Monday, October 31, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Attack of the Mutant Part I"

Happy Halloween!

Today, in a story adapted from one of my favorite Goosebumps books growing up, Goosebumps crosses over with the NewtCave's usual bread and butter, the world of superheroics!

Of course, this was made in the 90s, so the superheroics of the time consisted of the Clone Saga, Steel, and Batman and Robin

Man, the 90s had some of the suckiest pop culture.

And hopefully, this two-parter won't just be another example of that.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "One Day at Horrorland"

The vast majority of the time, I divide these Reviews into relevant sections focusing on the plot, the themes, the characters, et cetera. The exceptions to this layout occurred mostly during the earlier days of this blog, when I didn’t have formatting figured out, but I still occasionally branch out from this structure.

And this two-parter defies my usual structure, since in talking about any aspect of it, I have to discuss another aspect of it. It’s like a gigantic Gordian Knot of what-the-heck.

Recap: Goosebumps "One Day at Horrorland Part II"

Okay, so. The Morrises found themselves in a theme park run by monsters where the rides are deadly. Once they started trying to escape, they also started being chased by the monsters running the place.

And now for something completely different.

The plot isn't just going to go off the rails, it found new rails going in the other direction.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "One Day at Horrorland Part I"

There are certain Goosebumps tales that are simply iconic.



And yes, "One Day at Horrorland."

These books are the ones that permeated pop culture, regardless of whichever one you might say is your favorite. I always liked "How I Learned to Fly" myself, though I know that one certainly isn't representative of the series as a whole, being more of a fantasy short story than anything else.

But Slappy the Dummy is the Goosebumps monster.

The Haunted Mask is the Goosebumps artifact.

And Horrorland is the Goosebumps location.

Naturally, each of these stories were adapted for the show, as I've covered.

But a mask bonding to somebody's face is a trivial makeup job, and making a puppet look like it's actually a living thing was perfected ages ago by the Jim Henson Workshop.

Creating a demented theme park occupied by monsters? Well, we'll see if Canadian TV has the budget for that.

Here's hoping they haven't used up the majority of their budget on this season's "Awesome Ants."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Calling All Creeps"

After watching this episode, I can't help but wonder if R.L. Stine was inspired by the conspiracy theories about shapeshifting lizardmen infiltrating the highest levels of government.

The War of 1812 was an inside job! Lantern oil can't burn hot enough to melt the White House!

Recap: Goosebumps "Calling All Creeps"

In the Internet Age or whatever we're calling it now, it's much easier for groups of people with similar interests to find each other and meet up. So when it comes to scaly, monstrous Creeps trying to assemble and organize themselves these days, all they'd need is Facebook.

And some way of keeping away confused people who just like the Radiohead song.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Say Cheese and Die"

Due to the presence of Ryan Gosling eating veal in this episode, the NewtCave would like to officially abstain from taking any stance on Mormons, veal, or People Magazine's 2011 choice for "Sexiest Man Alive."

However, the NewtCave would like to take an official stance on The Notebook: It wasn’t very good.

And now I'll do something beyond swiping at low-hanging fruit.

Recap: Goosebumps "Say Cheese and Die"

In the 19th century, photographers would tell their subjects to say "prunes." Since the whole point of saying "cheese" during a photo is that it forces your face into an approximation of a natural smile, this might seem odd to you. But smiling wasn't what people were expected to do in photos; people were supposed to stay stoic and serious in photos to reinforce how classy and noble they are, an idea held over from when people would pay through the nose to have themselves painted as a symbol of wealth.

So saying "prunes" would keep your mouth small and stoic, and your expression would look more like an actor's professional headshot than a modern portrait.

Of course, it depends on the actor in question.
It's a good thing for R.L. Stine that "cheese" caught on.
Otherwise, people would probably confuse "Say Prunes and Die" with "An Old Story."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Bad Hare Day"

So before I actually review this episode, I need to provide a little background on the subgenre of “Real Magic Magician” stories. So I might as well start this spiel with a bit of personal history.

When I was a little kid, my first dream job was to become a magician.

And why wouldn't I want to be a magician? I mean, does anybody not like stage magic?

