Back from the Dead
They say on a Friday the 13th spooky things can happen. They say, even the dead can rise from the dead... Like... dead blogs... Like this one!
It's been a year and a half since I've written a review on this site. I'm extremely sorry. The bulk of this blog was written while I was unemployed suffering from extreme anxiety so I had a lot of free time and needed an outlet. For the past 2 years I've been gainfully employed in a bakery which has been good for my life overall but bad for free time to update this blog.
I'm going to try to rectify that. Even if I don't update as often as I used to, I should still be able to manage one every so often. The goal I have is to do at least 2 more updates before the end of the year. I have one entry I was planning to release earlier this year and just flat out flaked on. I also want to release one for Halloween, another spooky spooky day. Hopefully I can motivate myself!
During the drought of updates this page still managed to get a lot of hits. I still got a comment or two now again. I really appreciate that people were still visiting here even if I neglected it. I'll try to do better in the future.
Judging a Book by its Cover
Anyway, without further ado, time to talk about the book I'll be reading. What better book to return from the dead with than Night of the Living Dummy III. Yes, one RL Stine's most sequelled books. The star of these books, Slappy the Dummy, even has his own featured series called Goosebumps SlappyWorld that is still being published right now as we speak.
The cover art immediately might help you realize why this particular series of Goosebumps is so popular. Ventriloquist dummies are creepy. This illustration answers the question, "what is creepier than one ventriloquist dummy?"..."a bunch of ventriloquist dummies!" They are just hanging out in a dank old attic. Who knows what they are planning? Nothing good!
It's worth noting that this whole dummy gathering is a real wooden sausage party. Only one of the puppet looks female. We demand haunted puppet equality now! If we don't get representation in demented dolls, where are we gonna get it? Oh well. It was the 90s, what are you gonna do.
So I'm assuming this book is indeed going to feature many dummies. Are they Slappy's relatives? Are they just other discarded puppets? Is Slappy bringing them to life or are they just coming to life on their own? So many questions to answer and there is only one way to find out. Let's read!
Trina lives in a creaky old house with mom, dad, and brother Dan. She'll call her brother Mouse sometimes because he's a tiny little dude. Trina on the other hand, is a bit chubby. Boy can I relate. They don't even really look like siblings. Has mom been fooling around? I'm guessing this book wont' tell us.
So the creepiest part of this creaky old house is the attic. Why? All the god damn eyes. What eyes? The ventriloquist dummy eyes. Before dad became a camera salesman he performed puppetry with his dummy Wilbur. Wilbur isn't the only dummy up there though. There are plenty. So many that dad calls it the dummy museum. I thought that's what you called Congress, heyo! Point is, these dummies don't get used much these days. Mostly just the occasional birthday party, or when Dan is trying to scare his sister. Speaking of trying to scare his sister, one of the dummies starts threatening Trina, but Dan is on the other side of the room. Who could it be? A living dummy! Wait, no, it's still chapter one. It's dad this time pranking his daughter. Nothing is better for childhood development than a little trauma.
Scaring his daughter wasn't the only goal though. Dad has a new dummy to show off. He found it in the garbage with its head split in two... You know... Slappy's head was broken in two at the end of Night of the Living Dummy 2. Weird coincidence eh? Well all it took was a little glue and this totally unrelated dummy is good as new. This couldn't be Slappy though, because they've named this dummy Smiley. What a nice friendly name! Smiley even has a little slip of paper in his suit pocket... full of cryptic sounding nonsense language words. Just like Slappy... And once they read it out load (why do they always read it out loud!??!) the Smiley even SLAPS Trina. You know I am beginning to think maybe this dummy IS Slappy.
Dad brushes aside the accusations of dummy assault with the news that the kids cousin Zane is coming to visit. The cousin they just love to scare. I think we can all see where this is going. Problem is, dad made the kids promise they wouldn't scare him. Darn.
So what happens? Zane is IMMEDIATELY startled by one of the dummies falling on him when he opened the bed room door. The kids play innocent, but who else could have rigged the dummy to do that?
