Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goosebumps: Attack of the Jack O'Lanterns

Hello, I'm Sadako. I write the Goosebumps recaps. Yes, this is just a costume. See? I can get into the Halloween spirit, too. On tonight's recap, our characters learn a very important lesson on why you shouldn't waste your special effects budget on candy and hookers. Have fun, and I'll see you after the recap.

We open up on our main characters. Walker and Drew are hanging out, thinking about what to do for Halloween. Drew extols the virtues of Halloween. "It's okay, I guess," simpers Walker, probably wondering if he's got enough bread to head downtown to the Village Parade and do it up in style. Drew and pretty much every television, movie, or book character ever says, "Okay? It's the one time you get to be someone else." (And of course, by someone else, we mean a sluttier, cleavage baring, fishnet wearing someone else. Yeah, I'm sick of spending Halloween in Girl World, thanks for asking.)

The two are still stuck on Halloween plans. Walker proposes the carnival at school. Walker's so cute and socially awkward. He's like an adorable clumsy puppy who pees on your leg and then looks vaguely pleased with himself.

Walker asks Drew if she's at all nervous about going out. Drew replies that that was miles away. Anyway, nothing's really going to happen so Walker should just stop worrying. Yeah, but isn't that what you said about how you guys could get free Hydrox cookies at the NAMBLA meeting as long as you left before lots were drawn, and look who had to take an ass pounding that night. The conversation progresses to costumes. Drew tells Walker to go as a ninja, and he thinks he'd look stupid. You and every other hipster who thinks he's being original. Just go as a zombie pirate and be done with it.

In the background, we can see that something or someone is so stalking Walker and Drew. Is it E.T.? A pissed Sadako demanding a better special effects budget? No, it's Shane and Shauna, Drew's friends from out of town who used to live here, back for a visit of the old neighborhood.

Drew introduces them to Walker. There's some awkward conversation, worlds colliding, etc. Then something leaps out. But it's just Tabitha and Lee, the resident bullies, dressed as werewolves. The others are terrified.

In their defense, these costumes are better than the costumes for The Werewolf of Fever Swamp and Werewolf Skin. (Actually, these costumes are more realistic than the costumes used for the genuinely "scary" parts of this episode. Why the fuck did you guys squander the special effects budget on faux werewolves?!) Tabitha and Lee laugh at them and then leave.

Walker and Drew explain how last year, Tabitha and Lee came to their Halloween party pretending to be burglars which they seem to think is about the sickest joke ever. (Sicker than the time I tried to stick a clothes hanger up my crotch, going as pre Roe v. Wade America?) But Shane and Shauna have an awesome way to get back at Tabitha and Lee. (Please let it be the Knock Knock joke that ends with "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?"!)

Cut to Drew calling Tabitha to arrange for them to all go trick or treating together. She tells Walker that the kids didn't suspect a thing. Then Tabitha turns to Lee and says she thinks that Drew is up to something. King of dramatic irony you are, Stine.

Then there's a dream sequence where the ending got edited out. It starts off with Tabitha, Lee, Walker, and Drew going trick or treating at an old person's house.

Going by the book, apparently the dream ends with them walking in to see that the old people have trapped lots of trick or treaters. (Yeah, I once visited a nursing home around Halloween time when I was in middle school, too. No, I haven't stopped shuddering.) Here it just ends with Drew waking up in a cold sweat after going inside the house. Why remove the ending? Probably because it besmirched the elderly. To make up for not getting to see evil old people, I just played the youtube clip of "I've fallen and I can't get up" about a thousand times because the only thing better than evil old people is clumsy old people. And that's a fact.

Costume time! Drew is Super Drew. Laame.

Were they all out of Scary Spice costumes at J-Mart, Drew? Anyway, Drew's mother gets overprotective and says she doesn't want her daughter out on Halloween since the report of those four people who went missing last night. Drew argues that that was miles away, and besides, going by CNN, she's not in the chief demographic for missing people (rich, white, blonde, governor of South Carolina).

Meanwhile, there's a cut to someone with oven mitts reading a copy of the newspaper in the woods and then placing it on the ground.

Yeah, I worry about paper cuts, too. All right, all right, that's supposed to be some kind of monster with a pumpkin head. The voiceover has Drew's dad reassuring his wife that Drew will be just fine since she'll be in a group of friends and that Mrs. Drew shouldn't worry. Ooh, more irony! Someone's been digging into the Russian writers, eh, Stine?