I mean, sure, it’s fun to make fun of David Copperfield’s billowy shirts and Criss Angel’s… everything, but who doesn’t like watching them work? Sure, some of them go a little overboard with the presentation, but magic’s always been a showy form of entertainment. And at its core, stage magic has always had a spirit of fun. It’s never about trying to con you (except for the conmen who use sleight-of-hand, but you know what I mean), it’s about putting on a show for the audience. Trying to make you wonder how they did what they did. Because they’re not telling.

You know the old phrase "A magician never reveals his secrets"? There's a lot of magician history tied into that saying.

Recap: Goosebumps "Bad Hare Day"

Because R.L. Stine already used up the chance to call it "My Hare-iest Adventure." So it was either "Bad Hare Day" or "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow." Because rabbits naturally lend themselves to puns. I mean, look at the titles of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons.

"All This and Carrot Stew"

"The Hare-Brained Hypnotist"

"Tortoise Wins by a Hare"

"Hare Force"

"Hare Tonic"

"Hare Remover"

"Hare Do"

I could go on and on, but you probably don't carrot all, so let's get started with the episode.

Heh. Couldn't resist.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Go Eat Worms"

You know, if you're looking for footage of somebody eating worms (Hey, it's the internet, people have looked for weirder stuff), might I suggest How to Eat Fried Worms? I've never seen it, but I can only assume from the title that it has more worm eating than this episode.

Heck, the DVD menu has more worm-eating than the actual episode.

Badly-composited, computer generated worms, but at least there's more than one of them en route to that kid's mouth.

Recap: Goosebumps "Go Eat Worms"

I actually know this story best as the one Goosebumps book we actually had in my house when I was growing up. I think it belonged to my uncle, but I could be wrong.

It always just kind of sat there on the end table. Waiting.

And when I finally read it... it was just about the most boring thing I'd ever read. The plot took forever to get going and it ended quickly and anticlimactically.

So I'm going to look at this episode as a bit of a do-over. The writers aren't afraid to change things about the books for the TV adaptation... so I'm wondering if maybe they might actually improve this story?

Plenty of Tolkien/Harry Potter fans are laughing at me for thinking that an adaptation might be better than the original.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "My Hairiest Adventure"

I just realized that this is the second puberty episode I’ve covered on this blog. And I also just realized that the first puberty episode I covered gives me the best possible gif to summarize this episode with.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

Recap: Goosebumps "My Hairiest Adventure"

Sound off in the comments, has anyone actually ever use "hairy" as a synonym for "difficult"? Is that a thing real people have ever said in the history of ever? I have literally never heard another human being use that word without it being scripted.

According to the internet, it's either an army term referring to a situation that makes your hairs stand on end or something having to do with ill-bred horses.

But the title of this R.L. Stine classic takes the metaphor and uses it in a literal sense. Which is... clever...? Maybe?

I would have gone with "The Hound and the Furry," myself.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "An Old Story"

You know, this episode does have a good lesson.

You dang kids these days with your FaceTubes and TweetVines are gonna get old faster than you think.

The true horror of this episode.

Recap: Goosebumps "An Old Story"

Can I just mention the description of this episode on Netflix?

"Tom and his younger brother are being taken care of by their weird Aunt Dahlia. Her 'prize prune cookies' are delicious but strange like her."

Now, if they had put a comma after "delicious," that would imply that while the cookies are delicious but strange, Aunt Dahlia is merely strange. But the lack thereof implies that both adjectives apply to Aunt Dahlia.

I don't want to know why Aunt Dahlia is being described as "delicious but strange." But it looks like we're going to find out.

Now, when you say "old," episode, are we talking actually old, or how kids describe the music I grew up with?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Return of the Mummy"

I bet Gabe can't wait to go back to school and tell all his friends about this little adventure. You know, swap stories about ancient Egyptian religious rituals. That’s what kids talk about at the lunch tables, right?

"Did you summon Nepthys? It only counts if you summoned Nepthys."

Recap: Goosebumps "Return of the Mummy"

In the immortal words of Crow T. Robot, "Oh no, this is a sequel to something."

"The Curse of the Mummy" was one of the first Goosebumps books ever written, and the second Goosebumps book to get a sequel, the first being "Monster Blood."

