tabitha and Lee have other plans and can't come. Even worse, the green slime burned a whole in the couch cushion! Curses!

Now it's the present. Well actually it is the mid 90s, but it is the present as far as the book is concerned. Time to get even for real. Tabitha is a princess again only this time she is a "space princess." Not Leia though, who is the only space princess that comes to mind. Lee showed up in his little brother's Superman costume. Walker and Drew were bed sheet ghosts. The plan is to catch up with Shane and Shana later. They go to the nice neighborhood to get the best candy they can. One couple loves their shitty costumes so much they get invited inside. Entering a stranger's house sounds just fine by me! It is like a billion degrees hot inside and there are lots of crying kids. But the couple wants them to stay so they can admire their costumes FOREVER. What a sticky situation. How will they get out of this one? By this whole paragraph being a fucking dream GOD DAMMIT STINE. Obviously he was short a chapter so he had to whip up a dream sequence.

Ok the real present this time, unless it is a double dream which would be a new low in Goosebumps. They are back to planning, this year they decide no parties so Lee and Tabby can't cancel. Shane and Shana have plan that they don't fill me the reader in on, but apparently is a doozy. Only problem, it involves trick or treating and Drew's mom doesn't want to let her go because 4 fat adults have gone missing. Yes, they specified fat. So I am assuming whatever the monster is, is going to be a people eater. Or a serial killer that hates fat people, but that doesn't seem Goosebumps style. Well mom said she can't trick or treat, how is she going to get out of this situation? By dad saying it's ok. Now remember kids, moms defer to dads when it comes to the safety of their children LIKE IT SHOULD BE (direct hate-mail to Bob Bobbington 555 5th Street, Frankenstein, MO 55555)

Anywho, the plan is to meet Tabby and Lee that night to trick or treat. Dad throws a hitch in the plans by demanding to take a picture of Drew then having multiple technical difficulties. Walker alters the plan by showing up to get her, which saves her but makes them in danger of missing out on Tabby and Lee. When they get to the spot to wait, they hear some animal growling and are attacked by... the douche bag high schoolers from the party a few years ago! Haven't they graduated yet? Anyway, they ditch the younger kids to go scare some more. Drew and Co. decide to start trick or treating without Shane and Shana who have yet to show up. Things are going pretty well for awhile. Mostly candy, only one house gave out apples. Suddenly RKO OUT OF NOWHERE! Ehh, I mean PUMPKIN HEADS OUT OF NOWHERE! Tabitha the Ballerina and Lee the Bee (hey that rhymes) are convinced it's Shane and Shana but the costume is pretty convincing. I mean... there is like, fire coming from the eyes. That seems like a pretty cool special effect for some tweens to pull off...

The pumpkins demand in strange voices to start trick or treating in a new neighborhood. They seem very insistent passing many good houses to get there. They lead the group through the woods. Tabby and Lee seem upset that their costumes are getting ruined but apparently aren't angry enough to not follow. Thankfully they were all rewarded with an awesome neighborhood to get treats. Everyone has their lights on and gives out good stuff. Their bags fill quickly and the gang is all tired but the pumpkin heads wont let them. Keep trick or treating! Trick or treat forever! They demand. Things are started to get genuinely weird. In fact, Drew herself is now convinced that this isn't Shane and Shana! Lee and Tabby are unconvinced until the creatures remove their own pumpkin heads and there is nothing beneath. No human heads or any other kind of head for that matter. They try to escape but the pumpkin heads are too quick! They are trapped. There is only one thing left to do... keep trick or treating. They plead with the owners of the next house to help them but of course they think it's just a Halloween prank. More houses, more houses! The kids complain their treat bags are full, well the pumpkin heads have a solution. Start eating! Quickly they get sick gorging themselves on sweets but the pumpkin heads don't give a crap. Time to start trick or treating again! You see this is a special neighborhood, they'll never stop giving out candy.

How can this possibly get any worse? I suppose if there were more pumpkin heads, that would be worse. Guess what happens? The next house they go to has another pumpkin head! More and more houses, more and more pumpkin heads. Finally, the kids have had enough. They flat out refuse to carry on. The pumpkin heads responded by shrieking and shooting flames out their eyes. Then their fellow pumpkin heads started coming out from their houses. They circled the youths, chanting, "trick or treat, trick or treat!" 4 extra pumpkin heads appeared in their hands. Heads for the children. Lee and Tabby try to escape but get their heads pumpkin'd for their troubles. Walker and Drew plead for help, and then burst out laughing. Wait, laughing? Two of the pumpkin heads morphed into Shane and Shana. They finally managed to scare Lee and Tabitha and all it took was Shane and Shana being shape shifting aliens... Apparently the concept of using their shape shifting abilities to scare their classmates took several years to come to fruition. You'd think they could whip up something spooky in no time with those powers. Anyway, yadda yadda yadda, they are aliens, yadda yadda yadda they don't eat candy, yadda yadda yadda wait, what do they eat? yadda yadda yadda fat people yadda yadda yadda no need to worry you're still kids, don't worry for now.

The end.

What I Thought

This festive little Goosebumps entry was a bit unique for the series. How so? Well the first 3rd of the book was flash backs to previous years. This little turn on things actually worked out pretty well. We quickly see what jerks Tabitha and Lee are. We feel the disappointment at the failed plans to get revenge. First person narrative works well for this kind of thing. Much better for this part than for the rest of the book actually.

