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.