"The Curse of the Mummy," to make a short story shorter, was basically one long stretch of two kids wandering through a pyramid until they finally came across the plot. Said plot being that an archaeologist has gone nuts and started worshiping an ancient priestess by dipping innocent people in molten tar. And the day may or may not have been saved supernaturally.

I don't know why they didn't adapt the first book. It could be that adapting both stories would have been too much trouble, since the second story either forgets or ignores several plot points from the first story. The discrepancies are so noticeable that Mr. Stine has been accused of hiring a ghostwriter who only read a brief synopsis of the first story.

"I didn't write a single one of these books. Must have been the other guy."
"Hey, don't be blaming me for this."
Of course, the show got around similar continuity issues with the "Monster Blood" stories by ignoring all the sequels and making one up themselves, but I'll get to that some other day.

Another possible reason for skipping "The Curse of the Mummy" could be the wicked-awesome, incredibly violent climax involving, among other things, a man getting whacked in the face with a lit torch.

As we'll soon see in this episode, they had no qualms with adapting the "two kids wander through a pyramid until they finally come across the plot" part of the story.

Apologies to anyone expecting Brendan Fraser.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Goosebumps Archive

Viewer beware, you're in for a scare!
Season 1
Episodes 01/02: "The Haunted Mask"
- Part 1 Recap
- Part 2 Recap
- Review

Episode 4: "The Girl Who Cried Monster"
- Recap
- Review

Episode 07: "Phantom of the Auditorium"
- Recap
- Review 
Episode 08: "Piano Lessons Can Be Murder"
- Recap
- Review
Episode 09: "Return of the Mummy"
- Recap
- Review
Episode 10: "Night of the Living Dummy II"
- Recap
- Review
Episode 11: "My Hairiest Adventure"
- Recap
- Review 
Episodes 12/13: "Stay Out of the Basement"
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Review
Episode 14: "It Came from Beneath the Sink"
- Recap
- Review
Episode 15: "Say Cheese and Die"
- Recap
- Review

Season 2
Episodes 22/23: "Attack of the Mutant"
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Review

Episode 24: "Bad Hare Day"
- Recap
- Review
Episode 25: "Go Eat Worms"
- Recap
- Review 

Episode 38: "Calling All Creeps"
- Recap
- Review

Season 3
Episode 50: "An Old Story"
- Recap
- Review 

Episodes 52/53: "One Day at Horrorland"
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Review

Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Night of the Living Dummy II"

You know, I'm actually somewhat surprised that this episode wasn't made into a 2-part Halloween special. Its sequel was, but not this one.

I mean, yeah, I understand that "The Haunted Mask" was both a classic episode and R.L. Stine's favorite story, but Slappy was Goosebumps's unofficial mascot... sadly for the official mascot.

Scholastic wanted an identifiable character for readers to instantly associate the anthology series with, so they created Curly, a skeleton with a pink mohawk and sunglasses.

Because 90s, that's why.
Curly is mostly-forgotten these days, but there are more than a few people to have a soft spot for the radical guy, and were quite disappointed that he didn't even make a cameo in the 2015 Goosebumps film.

Slappy, on the other hand, did not have that problem. Far from it.

Recap: Goosebumps "Night of the Living Dummy II"

No, there is no episode based on the original "Night of the Living Dummy." Probably because the now-iconic Slappy wasn't actually the villain in that book, but a different dummy named Mr. Wood.

I can only wonder why R.L. Stine felt the need to give them both needlessly creepy names.

"I think you'll find that the answer's right there in the question."
...Huh. Maybe.

Anyway, creepy ventriloquil figures.

As if there were any other kind.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "It Came from Beneath the Sink"

After the ending to this episode, I have a tip for any and all aspiring artists out there.

No matter what you do, vertical mouths will look like vaginas.

No matter what you do.
I'm not saying "don't do it," but just make sure you know what you're doing. H.R. Giger made a whole career out of such imagery.

Among other artists.

Recap: Goosebumps "It Came From Beneath the Sink"

So, by and large, Goosebumps isn't "scary" if you're above a certain age.

Entertaining? Often enough.

Creepy? It certainly has its moments.

Depending on the episode, it can even be entertaining and/or creepy on purpose.

Well... when I was writing these Recaps, I put off this episode for a long time. Because this one actually has a monster that really freaks me out, even into my 20s.

