Review: Goosebumps - Series One / Cert: PG / Director: Randy Bradshaw, Craig Pryce / Screenplay: Scott Peters / Starring: R. L. Stine (Host), Kathryn Short, Cody Jones, Scott Wickware, Hamille Rustia / Release Date: November 26th
“Viewer beware – you're in for a scare.” There's not a young adult – or parent of a certain age – out there today who won't remember RL Stine's Goosebumps books. For this horror fanatic, Stine's series of scary novels for youngsters kick-started a passion for horror which abides to this very day. Goosebumps was childhood's last stand before I moved on to the likes of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum and HP Lovecraft.
With Stine's stories proving so astonishingly popular, it was only a matter of time before Goosebumps was adapted into a television series. Series One is now available on DVD, bringing a number of very memorable RL Stine tales to the small screen. The author himself shows up in the prologue to The Haunted Mask, one of Stine's best novellas. The tale of a bullied young girl who becomes too attached to her Halloween mask is surprisingly creepy, given its age and target audience.
There are nineteen episodes in this set, consisting of such classics as The Phantom of the Auditorium, The Girl Who Cried Monster and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp. Amongst the best of the bunch is Night of the Living Dummy II, which is effectively Child's Play crossed with Dead of Night for kids. Amateur ventriloquist Amy is gifted a new dummy by her parents, but Slappy is a malicious little creature. Trashing the house and cruelly insulting Amy's family, the little girl repeatedly gets the blame for Slappy's crimes. The Slappy stories were the most popular Goosebumps tales, spawning a number of sequels and becoming Stine's signature villain. It may be for kids, but Night of the Living Dummy is vastly preferable to anything Chucky has done beyond Child's Play 2.
Slappy isn't Goosebumps' only celebrity attraction. Say Cheese and Die features a young Ryan Gosling as its hero – a lad who finds a cursed camera in a dark basement. It looks more like a cross between a Cyberman's helmet and a toaster than any camera I've ever seen, but it's a horrible artefact all the same – injuring his friends and crashing his dad's car. One would never guess that Gosling could go on to become a Hollywood A-Lister on the basis of this, but it's the best story of the series. Meanwhile, It Came From Beneath the Sink has little Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps and Freddy vs Jason) fighting an evil, um, sponge. It's an icky feeling, having seen her strip naked to get killed by Freddy and Jason (both at the same time) but her performance shows a lot of promise. “Did I ever tell you what a wonderful sponge you are?” It's a very silly story, but enjoyable all the same.
That opening sequence still has the power to send shivers down the spine. The stories remain compelling and fun. Goosebumps is the very best nostalgia trip – the kind that doesn't disappoint, all these years later. Celebratory worm sandwiches all around – Goosebumps is still good!