Halloween is an obvious prime subject for Goosebumps. It's a wonder he didn't overdo it and have more books based around it. Of course I suppose any Goosebumps book is suitable for Halloween so you don't necessarily have to focus around the actual holiday all the time. But it works. RL Stine actually kinda sounds like a kid in this book, rather than an adult writing about kids. The plans for revenge they come up with all sound kind of childish and half baked. Kids are heading out with half-assed costumed because they just want candy (or revenge) just like they really would. They praise the houses with candy bars, they curse the houses with apples. It feels pretty convincing.

There is however one huge problem I have with this book. It's the first person narrative. Drew is going on about how scared she is, how she doesn't think it is really Shane and Shana. This is a probably because she is not saying it to the other kids, she is thinking it and sharing it with the reader. It means one of two things. She could actually be scared and convinced of these things, but that doesn't make sense because at the end she seems to find their prank hilarious immediately and talk about having planned this with the alien twins ahead of time. The other possibility is that she is just flat out lying to the reader in her narration and that is just shitty. This could be solved a few ways. Firstly like I said, have her say these things to the kids. I can believe she would lie to them to be convincing. But when she tells us this is what she is thinking it just ruins everything. Secondly, she could actually not know. Sure it could still wind up being Shane and Shana but if Drew didn't know they were aliens this would also make sense.

Those flaws are a shame because otherwise it is a pretty good book. It takes something kids love like Halloween and candy, and makes it forced, makes it excessive. It is one of those too much of a good thing punishments. Like The Simpons episode where Homer goes to hell and is forced to eat endless donuts. Of course Homer ends of enjoying it... Anyway, it takes something kids love and turns it into something they hate. They can't go on trick or treating, it's hurting them. They can't keep eating candy, it's making them sick. It takes something as jolly and festive as a jack-o'-lantern and makes it creepy.

So do the flaws ruin the book? I don't know. I am sure 9 year olds wouldn't give a crap. They'd just get to the twist and be like "oh man, didn't see that coming!" and move on. But when you are a crotchety old man these things bugs you more. Yes I am the kind of guy who looks for consistency out of his Goosebumps, DEAL WITH IT!

Basically, in summation this is festive fun. Unlike horror that takes the scary side of Halloween and and amps it up or focuses on it, it takes the fun side like candy and makes them the horror. But, it is marred a bit by Stine forcing in a twist at the end that just doesn't fit. He should have thought about how Drew was in on the joke when he was writing. There are things he could have done to tread the line between convincing performance on her part and her being in on the prank.  Still though. I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkin heads

Up Next

Well I hope this contributed to a Happy Halloween. I did several books in October so I might slow down for a bit. I have plenty of books I can go to next though. There are still have several from my original childhood stash left to get to. I have some newer ones I can get to too, both Goosebumps 2000 and Goosebumps HorrorLand. I even have a book that seems to be a short biography on RL Stine that could be interesting. I think I'm leaning towards Goosebumps 2000 because I don't think I've read any of that particular series yet. Anyway, have a good Holiday!

October 24, 2015

Goosebumps the Movie

Goosebumps started in 1992. Since then it has seen countless incarnations from the original book series to its many newer series. But not just books, there have been board games, computer games, tv shows, fast food toy tie ins, calendars, stickers, comics and more. Yet even as well as all these things have sold it has never had a movie... until now! Really it is a wonder that it took so long to happen. I can't help but feel like the heyday of Goosebumps was in my youth but here it is, going strong all these years later.

So naturally, I saw the movie. I have started sharing my Goosebumps books with my 9 year old niece and she really wanted to see the movie and I was curious. I had seen some of the old episodes on tv but this has years of CGI advancement and a big movie budget. Plus it was in 3D... which honestly isn't a huge draw for me, but my niece really loves it.

Well I'm not going to go quite as into depth as I do for my books and I'm not going to try and give everything away but there may be some minor spoilers. Usually I don't put a spoiler warning because the books are 20 years old, but this just came out so maybe it'll bug people.

Anyway, the basic premise is this, a teenage boy whose name I have already forgotten and his mom have just moved to a new town. Naturally they have a creepy neighbor, played by Jack Black who seems pretty upset by the boy consorting with his daughter and coming near his property. Well, and this shouldn't be spoilers if you have seen the trailers and such, the neighbor turns out to be none other than RL Stine. Also, the books he wrote can unleash the monsters he wrote about into the real world. Why if one escaped, it'd be madness! Ultra-unfortunately they ALL escape, and they must try to save their city from utter destruction.

So rather than being based an any specific Goosebumps book, it has the monsters from all of them. I think this was a wise choice. Goosebumps are pretty short books and I don't think they are deep enough to stretch out into an hour and a half of a movie. The only except I can think of, is if you did one on Horror Land and based it on it loosely. If you read this blog you'll know I have long praised the possibilities present in a creepy haunted amusement park.

Anyway, I digress. This big CGI Jack Black Movie, does it really feel like a Goosebumps movie? Yeah, kinda. It has plenty of halmarks of the series you'd expect. There are fake scares, people being startled by a hand grabbing them from behind. The main character is generic and relate-able. There is a younger friend named Champ who is more of your typical scared awkward kid. Honestly I thought he was probably the funniest part. Also there are a couple trademark twists that I wont get into.

But is it good? Yeah, pretty good! It mixes humor and "horror" (kid horror anyway) pretty well. For example, the first monster we see is the large and genuinely pretty scary Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. A big angry monster anyone would be afraid of. But then, we are treated to the Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes. A much sillier "monster." That takes the seriousness away. It continues on like that with some monsters being generally scary and some being more silly. A good mix. Plus there are fun little jabs that kids may not appreciate. There are some Stephen King jokes. RL Stine the character is pretty defensive of his place in the pantheon of writers. And Jack Black plays a pretty good weirdo. The problem of course is, that I see him as "Jack Black as RL Stine" and not as RL Stine. I can't help but see him as also the guy who is Nacho Libre and Shallow Hal, and not just as the character he is currently playing.