Walker shows up at Drew's place dressed in black, saying he's a dark and stormy night.

Drew's dad is all, "I thought you said you were bringing a white boy home! I don't see a white boy! I see a damn fool!" Wait, no, that was an outtake Seinfeld clip. Drew Pere says, "I see the dark but not the stormy." Walker squirts Daddy Drew (with a mini squirt gun, get that other image out of your head).

Dad goes, "To think, I was this close to landing Carl Winslow on Family Matters--surely a role where my prowess could be appreciated without having to be constantly lambasted by a nerdy half pint." Wait, no, outtakes again. He says, "Well, now I don't have to take a shower." And the two head out after promising Mother Drew that they'll stay together (whether times are good or bad or happy or sad, yeaaaah).

Outside, Drew and Walker meet up with Tabitha and Lee.

Tabitha's a princess in a spacesuit. Lee seems to be dressed as the Joe Pesci character from Goodfellas, but in a spacesuit. Hmmm. She's a space suited princess. He's a space suited guido. They fight crime. Before Drew and Walker arrive, Tabitha shows Lee the newspaper clipping of the missing people and tells him that they have to prank Drew and Walker before they themselves are pranked. Pre-emptive pranking! I love it.

Shane and Shauna haven't shown yet and Drew wants to wait for them. Our space suited companions are all for ditching Shane and Shauna. The kids set off while Drew worries. Then all of a sudden...screaming pumpkinheads leap out and scare them.

They want to go trick or treating. "If you want to trick or treat, come with us. We know a better place. A better place," chant the pumpkin heads. "A better place! A better place!" "Helter Skelter!" I try to chime in. What? Mine has rhyme, nuance, plus a dual Beatles/Manson reference. Anyway, what kind of better place? Compared to what? I'm skeptical. Is it like Jonestown/drink the Flavor-aid better place or is it breathtakingly horrible like when they promised us that a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia in 7th grade would be way better than Busch Gardens?

Tabby and Lee think it's funny and that Shane and Shauna are awesome, but Drew is creeped out. She starts thinking that it's not really Shane or Shauna, that these pumpkinheads aren't human. The kids move on to this new better place and proceed to trick or treat their hearts out.

Considering the better place has Kit-Kats the size of my head (and I make those bobble headed Bratz dolls look like pinheads), I'm sold. The kids are in candy heaven. As they run off, one of the people who gave them candy stares at them and then her head turns into a pumpkinhead. (Yeah, this makes NO sense if you know how it ends.)

Drew thinks it's weird that they're the only kids here. Then Tabitha proclaims that it's getting late and wants to go home.

The pumpkinheads go all Anna Wintour in Devil Wears Prada on her, and refuse to let her leave unless she produces the next Twilight manuscript for the little Pumpkinbrats at home. (Damn, if only we carved stuff out of little blackberries and not pumpkins, I could have made a stellar joke about crackberry heads or something.)

"More houses!" chant the Pumpkinheads. Tabitha lifts off one of the Pumpkinhead's heads (God, why didn't Anne Hathaway just try that in that godawful movie? I would have had to sit through a lot less crap) and there's nothing there and it still shrieks, "More houses!" (Wow, just like my parents' real estate agent that one time.) It uses its claw to zap another pumpkin into shreds. (Also like their estate agent.)

"We want you to trick or treat forever! Now go!" The kids run away.

Then it's ironic punishment time as the pumpkinheads make the kids trick or treat all night. You know, like the time your parents discovered you smoking and made you smoke the whole carton? (The ironic punishment being having to pay for your kid's nicotine patch.)

The kids are tired and beg to be allowed to stop because they can't carry any thing more. Pumpkinhead 1 empties the bag and says, "Now it's empty. More houses!" Also, Mau! Didimau! Tabitha figures out that these Jack o'Lantern things must have kidnapped the missing people. Oh, the audience does love a slow learner. Then they make a break for it.

In the woods, there's a showdown and the Pumpkinheads go all, "One of us!" and threaten to turn the kids into Pumpkinheads.

Tabitha and Lee run away. Then the Pumpkinheads morph back into Shane and Shauna. "It was you!" says Drew in relief. "I mean, at first I thought it was you, but then I didn't."

Walker is confused, understandably. Shane and Shauna explain that they're really aliens (yes, Drew knew this all along). Well, duh. They're always either aliens or ghosts or the feverish imaginings of an autistic four year old child holding a snow globe of St. Eligius Hospital. The kids cackle over how they got Tabitha and Lee real good.