When the kids go to put the dummy back in the attic Zane joins them. Their cousin is a newfound shutterbug and takes his camera everywhere. He uses the opportunity to get some dummy photos. It's all going great... until one of the dummies SLAPS him. This time it was a different culprit than the Trina slapper. Arnie, one of dad's older puppets did the deed. Trina blames Dan for both slaps, but her brother plays innocent yet again.
That night Cousin Zane startles Trina in her sleep by accident trying to get her to wake up. Though he is a big guy, he frightens easily and in this spooky house alone at night he thought he heard voices from the attic. He and his cousin go to the kitchen to have a bowl of cereal and calm down but a misplaced dummy scares them even more. Once again the blame is placed on Dan. They go to confront him upstairs but he is sound asleep. When they go to leave the room the dummy from the kitchen has followed them upstairs. Dan in his bed couldn't have pulled this one off! No, it was dad! Only he didn't scare them on purpose. He heard a ruckus in the kitchen and went to check on it only to find one of his dummies misplaced, so he was going to put it back. His is quite displeased as what he assumes is his kids nonsense. He told them not to scare Zane and yet all that's happened so far has been Zane getting scared. Dad makes them promise to knock it off or there will be hell to pay (ok maybe he didn't phrase it like that.)
So, now that dad has laid down the law surely there will be no more dummy shenanigans right? Wrong. Trina wakes up and immediately sees Rocky the dummy back in the kitchen. She doesn't know who did it but she wisely hauls him up to the attic immediately.
The rest of the day is spent playing nice with Zane. The amateur photographer wants to take pictures of.... their moldings. Ah yes, moldings, a fascination all young men have. He fills up his roll of film, reminding this that it is in fact the 1990s and film still exists, and goes down to the dark room with his cousins. Once he develops the photos he is very displeased. It seems all the photos, are photos of Rocky the dummy!
Trina decides to go upstairs and question the dummies. I am not sure why. She doesn't seem to really expect answers. She gets a response anyway. Smiley the new dummy starts insulting her in a hoarse whisper. She almost believes its the dummy until she notices Dan behind the couch. Dan blames Trina for the moving dummies. Trina blames Dan. Then Dan came up with the wildest accusation of all time. Zane has been doing it to himself. To get even with them for being assholes to their cousin. He does have a point though. Zane is the only one who could have taken those photos of Rocky the dummy.... right?
That night the siblings stake out the attic to catch Zane in the act. The hide for quite awhile before someone starts walking across the room, picking up a dummy. Who could be it? Zane!... Wait what, you mean it was ACTUALLY Zane this whole time and none of the dummies are alive? Yes, he'd been doing it to get back at his cousins just as they theorized. They all declare that their scores have been settled and they are calling a ventriloquist truce.
Thanks to the truce they were all finally able to enjoy the visit. They spent the day out enjoying nature, riding bikes, taking photos. Everything was wonderful. Then they got home and Zane room was totally trashed, complete with a dummy as the centerpiece. Mom was quite upset but how could any of the kids have done this? They were outside with each other the whole day!
Sleeping that night Trina had nightmares about dummy. She awoke to the greatest nightmare of all, an actual dummy laying on top of her! Naturally she screamed and woke up her father who was extremely pissed about everything. All this dummy nonsense has to stop!
Later that night Dan startled Trina awake to launch accusations against Zane. In his opinion their cousin hasn't been honoring the truce. They have a point, who else could be doing it?
During dinner later that day that had a big feast with the neighbors in honor of the cousins visit. When Zane goes to get his camera there is a huge commotion. Someone has smashed his very expensive equipment. This just proves it couldn't be Zane causing the mischief. He would never break his own camera, he loves photography too much. Suddenly there is more commotion. Someone has overturned dishes for the delicious food planned for the dinner. Who could have done it? Well some dummies are present... Things are quickly getting out of control.
Zane, however, is still the kids only suspect. Once again they wait in the attic to confront him when he goes to move the dummies around. They only had to wait a half an hour for him to show up with a dummy slung over his shoulder... only this time it wasn't zane... IT WAS SMILEY THE DUMMY!