One difference I noticed that may be minor is that the kid characters were high school Aged, probably like 15-16 rather than jr. high aged 11-14. It's small but I think it makes a difference. It is probably wise though, as the slightly older actors are probably better at acting and also I think a wider range of audiences can appreciate a high school setting. It seems more universal and memorable than middle school.

Also, much like Goosebumps there are plenty of logic problems you are probably best ignoring. For example, if RL Stine knows his books can bring monsters to life why not destroy the books? He knows they are a probably, he and his daughter apparently have to move a lot to outrun talk of the problems they have caused. Also, spoiler, the books have this power because of a special typewriter he uses. So... why keep using this typewriter? Why not use a regular old type writer so you don't accidentally unleash horrors on the world? Better yet, use a computer! They are great! You can use different fonts, you can save, copy, paste. Plus there is always porn to look at while you have writers block. The typewriter itself is kind of a problem. Apparently it can't bring just anything to life. It has to be like a "real" Goosebumps book with twist and turns and yadda yadda. How does the typewriter judge? Has he ever written books that the typewriter wouldn't bring to life because they sucked too much? But like the book, these questions are best unasked.

Anyway, really, it's a pretty fast paced movie. It gets into the action pretty quick, but has a bit of heart behind it. There is a bit of a romantic angle that usually isn't present in the books because they skew younger. It fits in with the movie as it's based in high school. It's fun to see so many of the Goosebumps monsters I remember as a kid all rampaging around, but a few tend to be too generic. For example there are Graveyard Ghouls which are just zombies which are everywhere these days. But the giant mantis is a nice touch! The screen his filled with quirky characters like his friend champ, and the main character's aunt who has a thing for Mr. Stine. It's thrilling, it's funny, the acting is decent. It's just enough like Goosebumps to be familiar, but different enough to be a good movie that should appeal to most people.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Jack Blacks

October 20, 2015

Give Yourself Goosebumps #16 Secret Agent Grandma

Judging a Book by its Cover

First impressions? This cover is not so...uh... good. The quality just seems poor compared to the illustrations from the main series. I wondered why this was and then noticed that the signature for the book is for "Nagata" where as those in the main series of Goosebumps are all done by a "T. Jacobus." I guess this Nagata just isn't as good? I mean, I like the concept of a gross alien monster thing popping out of a Grandma suit but it just looks bad. I suppose it could look crumby because it's a disguise so the human part looks bad but like... the feet look off. It just doesn't look right. Though really it's not like the alien looks much better. The mouth is kinda coming out at an angle but it looks like the head is sort of looking the other way? And the tongue is just sort of sticking out to the side like Miley Cyrus or something? It seems like it should be going out, not to the side. I'm no artist, I feel like a bit of a dick for criticizing it but it really doesn't seem to be up to Goosebumps standards. Basically I give it a B+ for concept and a D for execution.

There is no front tagline for these books. It just lets us know that there are over 20 scary endings and that you should watch the Goosebumps TV Show. On the back it says "Will the real grandma please stay alive!" I assume it is based on "Will the real ______ please stand up" which may be best recognized by people in my generation as a line from a Eminem song but I am pretty sure was originated on an old game show from the 50s called To Tell the Truth. I feel like A) it's not a strong enough line to go on and 2) It deviates too much from its source (assuming that is the source.) If it would have made sense to say "will the real grandma please stand up?" I think it would work, but the changes hurt it.

Anyway, I'm doing this one special for October, the spookiest month. This is a "Give Yourself Goosebumps" book, so unlike the regular series this one gives you options every so often that you can have multiple stories from 1 book. I'm not going to go through all 20ish possible endings, that would take forever. I'm just going to read it a couple times taking different options and see where that takes me. Hopefully it's interesting!

Getting Goosebumps

Attempt 1

My parents are leaving for the weekend and have instructed me to take a cab to the train station to meet my quirky 75 year old grandmother. When I get there a call for your comes over the loudspeaker for me. There is a call for me but it keeps breaking up so it's hard to tell. I did make out the words "home immediately" and "danger grandmother." Is granny in danger? Do I go home? Do I try and find her?

GRANNY! I'M COMING! Naturally I'm going to try and find her. A train comes into the station and I"m on the look out for her distinctive yellow pants and purple shirt like on the shitty cover. Suddenly my friends Chuck and Ginny show up. They are off to a hockey games, and I gotta waste my time trying to find my grandmother, oh man. Just then I hear a sound that makes me blood run cold. The sound of my dearest grandmama calling me "Cookie." But wait, what's this? A message scrawled on the train window. It says "Empleh empleh" which is helpme helpme spelled backwards! Then there is a woman who looks just like Grandma inside being accosted by two men in trench coats. Do I try and rescue the possible grandma on the train or do I go with the one who greeted me?

Well I'm pretty sure I know my grandma! And she is the one who greeted me and called me Cookie. We get into the cab and while I'm talking about myself she demands to know about the rose garden. It turns out that she used to live there and planted the eggs herself. Wait, did she say eggs? She must have meant seeds, how silly. She planted them by the light of shooting stars... which seems slightly odd. She seems really intent on seeing them though. We get to the house and the cabbie tries getting the bags out but he is having trouble lifting them. Odd, an old lady carried them just fine. I wonder what is in them? Should I check?