What do Shane and Shauna really look like? They whip off their human heads to reveal...

Okay, really? REALLY? Yes, in case you're wondering, I grilled R.L. Stine about this at Book Expo 09.

"So...what's up with the weirdass aliens in this episode? Was that your true artistic vision for the aliens?"

"Kid, I'm a deadline away from writing a book about haunted deli meat. Artistic vision went down the toilet when I managed to squeeze out four books on haunted GAK."

"Aw, come on."

"I was hoping for something more like this but the Estate of Gene Rodenberry had other ideas. Plus, it was either shiny latex alien suits or dental insurance that year. But then I found these sock puppets my son Matt made when he was seven and going through his Beeker from the Muppets stage. We glued them to the actors' heads and the rest is history." Then Stine's lawyer stepped up and I ran away to go get the Amazing Kreskin's autograph.

Drew offers the twins some candy for the road. But it turns out they only eat plump adults and they already ate a four course meal earlier (who didn't see that coming?). Shane and Shauna tell Walker and Drew not to eat too much because they will be back next year. So, you know, don't bulk up, kids! (Methinks they befriended the wrong Drew.) Drew and Walker look horrified as the aliens depart. This episode brought to you in part by the pro-ana guild of America.

No, R.L. Stine. Writing in a character named Drew does not make this ending any more Spielberg-esque.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of Old Man Corcoran

[Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the screenshots. When it's dark, it's hard to see what's going down.]

Kiki's telling the story tonight. "Hide and seek is not like any other game. You start off in a group but when you're out there in the dark, you're all alone. You've gotta hide and be real quiet because you never know when somebody might jump out and catch you." That kind of sounds like what life was like at the Keaton residence when drunk old Uncle Ned came for a visit, but okay, whatever.

Open up on two kids. Kenny and his older brother Jack have moved on up to the suburbs from the 'hood.

Here, they're free to squirt each other with supersoakers on Astroturf to their heart's content. Remember the early 90s? When life was a gigantic supersoaker commercial? All they need is a Slip n Slide, and the American Dream is achieved. No more yearning for that green light, yo.

Some kids pull up on bikes. Lead kid walks over to them and asks to know where they're from. They reply with a measure of pride, "East side."

"Nice neighborhood," cracks Whitey. Oh, Kiki, leave it to you to inject some racial tension into a story.

Jack thinks the new town is a loser neighborhood. Whitey invites the kids to come play hide and go seek with them at midnight. How deliciously unwholesome, like flying a kite at night. "We've been looking for a couple of tokens, and well, we think you'd be perfect way to fulfill our community outreach program at the same time."

The kids are reluctant. I mean, this isn't nearly as cool as the time they dared their Oreo cousin to spend a weekend in Compton. But they're eager to make friends. Whitey gives them directions and at midnight, they show a graveyard.

They wander through the graveyard till Whitey pops up with a "Boo!" and requisite "Oh, you should have seen your faces!" Yeah, but you should see YOUR face next week when you walk into your office and the rest of the gang has put a Chinaman there. Whitey calls "Ollie Ollie Oxen free!" and the others come out.

Whitey rattles off a long list of names, ending with Sissy Vernon, a pale butch Kiki wannabe. She asks the new kids if they aren't scared and they aren't, because everyone's dead here. Sissy replies, "Kind of," and then launches into an explanation of the ghost of Old Man Corcoran.

So, Creepy Old Man Corcoran used to be the groundskeeper, and he used to dig all the graves by hand, no machines. He also patrolled the grounds to make sure no one was there. He had a harmonica and was supposedly crazy. The legend goes that he caught a kid stealing and cut his hand off with an axe. (Apologies to Boo Radley there. C'mon, you know Harper Lee is spending her days monitoring stuff like this so she can go, "Thought of it first! Pass me my scones.")

Anyway, one day when Old Man C was digging a grave, it caved in, burying him alive. But his ghost still walks and you can hear him playing his old mouth organ and considering that when this episode aired, tickets to see Alanis playing harmonica on One Hand in My Pocket in concert were probably $100 a pop, I'd go with sneaking into the graveyard myself.

Jack and Kenny opine that the story blows. Jack says his grandma's scarier, and Kenny pipes in with, "Yeah, you should try living in our old neighborhood." If Kenny and Jack's grandma bears any resemblance to Madea, I'm with them.