In all honesty, I tried to recap this episode several times, but I couldn't make it all the way through until now. So congratulations, Mr. Stine. You got under my skin. I hope you're happy.

But before I begin, a word of advice. If you're going to watch this episode, do not be eating ramen noodles.

I made that mistake and paid the price for it.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Phantom of the Auditorium"

It's oddly appropriate that I'm covering this episode today, since there's an actress from Mean Girls in it.

Seriously, I didn't actually plan it out this way.

Recap: Goosebumps "Phantom of the Auditorium"

In R.L. Stine's time as a horror writer, he has paid homage to most of the classics in the genre.

Frankenstein gets a nod pretty much any time he writes about a mad scientist perverting the laws of nature. Which is basically every other book. Dracula is pretty much the direct inspiration for the vast majority of his vampire characters. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, The Invisible Man... and yet, unless you count the Give Yourself Goosebumps Books, he didn't write about an evil clown in the vein of Stephen King's It until 2015.

We Michiganders contented ourselves with some Kreepy Klowns of Kalamazoo.
And while Mr. Stine is more than content to write books about werewolves until the cows come home (See: "Werewolf Skin," "The Werewolf of Fever Swamp," "The Werewolf in the Living Room," "Full Moon Fever," and numerous short stories), it was only a matter of time before our good Mr. Stine drew inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and its rich character interactions involving madness, obsession, and all-too-human evils.

Ten bucks says that the story will focus more on an actual ghost instead of all that interesting stuff, though.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "The Haunted Mask"

The problem with telling a story about a supposedly terrifying mask is that if you have to actually show it, it will never be as scary as what the audience can imagine.

Although there is one possible exception.

Now that's a haunted mask.

Recap: Goosebumps "The Haunted Mask Part 2"

You know, if you took all the supernatural elements of this story away, it would be about a bullied girl who invents a new persona after donning a stolen mask, thus freeing her repressed dark side as it manifests in acts of random violence.

Which, I think you'll agree, is not likely to get a Y-7 rating.

So as much as some parents and teachers campaigned against Goosebumps's supernatural elements, I think we can all agree that those same supernatural elements ended up making this particular story more suitable for kids.

And isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Recap: Goosebumps "The Haunted Mask Part 1"

To the surprise of probably no one, I read the Goosebumps books as a kid. Most boys I knew in elementary school did. And I distinctly remember that my third grade teacher actively discouraged the girls from reading them. She desperately wanted all the girls in the class to get interested in The Boxcar Children, or American Girls, or the one with that club of babysitters. I think it was Dear America...?

But when I was growing up, the Goosebumps craze was at its height, shortly before a certain 11-year-old wizard changed the face of children's lit. And actually, since I grew up in Nowhere, Michigan, the Goosebumps fad actually faded away earlier for my classmates than it did elsewhere. Mainly because we had the moderately tamer Michigan Chillers books riding that wave and stealing that thunder.

C'mon, Hollywood, I wanna see me some Kreepy Klowns of Kalamazoo.
When writing the Goosebumps books, R.L. Stine was inspired by the classic pulp horror tales by EC Comics. You might now recognize the company, but you might recognize their most famous work, the Tales from the Crypt franchise. And with Goosebumps, Stine continued the tradition of easily-consumable readables. Nothing meant to win any literary awards, but simply meant to keep you entertained; the children's version of a spy novel, or a Harlequin romance.

Now... I wasn't the bravest kid out there. I'll admit that right now. When I was in preschool, the scariest thing I could think of was the dancing trees in the Disney sing-along for "Grim Grinning Ghosts."

I didn't know they were trees; I thought they were many-angled creatures beyond human comprehension.
So when I entered elementary school, while I could read the books with no problems, the show terrified me.

Unleashing the haunted manuscripts was not an accident, R.L. Stine. You can't fool me.
Especially the shadowy letter "G," flying around, spreading misery and evil in its path like some sort of emissary of the dark ones, warping all creatures in its path into vile minions....

...It was scary as a kid, okay?
But now that I'm in my twenties, I'm confident in my ability to finally take a look at this show meant for children. And it starts with one of the most iconic books in the series, "The Haunted Mask."

So without further ado, let's get some Goosebumps.