Nah, I'm no snoop! Grandma still seems excited by the flowers. You know, it seems strange, this year they are all over and in some funny colors. Oh hey, some of my other friends are here. Grandma seems interested in seeing them but first she has to freshen up. So I go inside and have some brownies. There is a newspaper article about a meteor shower tonight. Turns out one landed in my yard 15 years ago! Weird. We decide to go look and see if we can find any meteor fragments but grandma is out there. She isn't in her yellow and purple number either, she is in a silver jumpsuit. Seems odd... should I spy on her?

That seems unnecessary I'll just introduce her to my friends. The flowers seem really strange here. There is a green rose and I think it has eyes! And now tendrils are wrapping around me! It spits goo in my eyes. Now I don't have feet, I have roots! Wait what, seriously? That seems rather quick. Oh well. Apparently I am becoming a plant. Meanwhile granny is reciting poetry. What is she saying? "Roses are red, violets are blue, what you didn't know is the rose would be you!" Oh bother. Oh well, Guess I'm a plant now. That's what I get for trusting my grandmother!

Attempt 2

Blah blah parents gone blah blah train station blah blah phone call. This time however, instead of going to find my grandmother I am just gonna get the hell out of there! I run away and fall into a gross mess a garbage truck left behind. Crap.

Attempt 3

Yadda yadda pick up grandma yadda yadda train station blah blah ok I going to find my grandma this time. My real not turn me into a flower grandma. So I see the "empleh" message and see "other grandma" being attacked by men on a train. This time I'm going to jump on the train to save my REAL grandma dammit! I could look for help, but there is no time GRANNY IS IN TROUBLE! But before I can get to the rescue a train employee demands to see my ticket. I could explain why I'm hitching a ride but adults just don't understand these things.

Well then, I guess it is time to stall. Thankfully my friends Chuck and Ginny show up and bail me out. They claim I am with them and their mom will pay for my ticket when we get to the next station. Then I fill my friends in on my grandma. We go into a car that has a no entry sign. My grandma is tied up in there? But she seems unresponsive! Thankfully she is breathing though. There is a weird orange force-field around here. When Chuck checks it out he gets through back. Heh heh, "Chuck checks", that sounds funny. Anyway we all hide as the door slides open. It's the thugs, but they aren't thugs, they're a rock LOBSTER, Dun dun, dun dun, da da dada daaaaaaa ROCK LOBSTER. Ahem, I mean they are weird lizard monster people. We could try overpowering them...

I think we have a better chance if we wait for them to leave and then try to rescue grandma. The door opens again and in attempts to get a better view I knock over a mirror. Oops! Thankfully they seem to have left so no one heard. In a brilliant plan, we try to use the mirror to disable the force-field. But the lizard-man thugs are back! We'd better hurry. The mirror deflects the force-field beam into the thugs, disabling them! We need to escape with grandma! Escaping, we peep into the window of the next car and it is filled with thugs in over coats! And they have those creepy eyes! They know we are here! We could leap from the train but that seems dangerous...

Lets try waking up Grandma. Not only does she wake up but she informs us she is a secret agent tracking the "Mithra-Dithra" aliens. One must have impersonated her! And she has an assignment for us if we dare. Do we? You're god damned right we do! She is going to go after the impostor and she needs us to track the aliens on the train. What a responsible grandma, sending her grandchild after dangerous aliens. Only, turns out they aren't so dangerous. We show up in costume but all the aliens are doing is having a meeting to discuss galactic parking regulations and taxes. Oh well, at least I didn't turn into a plant.

What I Thought

It's hard to judge these books. They are inherently kind of unsatisfying. They boast over 20 endings, but 90% of them are lame. Still, Goosebumps lends itself fairly well to this style. They usually have cliffhangers every chapter so having one with every time you have to make a choice doesn't feel unusual. Also it feels like it gives him a chance to be really weird without having to worry about how good the plot is. You don't really need much of a plot, just twists and turns and boy does Stine like twists.

The other two books I've read from the Give Yourself Goosebumps line were Carnival of Horrors and Tick Tock your Dead. A horrifying amusement park, and time travel open up so many possibilities. Picking up your grandma on the other hand seems more limited. Sure it was taken in weird directions but it felt more like a stretch. It doesn't feel like it had the natural plethora of possibilities that come from a the better premises of those earlier books. That being said, the concept of your Grandma being anything other than a boring nice old lady is intriguing. Alien, secret agent, who knew Grandma got around so much!

Naturally, the longer the plot goes on the more satisfying the book feels. Having an abrupt end like in attempt 2 is nothing but disappointment. Of course as a kid I am sure I read until I got the best ending or maybe even read every single ending. As an adult I am sort of tempted to just read through once and let it be. I suppose reading it a couple times and leaving it at that is a nice compromise.

Basically, I'd just rather read 1 book with a decent plot rather than a book with 20 weak plots. It does give a chance for lots of twists, but it's ultimately unsatisfying. Still, as a diversion from the main series it's alright. I just don't think when people my age look fondly back at Goosebumps "Secret Agent Grandma" is one that is going to stand out in most people's mind.

Rating: 2 out of 5 grandmas

Up Next

There are 2 more things I want to cover in October, the spookiest month of the year. Firstly, I have seen the Goosebumps Movie starring Jack Black and while I won't do a total in depth coverage of it like I do for the books, I would like to do an entry talking about it. Also, I want to read a Goosebumps book especially for Halloween. Will I be motivated enough to do it? Maybe! Happy October everyone!