Jack wants to know long how Sissy could last in the 'hood. And I say well, that depends, are we battling Samuel L. Jackson's homeless psycho from Coming to America or is this more of a cerebral I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/The Bluest Eye type situation, and I feel the glares of all the kids on me.

The game starts. Jack and Kenny go to hide but then they start to hear a harmonica. They figure it's someone pranking on them and they decide to prank the prankers. They see what they think is Old Man Corcoran's shack. They hide behind a stump. We hear someone hacking away with an ax. Kenny says, "You think they brought an ax out here just to play a joke on us?" "That's what I would do," his brother responds. Um, well, yeah and the town's probation officer really wants to have a little talk with you about that. No, but if Ashton Kutcher ever tries to prank me, I really want Jack with me.

They see a harmonica on top of the stump and then hear someone coming. We see a hand grabbing the harmonica.

Kenny and Jack leave. They hear someone scream "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" and they run straight into...

They run to the fence. Kenny almost doesn't make it over.

Hurry, Timmy, they're going to turn the power on! Well, he makes it in time, ripping his pants.

Next scene. The garage. The boys are sweeping up because they got into trouble for Kenny ripping his pants the night before. (Just tell Mom Jack got a little exuberant, okay?) Kenny says he wishes they never moved here and Jack tells him not to say that because, "Mom would do a lot to get us out of the old neighborhood." Kenny starts to protest and I'm with him--c'mon, he got in one little fight and his mom got scared...oh, er, the whitest kids you know are back and want them to play again.

Sissy Vernon accuses them of being chickens.

They retort, "We're not!" (uh, no, the proper answer is, "I'm not a chicken, you're a turkey," gawd). Marshall says, "Vernon just told you that story to scare you off. She doesn't want anyone else joining the group." Yeah, swarthy Ron Jacobson is the only token she'll stand for around here.

The kids convince Jack and Kenny to come. Little bro is reluctant. "Aw, c'mon, Alfie, let's just play with Goo instead." Oops, wrong Nick show. "This isn't about making friends anymore, Kenny," Jack intones solemnly. "This is about proving we can handle it." Yeah, well, Jack, that's what you said the time we had to bake a dozen dozen of cupcakes for the Black Panther Bake Sale back in the old neighborhood and we still got our asses capped because they were vanilla cupcakes.

Later in the graveyard, Sissy doesn't want to invite outsiders into the cabal. Marshall wants new blood. They get a discount for every nonwhite, remember, and Ron here isn't cutting the mustard anymore. No offense, Ron, still doing the group's taxes this year? You're a gem.

They play and Jack and Kenny both have to be IT together. But Jack has a plan of his own: to steal the harmonica so they can prove that Old Man Corcoran does exist. You know, lift from a guy who supposedly cut off a boy's hand for theft. God, I hope your mother does a better job with the driving while black lessons. Somewhere, Bill Cosby's hurling boxes of jigglers and screaming about how Jack's discrediting his people. Kenny wants to use teamwork and invite the others, but Jack's all, "Don't be an Uncle Tom." I kind of was hoping Cinar would sneak in a Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois debate here about the issue of black separatism, but no dice.

The brothers spy on Old Man Corcoran's retreating form. Aw, coveralls that don't quite cover all. They hide behind the stump. Old Man Corcoran comes back and takes his mouth organ. Jack's pissed because he wants that harmonica. (Okay, I agree, white people really shouldn't sing the blues, but we can get you your own mouth organ at the dollar store, c'mon!) Kenny knows he's the main character but he's not taking any chances. (He's a token called Kenny for chrissake!) Despite Jack's anger, Kenny knows he could be red shirted and gets the hell out of dodge.

Our Angry Young Man puts on a flashlight and dramas, "If I die, it's his fault." Shut up, Jack. Old Man C may not be allowed to sing the blues but you aren't allowed to go emo on me. Now get in there, get the harmonica and let's go.

He sneaks into the house, his flashlight now out. He stumbles around the house and accidentally switches on some old timey music. Then when he turns around, he sees Kenny who found the harmonica. The flashlight's now inexplicably on. Jack takes the harmonica and asks for the flashlight, except Kenny's not holding it. "If I'm not holding the flashlight..." "P-p-p-pirate ghosts!" No, more like, "Give me my harmonica!"

It's Old Man Corcoran asserting his property rights! Quote some anti capitalist Malcolm X screed at him and let's hit the dirt.

