R.L Stine’s Goosebumps Book and TV Show Review
Back in the early 1990s the horror genre was pretty much an adult genre. The only thing that came close to children’s horror was the ghost story. There were plenty of horror icons for adults such as the Slasher Trinity of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Kruger complete with blood and gore. Even some of the classic horror films that are quaint by today’s standards weren’t really meant to be viewed by children. Then came R.L Stine. He made the horror genre accessible to children with his genuinely creepy, suspenseful, and scary concepts and he was able to churn out around 80 books of the Goosebumps series alone! He proved that children on some level like to be scared and that an artist doesn’t need, blood, gore and profanity to achieve that scare. The Goosebumps series was published by Scholastic in 1992 and was amazingly popular. The series was so popular that it spawned a TV show that ran for 4 years on FOX KIDS and has been reaired as a Halloween favorite for the years after! This is Goosebumps!
This area covers both the books and the show because the stories are basically the same. The stories usually take place in Middle Class suburban areas or in faraway places like a summer camp or a relative that just happens to live in the middle of nowhere. The main characters can range from male to female and are around 11-13 years old. The characters’ families are usually moving to a new town or the kids are getting dropped off at the aforementioned relative’s house. They usually come into contact with a weird object whether it was on the ground or a present from their parents. The object always seems to have a supernatural history and causes trouble for the kids and the rest of the story is the kid/s trying to get rid of it. Sometimes it’s not an object but the kid/s being suspicious of a person that acts in a mysterious manner. The endings are very unconventional for kids books. The norm in kids books is to have a full fledged or semi happily ever after ending, but Goosebumps would have a “vat a twisst” ending. Some were humorous others were downright terrifying and yes you never found out what happened after that ending. Some fan favorites include the “Monster Blood” trilogy and “Night of the Living Dummy” saga. The only real issue with the stories is that they can get very formulaic and repetitive. Introduce the characters and “monster”. “Monster” causes trouble. Characters find out about the “monster” and try to stop it. Characters stop the “monster”. Twist ending. That’s pretty much every book and episode.
There are no set characters for Goosebumps. New characters are introduced in every installment. The characters are fairly likable and interesting enough so that you want to find out what happens to them. As far as acting in the show goes some can range from adequate to downright horrible, but it’s the concepts and the “monster” that will keep you watching and interested. The best stories are where the audience and or reader are intrigued by the “monster” and have a semi concern for the character. This isn’t like Scream where I actually cared about the characters, but for Goosebumps’ demographic it works well enough. There are some characters that actually return, but those are only the “monsters”. The most famous recurring villain is Slappy the Evil Dummy. Yeah yeah, send your hate mail on how he’s a Chucky ripoff in the comments section. This is a creepy character. This guy scared the crap out of me as a kid. He scared me so much I actually quit watching the show and I had a fear of dummy’s for the longest time. Then someone sent me a youtube link to Jeff Dunham’s Achmed the Dead Terrorist and I told my fear “SILENCE! I KEEL YOU!!! But back then Slappy plagued my nightmares and was the embodiment of my fears. I can watch the show now and Slappy may not scare me, butÂ he’s still a nasty character.
The place where Goosebumps really shines is how Stine and the show’s crew present the story. Stine usually writes the books in first personÂ giving the reader an attachment to the character and they both do an excellent job of creating atmosphere. Even if the “monster” isn’t as scary as you thought it would be, the atmosphere is so good that you’re creeped out anyway. The best example of this is the show’s intro. This is one creepy intro. We see a figure dressed in black and is presumed to be R.L. Stine because his name is on the briefcase the figure is holding. Then the wind blows the briefcase open and a bunch of papers (supposedly a draft of the next book) fly away along with a demonic force that takes the shape of the distinctive Goosebumps “G” and it rots, decays, and corrupts everything it passes over. Then the “G” goes into a house where we see a montage of various episodes and then we hear the great tagline “Viewer Beware Your in for a Scare” which is a variation of the books’ tagline “Reader Beware Your in for a Scare”. All this is going on with the creepy Goosebumps theme. The theme was perfect for creating the atmosphere of the show! Here’s the theme now. The video is of lower quality because that’s the only video I could find that shows the whole opening.
The Goosebumps series has earned it’s place in history as the book series and arguably TV series that made the horror genre accessible to children and gave the younger readers emotions of suspense and fear that they would never have gotten from other books or shows. Even though the series doesn’t hold up as well it is still much scarier and more suspenseful than most other Halloween specials of kids shows today or books of today. Join me next time where I briefly return to Disney to review the Halloween movie that is the namesake of my show! Mickey’s House of Villains! See you then!
VERDICT: 3.8 haunted masks out of 5