October 8, 2015

#31 Night of the Living Dummy 2

Judging a Book by its Cover

Slappy is back and this time it's personal! Or maybe it's not very personal, who knows yet? If you want to know about his past adventures check out my entry for the first Night of the Living Dummy HERE. Now he appears to be in a bedroom that is very very... pink. Very pink. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it is a girl's room because society has decided that pink is for ladies. The illustration likes to mess with the perspective making stuff kind of curve in like a fish eye lens or something. I guess it makes it sort of weird and slightly unsettling in a very simple way?

Unlike the first Living Dummy cover Slappy isn't up close (and personal! ... wait.) This good because it allows for details like the stuffed animals. Their worried, concerned faces are really what make this cover. Like even inanimate objects know ventriloquist dummies are creepy. The contrast with the cutesy girly room is excellent.

The front tagline is "He's still walking, he's still stalking." Which... doesn't seem like it really fits... or is funny.... or clever... or anything. I guess it rhymes, does that count for anything? No. No it does not. The back is "You can't teach an old dummy new tricks!" Which is slightly funnier. Based off an actual saying. I am not really sure what sort of new tricks you would want to try and teach a murderous dummy though. Is he even murderous? I don't remember his motivations, I should really go back and read my old entry. Oh well, on to the book!

Getting Goosebumps

It's family sharing night for the Kramers and naturally no one is enthused about it but the parents. Big sister Sara is the talented one that goes to an arts school. Little brother Jed is the annoying joker who considers burping really loud "family sharing." And Amy is our main character and first person narrator who gets frustrated at her brothers antics and feels a little jealous of her sister's talents. So basically your average middle child. For this particular sharing night, Jed shares that he learned how to whistle through his fingers (amazing!) Amy is the ventriloquist of the family. She tries to do a routine with Dennis the Dummy but his head falls off and she complains to her dad that she needs a new one. I wonder what dummy she will end up getting eeeehhhhhh? Finally Sara shows off one of her new paintings. Unfortunately it seems to have been ruined by a big smiley face painted on it, whoever could have done such a thing? Of course it was Jed the asshole little brother. Sara doesn't take too kindly to his shenanigans. Neither do mom and dad, as they proscribe the punishment of no going to the movies and no video games for an entire week! Egads, a fate worse than death! He doesn't learn his lesson though and later that night Amy is frightened by the disembodied head of Dennis the Dummy placed into the moonlight apparently because Amy "didn't have Jed's back." I am not sure how one should have the back of a little brother being an asshole, but oh well. This is just the beginning of getting spooked by dummies!

The next day Margo the Beatles loving "mini person" (she is apparently tiny) best friend of Amy comes over. Her dad owns a restaurant where you can throw people parties. She says her dad wants Amy to do her ventriloquist act for little kids' parties. And what a coincidence dad came home with a new dummy for Amy his name is Slappy! And it's strange the guy who sold it gave it away so cheaply like he just wanted to get rid of it... When Amy puts her hand inside she smooshes something inside the head. HIS BRAIN!?!??! No, a gross old rotten sandwich. Who puts a sandwich in a dummy? A dummy would, that's who. Deciding to further inspect for grossness Amy notices a paper with strange foreign words on them. She does what any person does while alone and finding a paper with strange foreign words would do, she reads them aloud! Surely that is an irrelevant small detail that in no way means she has summoned to life this evil doll via some strange curse... Immediately the dummy moves! Trying to convince her dad of this, the Slappy bitchslaps dear papa. That should convince him! Sadly it doesn't, and she apologizes. Oh well, at least she is ready to start doing kids parties!

First things first though, it's another wonderful family sharing night! They eat dinner which Jed does disgustingly. Then when Amy clears the table she sees her old dummy Dennis is now moving too! He's sneaking around the house! But when the head comes off she sees it's just Jed. Her family thinks it's hilarious, but being given her experiences with Slappy she's not so amused herself. Anyway, sharing time! Mom told a story about how a fat lady came to her store and insisted on trying on only small sizes. Hilarious. Jed asserted that his stunt with Dennis the Dummy was his entry. Then it was Amy's time to shine. It started off with a stale old joke. Then to a knock knock joke, which then turned into calling her mom a fatso and her dad a baldy. Also, they are all ugly. Now this would have absolutely killed at the Comedy Central Friar's Club Roast of Dave Coulier, but didn't go over well with the family. Trying to blame it on the dummy not the ventriloquist didn't help. What a terrible day. But there is always tomorrow, that'll be better! Well she dropped her lunch tray in the cafeteria. She got C's on her report card when her sister got straight A's. Even Jed's report card said he was a great student! His teacher is probably an asshole too.

The next morning Amy has to do her overdue homework but her little brother keeps bugging her to play Battle Chess. Which seems like an odd title to reference in a book. No Mario or Tetris? Battle Chess? I feel like RL Stine must have had a kid with that game or something, it's not the sort of title one just pulls out of thin air...
Anyway, homework. She needs markers but hers are all used up. Surely her older sister the artist has some! She borrows em and finishes her homework. As her sister comes home the family discovers that someone has again defaced Sara's things. Only this time it's not just a painting, all of her paints have been dumped out on the floor! Jed asserts that he didn't do it, that he saw Amy go in her room. Even though he has prier convictions on the same count, they seem to believe him. Amy tries to pull out the "dummy did it" defense, but that wont hold up in court. Not even with the evidence of paint at the scene of the dummy. Too bad. Now instead of family sharing night, they have what are we gonna do about the crazy little girl who thinks her dummy is alive night. She sticks to her guns and says she didn't do it. The word psychiatrist gets thrown about. Bad times to be a kid.