Shrieking, the boys run into Sissy hiding in a grave. She's not interested in their triumph over the Man(TM) and tells them to git. Uh, aren't they supposed to be IT? Where's the writer? Off smoking a bowl with Corky?

They leave, Kenny telling Sissy he didn't see her name on the grave. Sissy's all, "Well look a little closer next time." You tell 'em, Sissy. Also have you ever looked at a floating plastic bag in the wind? I, really looked?

Then they run into Marshall who's hiding in another grave and try to tell him how they stole from a poor white living impaired night laborer to give to some rich white kids.

Marshall's all, "Yeah, but I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance." He tells them to get into the grave with him (dude! writers! they are IT! they don't need to hide) but just then, Old Man Corcoran comes up behind them.

He wants to know what's up. They say they were playing hide and go seek and he's all, "Alone?" Ooh, I bet you guys would get extra diversity points for adding axe wielding old guy.

They list the names of their friends and he tells them that's not funny, that those kids are all dead and he buried them himself.

"What's the matter? You look like you've just seen a ghost." And I hear the fap fap sounds of a young M. Night Shyamalan coming to an epiphany. "Brilliant! People who seem alive can really be dead! And people who seem to live in the past can live in the present. And scrunks and narfs can make up for a lack of a plot!" Yeah, that's a good twist, M. Night, but a really good twist would be if it turned out that the old neighborhood that Ma so desperately wanted to get Jack and Kenny out of was Darien, Connecticut.

The Midnight Society kids think this story was awesome. They're all up for a game of Hide and Seek and everyone says "Not it" (except Gary, inexplicably absent, who probably wet his pants in fear at the thought of more minorities infiltrating his group and went home). Frank is it and the kids go off to play again.

Hope you enjoyed that. Now taking suggestions for any future episodes you guys want recapped.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Midnight Madness

We open up on the Midnight Society. Kiki and David announce that tonight is Fright Night at the Majestic and they want to get the story out of the way so they can use their free passes to go watch movies. Frank enters and starts up with a fire and brimstone esque condemnation of the evils of movie theatres and how he's never going back. The others mock him for being afraid of the dark and Brother Frank stands at his pulpit and opines, "I'm not going back because you sit in that movie theatre for so long, you start to forget that the real world even exists. The only thing that seems real is the horror movie up on that screen." Replace "movie screen" with video, and you've got my regular Saturday afternoon, Frank-man, what's your point? Frank throws the salt into the fire and it begins.

This tale is about two kids, Pete and Katie, who work at an old timey movie theatre. We open up on the movie theatre. An old lady stares at the screen and slowly claps. You know, the clap, clap, clap one person does, and then the rest join in and there's a standing ovation. Except she's the only person in the entire theatre. I think I love her.

In the lobby, we're on hard times. The manager, Mr. Kristoff, is afraid that the owners are going to shut down the Rialto. The recession is affecting everyone. Even fictional TV characters in the past. "Six bucks?" says greasy Mr. Kristoff, as he counts up the day's earnings. "One popcorn, two sodas," explains Katie. In 1993? I saw the size of that little old lady's popcorn cup! This is so highway robbery, even for a movie theatre. I'm starting to suspect that the unnamed owners of this theatre are mobbed up and having Mr. Kristoff manage the theatre is the equivalent of Michael Corleone sending Fredo to Las Vegas to keep him out of the way.

Pete asks Katie if she'd like to go grab a bite and she turns him down to go wash her hair do homework.

Don't feel bad, Pete. My theory is that she likes you but old man Katie's dad, is a closet racist. So you should stay away. Stay away...forever!

Pete, who loves films and the Rialto and is basically the Dawson Leery of this episode except without A) a freakishly large head, B) an ego the size of Gibralta, starts a campaign to try to keep the Rialto from closing. He tries handing out fliers to people, including a guy in a wheelchair who shakes his head. Ouch! You know your theatre sucks when it's not as good a time as Wheelchair Derby or Paraplegics Anonymous.

Back at the theatre, Red hatted old lady hands back a soda cup as she leaves and Katie tosses out the remaining soda and puts the cup back in the pile. I wait for the Rialto to receive an angry letter from Melvin Udall and a class action lawsuit from Adrian Monk.

Then one day, when Pete and Katie arrive for work and lock up, they start talking about the campaign to save the Rialto. Then there's a knock on the door. The kids tell whomever it is to come back in an hour and then the door opens on its own. You guys need way better security. Get Big Vinny who works over on Prospect Avenue. Enter...Dr. Vink!