They confront the doll, by name even, but he assures them his name isn't Smiley... It's Slappy! They tussle with the dummy, but he assures them that they are now his slaves. Slappy has never heard of the emancipation proclamation. They make a huge racket and Dad arrives. He is PISSED. Since he arrived to late to see any evidence of dummy life, he calls bullshit on his kids excuses and grounds them immediately.
A tired and disgusted Dad leaves them to clean up their mess, and Slappy immediately lets the kids know about his plan to blackmail them into servitude. Parents, it seems, would never believe a dummy could come to life. In a last ditch effort Trina tries to pull Slappy's glued head apart, to no avail.
Then she comes up with one more last, last ditch effort. They toss him down the well in their yard. Despite being evil, Slappy is often easily overpowered by kids since he is, ya know, a tiny ventriloquist dummy.
They think their problems are all solved but that morning Slappy greets them at the breakfast table. They go to put him away and Slappy assures his slaves he's never going to give up. He will probably however let them down, and may even run around and will most definitely hurt them.
Trina comes up with a plan. She remembers those creepy words from the paper in Slappy's pocket and theorizes reading them brought him to life. Maybe reading them again would undo the damage? They go to get the paper from Slappy's pocket, but he isn't going to make it easy for them. Trina scuffles with the dummy, in a losing battle but Dan manages to grab the paper from his pocket and read the words.
Then there arises a problem. You see, Slappy doesn't suddenly lose his livelihood. no, instead all the rest of Dad's dummies are brought to life. They march forward to attack.... Slappy! Yes, the dummy crew circles round their evil brethren to do battle. Zane appears, and all the dummies are on the floor. Did the other puppets defeat Slappy? It seems so.
Now is the time for Zane to leave. They ask him about his broken camera but it turns out he isn't interested in photography anymore. No, now he is interested in... ventriloquism! Dad offers him a dummy and the kids know just the one to give him, Slappy. Trina is sure Slappy and Zane will have a grand old time together. As their cousin departs, Slappy turns to give Trina a goodbye wink.
What I Thought
Once again one of the hardest parts of trying to review a Goosebumps book as an adult is to try and put yourself into the mind of a child. To try and remember there is a mindset that goes in to this book that believes anything is possible. Not the cynical mind of an adult who has read dozens of these.
So how do you write 3rd book about a living dummy and not immediately give away who is the culprit? If you remember Night of the Living Dummy the original, things were actually more about another puppet named Mr. Wood, with Slappy only being revealed to also be alive with the very last stinger. Night of the Living Dummy II was actually Slappy's main go around. So for number 3, what do you do? Do you get a new puppet? But Slappy is a pretty big feature at Goosebumps, even back in the day when this is published. You gotta have Slappy! So how do you make kids not immediately know that Slappy is the bad guy? Well Stine did his best. Step 1, add LOTS of Dummies. Any of them could be evil. Also, you remove Slappy's identity. Sure kids who have read the last book should probably be able to put the clues together, but by giving him the new name of Smiley you distance Slappy from some kids mind. Lastly, you have a triad of blame to shift. All the kids are blaming each other for every. Young readers that may not realize there HAS to be a supernatural element may indeed be quick to blame Dan, or Trina, or Zane. These things I believe ultimately I think are what make this book work for the age bracket its intended.
To that note, I'd just like to say that Zane as a character added a lot. Many Goosebumps books are merely siblings goading each other. Zane is an outsider who is familiar to both of them. It makes allegiances hard to sus out. The siblings don't want to trust each other, but also they both can't trust Zane. Zane's innocent act works extremely well. Even I wasn't totally suspecting that he would in fact be part of the shenanigans. The fact that he was guilty but also there was also in fact the mischievous Slappy involved "pulling the strings."
This didn't need some of the tricks of other books I like to feel
interesting like an exotic locale or an absolutely bonkers new villain.
All it takes is some misdirection and some interpersonal relationships.
Sure, I wouldn't say there were any "new" tricks to this book, but
ultimately I think RL Stine took the usual tricks he uses and just did
them as well as he can.
Maybe it's because it's been over a year since I have read a Goosebumps book, but this book which is #40 overall, and #3 in the Dummy series could have easily felt extremely tired and stale, but I actually really enjoyed it.
Rating: 4 creepy dummies I may or may not have already used in past reviews out of 5