Anyway, despite all this "living dummy" nonsense the show has gotta go on. She's gotta preform for some youngsters and surely all will be well. Introducing the birthday girl to Slappy they shook hands... but Slappy wouldn't let go, and the 3 year old girl didn't take too kindly to that. Neither did her mom. What a way for your first paying gig to go! She ruined a little girls birthday, and possibly life. Can I 3 year old have PTSD? So now the show does not gotta go on and she goes home crying. They decide the best thing would be to put Slappy in the closet for awhile before all this madness continues. Too bad really because Margo's dad was ready to give Amy's show another chance with older kids that wouldn't be afraid of a dummy.

The next day wasn't any better. Immediately in the morning they are woken up to discover that Sara's room has been vandalized AGAIN this time with "Amy" written over and over again in red all over the walls. Once again blaming Slappy didn't work, even though he was holding a paintbrush. HOW MUCH MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED!?!?! If the paintbrush fits you must acquit! Wait... If the paintbrush is filthy he must be guilty? Oh hell, whatever, point is the Dummy did it, come on you dumb parents, open your eyes! Fresh Prince was right, parents just don't understand. So now, Amy is grounded.

That night Jed came skulking into Amy's room groggily claiming that he called him in, but she didn't. He must have had a dream. And a really boring dream at that. After he went back to bed Slappy went on the move, and Amy had to follow to see what was up. He was going back to vandalize her sisters room for a 3rd time! What a dick, clearly Jed is the one who deserves this torment! But no matter, Amy stops him! Only for Sara to wake up and see her sister in her room with a paintbrush and the dummy. Returned to the scene of the crime... the parents are not pleased. She is going to have to see a shrink (and honestly even if the Dummy was the one doing it a visit to the shrink might be a good plan.)

Finally Amy decides something must be done about Slappy. She should just get rid of him. Which really is a sound plan. I mean even if the parents didn't believe he was alive, why not get rid of the thing her negative actions were attaching to? Anyway, before she can do anything drastic Slappy decides to have a conversation with her. See it's like this, Amy is going to be his slave. Why does he need a slave? Unclear. Maybe he just wants someone to tidy up his room and launder his tiny little suits? Maybe he needs a whole slew of them to build a moderately sized pyramid to house his mummy dummy body when he dies? The point is this, he is determined that she will be his slave. The consequences of her not abiding by this will be him continuing to destroy her sisters things. Now, the simple fact that a power saw could end him easy, and a woodchipper even moreso does not see to sway him. So they have a bit of a wrestling match. Who is more powerful a middle school girl or a wooden doll brought to life, lets see! Manages to get him off and close the door behind herself, but he threatens to break it down. Attempting to get help from her older sister reveals that Sara KNEW Slappy was the one doing it, because she saw him. And she let her sister take the fall? What a bitch. But together they manage to tie Slappy's limbs together and dump him in the sewer. THE END.

Wait... Wait.. .Not the end? Oh man, I thought the sewer woulda had him. No, Slappy ends up right back in their house, a little slimy, but mostly no worse for wear. That night Slappy is on the move again, but this time Dennis the Dummy rushes in and smashes into him. Slappy's head cracks in half and the nightmare is over! Who could have imagine that something as giant and powerful as a small ventriloquist dummy could have been thwarted by some good old fashioned violence. And the whole family was in on it, they were finally convinced. In fact Jed was the one dressed up like Dennis the Dummy. But wait... Why did Jed just come in the door saying he just woke up and was sorry he forgot to dress up... THE END.

What I Thought

This is Slappy's first time to really shine. The first living dummy book, though it had Slappy in it, was really more about the other dummy Mr. Wood. We only learn that Slappy is alive too at the end. I believe Slappy continues to be the primary Dummy for the rest of the series, which is odd since Mr. Wood was the first "living dummy." So does Slappy make the most of his time in the spotlight in this book? Eh... Kinda? I mean, he doesn't really do anything that Mr. Wood didn't do, besides apparently have a desire for slaves. Mostly he is just kind of a dick, and as obscene as a book for 8 year olds will allow. If they could have gone into why he wanted slaves, or what he planned for them, maybe it would have been more interesting? I mean, his way to blackmail Amy might have been frightening to young people. Having your parents not believe you is a big fear, especially when it comes to something big. Especially when they seem to favor your older and younger siblings.

The problem though, is I can't help but think, boy, all her problems could be solved with a saw, or an axe, a
wood chipper, or a gas can and a book of matches. I think one of the flaws about Slappy is that Stine tried to make him seem physically imposing, but a dummy just isn't. Even a live one. It is relatively small, and made of wood. The dummy shouldn't have a lot of physical power, he should be sneaky. Perhaps even supernaturally sneaky. Yes they had him sneak around at night to do his vandalism, but they should have never had a physical confrontation. He should have never broken down a door. See Slappy the dummy should be smart. He should be cunning and devious. He should be defeated not by getting knocked out, but by getting outsmarted.

That leads me to the final part. What was with the ending? If the adults believed finally that Slappy was alive, why did they need the younger brother to dress up like a dummy and tackle him. In fact, why did they need him dressed up like a dummy at all. When you are going to lunge out and surprise someone, you really don't need a disguise. I feel like the only reason they wanted him to dress up is so Stine could have is "and the other dummy is alive too!" twist at the end. Here is the problem with that, YOU ALREADY HAD THE EXACT SAME TWIST. The first living dummy book ended with Mr. Wood being thwarted and Slappy being alive. Now Slappy is defeated and Dennis is alive? Except I think the next book (and the rest after) feature Slappy so it's not even like he is passing the torch. Anyway, I digress, my point was, if the parents know the Dummy is alive, and that two young teens can overpower him enough to throw him in a sewer, surely two adults can over power him and turn him into kindling? What need is there to involve the son in something that could be dangerous.