A familiar conversation ensues. "Vink's the name! Dr. Vink." "Dr. Fink?" asks Katie. "Vink, with a vah vah vah." As I am feeling the urge to do a pretentious-DVD-commentary-esque...well, commentary here from the POV of a pompous windbag type director, I'll point out that Dr. Vink is played by Aron Tagert, who's overcome his handicap of being of Canadian descent to become a truly spectacular actor. He is an absolute gem. He can play so many different styles, you know, he can do mad, he can do insane, he can do slightly off-kilter. He's wonderful, and, of course, he always brings something new to the table. He's also starred in a Goosebumps episode, and really, this guy is a find, the proverbial diamond in the rough.

Dr. Vink runs around marveling over the smell of the theatre and how authentic it is. "The guy is a nutbag--I'm calling the police," says Katie.

Then Dr. Vink unleashes his fiendish plan. Well, not so fiendish, really. He wants to give them a vampire movie that they can show. If they show the movie, business will pick up and then he'll come back to them and ask for one night a week to show his other movies. "Oh, and I am NOT a nutbag," Vink, Sadako, and all the other 90s loving cult members say in unison. Mr. Kristoff and Dr. Vink shake hands on their agreement. Kristoff, Katie and Pete gape at each other and when they look back at the good doctor, he's gone. Mr. Kristoff's all, "I've done nothing and I'm all out of ideas," and tells the kids to just throw the movie out and f'getaboutit.

The Rialto continues to fail. Mr. Kristoff is stressing that Fat Dom is going to let his livelihood go under as he swigs from a flask.

Don't worry, kids. The flask just contains apple juice. I know because my mom told me that when I first saw it. (She explained that if he was seen rocking the Motts apple juice box that even Pete and Katie would laugh so hard they'd pee their rental uniforms and the Rialto would be out another $50 and then where would they be?)

Then Mr. Kristoff calls the kids to his office. The theatre closes in two short weeks. There's no way this theatre can compete with multiplexes that show movies that people want to see. Pete starts to rage against the machine (those damn corporations...they're just so...corporation-y!) but then there's an explosion in the projection booth and the kids head upstairs. The film strip is all over the floor. Pete has an idea. They decide to show Dr. Vink's film instead. Red hatted lady says, "This better be good, young lady, my time is valuable." Yeah, she needs to spend at least four hours a week convening with George Costanza figuring out ways to top "That's GOTTA hurt" and coming up with new ways to make laser pointer guy suffer.

The film starts and the audience is transfixed. Looks like Dr. Vink was right. After the film, they all file out chattering excitedly about how wonderful the movie was.

Red hatted old lady thrusts her cup at Pete approvingly and says they'll get better results if they show more movies like that. Then she heads off because it's Snark Night at the Apollo and she's late to meet Statler and Waldorf.

Pete and Katie hug.

Channeling the spirits of Dr. Phil and Tuck from The Wonder Pets, Pete says, "Lets hug again!" and Katie starts to act reluctant. He backs off. Yeah, I know, CINAR and the Nickelodeon execs said only one interracial hug and we had to both be wearing ridiculous vests to reduce any hint of impropriety. But Katie's more worried about the fact that everything Dr. Vink said has come true. She seems to think it's unusual that creepy Dr. Vink predicted the future. You know, I seem to remember another long haired, bearded man who said strange things and was considered a "nutbag" and ended up being crucified by a public who just didn't understand. I'm talking of course about my Uncle Jonas. We try not to speak of him in non-hushed tones.

Next scene. The movie box creaks open and a red light peeks out.

Oooh, a haunted film strip! I haven't been so scared since R.L. Stine created a haunted sponge, a haunted bottle of insta tan, and a haunted lawn gnome.

Weeks pass. Next scene, the vampire film is showing yet again. On screen, the dialogue says: "I must get this coffin into the light before the vampire returns," the dialogue says. Stupid Jonathan Harker. Forget the coffin. If there's enough light to kill a vampire, just kill him by opening a window. It's too late and the vampire comes inside and bites Harker and the movie ends with the vampire celebrating by doing an interpretative claw dance. I have to admit, this movie is pretty cool.

Man, this isn't one of your sexy vampires like Lestat or Angel or Bela Lugosi's Dracula. This is a truly horrifying vampire like Max Schrek's Nosferatu or Bunnicula.

Pete and Katie grin over the high popcorn sales. Pete is about to awkwardly ask Katie out yet again (awww), when Dr. Vink cockblocks him. He's come to see how things are. Mr. Kristoff walks in saying, "There you are!" Ooh, someone's success has gone to his head. Kristsoff can finally afford a used car salesman leisure suit and a brand new chest merkin (don't just undo one button--show it all off, man!). Now all he needs is a girlfriend. Get this guy to a Danny DeVito Fan Club meeting and he's in.

Anyway, Dr. Vink just wants one night a week to show movies. Hell, I'd give this guy one night a week for mahjong night if he wanted it, but Mr. Kristoff doesn't want to share his theatre with anyone now that it's successful. He just wants to cut Dr. Vink a check and get him out of here. Dr. Vink ominously replies that Kristoff is wrong and leaves. Incidentally, don't you love the look on Vink's face when Kristoff tries to gladhand him--it's the look my teddy bears get when I give them their hourly suppositories.

Time passes. We cut to Pete watching the movie. He falls asleep and Nosferatu leaves the movie screen and heads on out the door. Pete wakes up and thinks he had a weird dream. Then he heads over to the concession stand to see Katie. He tries to ask her out again. You know, like, maybe Old Man Ewell relaxed his policy on race relations? "I know you think I'm a geek," he tells her. "You're not a geek, Pete. You're more of a nerd." She laughs and tells him she's kidding. Oh, you want to go head to head in a game of Geek, Dweeb, or Spaz, Katie, because I will own you.

There's a Wilhelm scream from above and the kids go investigate to see who's screwing around with the sound effects tape now. They go into Kristoff's office and see that he's slumped over his desk. Been hitting the Mott's a little too hard, old man? Perhaps not.

Gross. See, Bella, this is why you don't want to tempt Edward. Let him go feast on movie theatre managers and substitute math teachers while keeping your lovely white neck intact. The kids can't call for help because the phones are cut. Katie says she'll stay with Mr. Kristoff while Pete goes for help. Pete, knowing the fate of most tokens, says they should stay together. (YES! First, last, and only time a horror show character has said that! Man, if Katie doesn't want this guy, I'll take him. We can go destroy some more cliches on our first date.)

Turns out the kids can't leave anyway because the doors to the building have been locked. But suddenly, they swing open and there's the vampire from the movie.

(Let's get his autograph before the Paparazzi shows up!) The kids shriek and clutch one another.

Why so sad? Because of the look in his eyes that says, "Sorry, kids, looks like you're on the second string of my Vampire baseball team this year. Cheer up. I still need a vampire ump."

As they run, Nosferatu caresses the wall.

You'd think this would skeeve me, but since watching both Sopranos and Real Housewives of New Jersey, nothing short of ten inch acrylics will frighten me.

They head up for the projection booth (oh yeah, that'll work, enclose yourself in a small space). Pete has an idea and tells Katie to start up the movie while he distracts the Nosferatu. He leaves and the vampire eventually comes in and looks at her.

Please help. Will work for dental surgery and access to my tanning booth.

Aww. You know, he's really not such a bad vampire. Maybe if we fix the teeth issue and the skin globules. He's not bad at all, really.

Then suddenly, Katie manages to reach over and flip the switch that starts the movie. Nosferatu backs off looking freaked. I imagine his internal monologue. "No! The show commences! And I forgot to go out to the lobby and have myself a snack!" I know I'm cranky if I have to sit through previews without a Milky Way or eight.

Pete enters the movie screen. The vampire heads in after him. Pete drags the coffin into the light as Katie watches from the audience. "Use teamwork!" she screams at him.

Then Pete opens the window and the sunlight pours in, turning Nosferatu into dust. Wow. Our best weapons couldn't tame the beast, but it was destroyed by something as simple as bursting into flames and disintegrating. Pete comes out of the movie screen and back into real life. Mr. Kristoff walks on screen rubbing his neck and complaining that he had a terrible dream.

Their little vampire weekend over, we cut to Dr. Vink sitting in a seat in the audience applauding and saying, "Bravo!" Mr. Kristoff comes to his senses and decides to let Dr. Vink have his one night a week. But then it turns out that Dr. Vink bought the theatre and now can show his films every night. And apparently he has much, much better movies to show. He throws back his head and cackles.

Well, if the movie business doesn't work out, you can teach Evil Laughs 101. The end.