So, the best part of the book were the family moments. Being jealous of the older sister. Younger brother being a brat. Having embarrassing family together time. Parents not believing you. Slappy however was a little bit of a let down. He wasn't terrible different from Mr. Wood. The final confrontations were pretty lackluster, convoluted, and/or unnecessary.

Rating: 3 simple ways to kill a living dummy out of 5

Up Next

Well the next book in the original series is The Barking Ghost. I think, however, that I want to do a few different things for Halloween. I am hoping to see the new Goosebumps movie staring Jack Black with my niece, and if I do I'm gonna put my thoughts on here about it. I don't know that it'll be as long as one of these entries, but hopefully it'll be something. Also, it's been a long time since I've read a "Give Yourself Goosebumps" book, so I am hoping to do one of those this month. Maybe just maybe I'll do a few updates in October as it is the spookiest month of all. I guess it all depends on how motivated I get so... Don't hold your breath. I'll give a go though! Once again, thanks for reading a 30 year old mans thought on books meant for preteens.

October 7, 2015

Bumps Gonna Goose Ya! Music Video feat. Jack Black.

Instead of a book today I would like to review the music video above.

Review: Perfect in every way.

Rating: 5 out of 5 geese


Check back in the next couple days for my review of the book Night of the Living Dummy II.

July 24, 2015

#30 It Came From Beneath the Sink!

Judging a Book by its Cover

It Came From Beneath the Sink! This illustration takes the title pretty literally. There is a sink and clearly "it" is beneath it. What "it" is however is in doubt. Spooky eyes to be sure. It looks vaguely reptilian. Is a raptor underneath the sink? I doubt it would fit. In fact, I am not sure what scary thing could fit beneath the sink, you got pipes and all sorts of cleaners and such down there. For some reason their cupboard beneath the sink must go far back. Odd design choice, just begging for monsters to move in. Beneath the sink seems like an odd choice for something scary to be. The basement (which has been covered in Goosebumps before), the closet, and beneath the bed seem like more classic choices. Even the attic would work. This might as well be titled "It Came From My Underwear Drawer." Would be scarier in my opinion.

It's warm, it's breathing, and it doesn't do dishes. Is the tagline. Which is weird. The "doesn't do dishes" part is fine and good but, it's warm and breathing? Those aren't scary descriptions. "Please sir, describe the beast that ate your wife." "Well officer it was warm.... and breathing!" Most living things are warm and breathe! Doesn't make em scary. Presumably anything with creepy green lizard eyes would breathe. So really, I don't get it.

The back tagline is "Their Luck's About to Go Down the Drain..." Which is better. Applies to the sink, which is right there in the title. It's an actual phrase people say applied in a relevant way. Usually it's a way to just say you're having bad luck, but their luck is literally going down the drain to where "It" comes from.

Predictions as to what this book is about. There is a Narnia like portal in their kitchen that delivers cute seeming beasts that are actually evil and trying to conquer the world. The only way to get rid of them is with Draino. Do I actually think that will be what the story is? No, but it would be pretty cool.

Getting Goosebumps

Tween main character = Katrina "Kitty" "Kat" Merton. Goofy little brother = Daniel "The Human Tornado." Inaptly named cocker spaniel = Killer. Location = New house 3 blocks away from old house on Maple Lane. First jump scare = Daniel in a rat costume. Sorry, I am having a tough time finding the motivation to put any effort into this.

So anyway they moved into a new house. Killer the dog goes missing and bratty little brother scares Kat. Killer the dog growls at something in the sink cabinet even though the dog supposedly never growls. What's he found? What terrible diabolical demon has Mr. Stine unleashed to horrify generations of unsuspecting elementary schoolers? A sponge. That seems like it is breathing. Dear god no1 Hold on a minute while I change the pants I have soiled out of fright. This summary of events will continue momentarily.

Ok, All back. That's better. So anyway Daniel the brat doesn't believe in a living sponge, at least one that doesn't have square pants (ok so that reference is anachronistic) but Killer being so interested convinces him and now the kids fight over it, because if there is one thing kids love it is a breathing sponge. Anyway when trying to inform their parents about this momentous discovery Dad has an accident where a light fixture falls on his head while he is on a ladder and he falls nearly breaking his ankle. Parents seem to think Kat pushed him but clearly twas the sponge that committed the crime.

Now Kat decided to throw the dumb thing away but the next day Daniel and his friend Carlo have rediscovered it. The encyclopedia says sponges don't have eyes but this creature does... sometimes. Carlo
thinks it is pretty rad and wants to borrow it, but the Mertons decide to keep it locked in a gerbil cage so it can't get out and run amuck like sponges tend to do.Unfortunately in the midst of caging it Daniels hand got eaten. Or not, end of chapter cliffhanger jump scare! Gotcha! But then something bad actually does happen when Carlo steps on a nail! Kat expresses how she wishes she never found the stupid sponge (which is somehow responsible) and as the narrator she explains that it is too late for them all. I guess later in the book the creature will go on a murderous rampage of leaving nails strewn about? The end of days will come when man is locked in an eternal struggle vs sponge beast.

In brighter news Kat's birthday is tomorrow and she is going with her friends to WonerPark to ride some roller coasters! Yay! Also Kat is planning to have her teacher examine sponge thing to see what it is. However, on the way to school a huge branch falls from a tree straight towards Kat! A "Kat little" pun later, little bro saves the day by pushing her out of the way. Strangely the sponge seems to hyperventilate when bad things happen. When Kat shows her teacher the sponge thing it doesn't breathe at all, but then the teacher smashes her fingers in a drawer and the sponge goes wild! Of course with injured fingers the teacher doesn't give a damn about investigating it.

Anyway Daniel things he has figured out what the thing is. An encyclopedia of mythical beasts claims it is a Grool. Grools feed on bad luck and can never be killed by force or violent means. If they are ever given away or thrown out the owner will die in 1 day. Kat thinks it is dumb. Obviously breathing sponge creatures withe yes exist, but Grools? Nonsense. Oh apparently the Grool has a cousin named the Lanx (which sounds like a Dr. Suess character.) That thing has big teeth and latches on to people sucking out their energy.

Anyway Kat's belief that the sponge isn't bad luck is being put to the test. Their dog Killer ran away. She blames the Grool and throws it against her wall somehow managing in the process to stab herself with a pair of scissors. Carlo wants to borrow the Grool because what is cooler than a bad luck sponge? Kat seems fine with it but Daniel is legitimately worried about Kat dying. She decides to humor him and keep the stupid thing.

The bad luck continues when Kat's birthday party gets rained out. That's when she comes up with a plan to get rid of it. A complicated plan. A plan that requires a notebook so you can write down your ideas. The plan of digging a hole and burying it... Wait, why did she need a notebook for that plan? Anyway she buries it and then her brother disappears! ... Because he was hiding. He figured something terrible would happen. But things aren't so terrible. They go in to have birthday cake. Kat gets some sweet 90s presents like a discman and video games. There is even sparkling cider!

The good times can't stay for long though. The next morning she discovers that their entire lawn died. Damn
you Grool! She decides to dig it up but then doesn't have much more of a plan. Maybe Aunt Louise who is coming tomorrow will know what to do? Of course it turns out that just like with the teacher the Grool just stays still doing nothing for her (not that it does much anyway besides breathe and apparently change color.) Then Kat comes up with the greatest plan of all. Smashing it with a text book. Unfortunately for her the chunks of Grool form back together to form the evil sponge we all know and love.

Later on Carlo sneaks off with the Grool. Of course they want it back for the whole "you'll die in 1 day" thing. They found him in the aftermath of a Grool related bike accident. He claims the thing is in his basket but it is nowhere to be found. They search around and even go down in the sewer where Kat sees dozens of rats (which in my opinion are scarier than a sponge.) Daniel thinks he found it when what he really found was a paper bag because he is clearly an idiot. But Carlo has an idea! He figures some other kids on bikes took it. You know, because all the kids just looooove sponges. I know when I see a kid has fallen off his bike the first thing I check for is any sponges he might be carrying. The kids who took it seem to be high schoolers. And they really really really want to keep the sponge? Why? Because high schoolers love a clean kitchen counter.The guy who has it tucks it into his pocket and goes to hit a baseball which beans him in the head. Oh Grool, you are the greatest. They get the diabolical thing back and then almost get hit by a truck. You rascally Grool! Then a bike tire gets shredded on a broken bottle. The Grool hat trick!

Kat has had enough. In a craze when they get home she puts the thing in the garbage disposal but yet again it re-materializes! Daniel checks the encyclopedia again. You can't kill the Grool through any violent means. That means non violence will save the day. Martin Luther King Jr. was right! She starts showering the sponge with love. Cooing at it, telling it she loves it, and a kiss for a grand finale. It poofs into nothingness. Hurray! And now Killer the dog came back, double hurray! And he brought a Lanx with him, triple hurr- wait, that is bad news!

The End

What I Thought

Ok first off, the cover of this book is a fucking lie. There isn't some large terrifying big eyed creature menacing the sink, there is a fucking bad luck sponge. Sponges aren't scary. Sure a bad luck charm can be a fright but Stine did not put it in a menacing package. Now of course you could subvert the "scary" trope by having a very cute cuddly thing be evil, but a sponge isn't even that. It's just lame. I kept thinking about the movie Gremlins. He should have ripped that off a little. Like here is a thing that looks like a sponge but if you treat it like a sponge it will turn evil. Don't get it wet! Or make it a cute little creature like Gizmo that becomes more menacing when you don't follow instructions, or something. Or heck, make the bad luck charm something kids would actually be interested in! A cursed Tamagotchi pet. Make it "The Ring" but with a Nintendo game instead of a video. Maybe a cute family pet that turns evil when parents aren't around. But a sponge? So lame!

Anyway, if we forget that the thing in question is spongelike the story isn't quite so bad. It is a pretty common "this thing causes bad luck." Story. It's almost like these kids didn't answer a chain letter or something. The bit about it not showing off its aliveness around adults was good except for the fact that it was a boring sponge. Of course by now we've seen it happen 30ish times. Parents never believe. You know, RL Stine should write a book where the parents are being haunted and the kids don't believe them. It'd be all topsy turvery!

Now the end. The end reminds me totally of Ernest Scared Stupid (which is yet another childhood memory.) Of course, I am not sure which came first Scared Stupid or this book. I do think that Ernest did it better though. Smothering a gross warty snot dripping troll with love is way better than a stupid sponge thing. Also Ernest had Miak. No Miak in this book.

In conclusion sponges are lame.

Rating: 2 out of 5 sponges

Up Next

Night of the Living Dummy II. Slappy is back, and this time... it's personal. Or maybe not very personal, I don't know, I haven't read it yet. The Living Dummy has had a lot of sequels throughout the series. There were 3 in the original Goosebumps line and I know my niece has read a newer one called "Son of Slappy." Now Slappy is no Chuckie, but there is something inherently creepy about ventriloquist dummies. Also about the people who own them. But anyway, what sort of antics will Slappy be up to this time? We shall find out... Later! Hopefully quicker than it took me to release this entry!