Back in Midnight Society land, the kids are impressed. Kiki and David wuss out when it comes to Fright Night. Frank takes their tickets. Gary asks if Frank isn't afraid, and Frank laughs and says it's just a movie and the two head off to the movies together.

And, scene! This was my all time favorite episode as a child (well, this and The Tale of the Dark Dragon), and despite the snark, it does hold up quite well. When my future kids beg to watch Twilight and The Vampire Diaries "because that's what you watched when you were little," I plan to turn this on instead and then have a thirtieth trimester abortion if they don't agree that how great Dr. Vink is. In closing, I urge all of you reading this to write to your Congressmen and women about getting Are You Afraid of the Dark? on DVD.

Monday, June 8, 2009



This one comes courtesy of Children of the 90s. If you haven't already, you should bookmark that blog. And then bookmark it again because it's just that good.

Now to pass this on to others.

Books, TV, Movies, and Miscellaneous Junk from the '80s and '90s
Just found this one and am loving it. Someone else who appreciates Lois Duncan, Clueless, the Simpsons, and 90210 (original, yo) and put it on a website all together. Yeah!

Fear Street because I selfishly hope this will encourage her to post again!

Taren at Chick Manifesto because she's great at putting stuff I've already read into a whole new light and at introducing me to totally different stuff.

Lady J at Cinemania for teaching us that in the world of Lifetime movies, former sitcoms stars can be rapists and abusers.

Lifetime, Wow!
for more worthy Lifetime snark.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Goosebumps: Calling All Creeps!

I had to get around to reviewing the Goosebumps TV series sooner or later, eh? Do I lose coolness points for pointing out that I was genuinely a little creeped out by The Haunted Mask and that's why I ended up not doing it? On to this one.

We open on Ricky Beamer. He's crouching outside the window to a classroom and a voice over is giving us some exposition. Clever boy, R.L.! You can save time and effort if the characters just tell you their motivation. That's totally what your creative writing teacher told you, right? Tell, don't show. (Yes, I'm aware that R.L. Stine didn't actually write the screenplays, but go with it.) As for our protagonist, I see why they call him Ricky. Doesn't he totally remind you of a young Rick Springfield? I mean, Moranis?

And yes, the only thing about this episode that remotely gave me Goosebumps was the thought of seeing that in my bedroom window. Even though I live on the 13th floor. Anyway, Ricky's telling us all about Tasha McClain, the editor of the school paper who never lets Ricky write anything. She also calls him a creep and "Ricky the Rat" and won't let him play in any non-rodent games. So Ricky decides to get his revenge, by showing everyone what a creep Tasha is. Oh, Ricky, you don't have to write for the school paper. Find your own voice. Blog about all the people who make you crazy. You can say bitchy things and then browbeat sad, mentally challenged blonde girls on national television.

Ricky writes on the school computer something that presumably will go in the next issue. He writes: Calling all creeps, calling all creeps, if you're a creep call Tasha McClain after midnight. He gives her phone number and then looks pleased. Hm, so you're a voyeur who attempted to publish an underage girl's phone number and she's the creep. Ricky, the only thing that would make you more creepy would be walking around in a flasher coat. He hears noises in the hallway and realizes Tasha and the newspaper adviser are coming back. He leaps out the window leaving muddy footprints. Subtle, big boy.

The next day in school, he's accosted by the Usual Suspects. A diverse looking group of bullies shows up.

The female bully has a lot to learn if she wants to go the Mean Girls route by the time she's in high school. Regina George would annihilate her for wearing horizontal stripes on a day that ends in y. On to the bullying. One of the bullies breathes on Ricky. Then they all make him sing Old McDonald while everyone laughs. This is what passes for bullying? I'm a mild mannered Virgo, and even I'm having fantasies of swirlies and the dreaded Rear Admiral.

Aww, cheer up, Ricky. You're sporting a sweater vest that would make Chandler Bing weep with envy.

A teacher breaks up the bullying, and the kids scatter. When they leave, there's an adorable new girl who introduces herself as Iris.

She says she just moved here, and when he responds, "I wish I NEVER lived here," she laughs fetchingly. Lucky boy! Cute as a freaking button, ethnic, and she has low standards! She's like the Asian Sarah Silverman. This is so every nebbishy boy's fantasy--meeting a cute Asian girl who digs nerds. I start to think, "R. L., you just wrote about every wet dream you ever had when you were a young writer with big dreams and an even bigger facial mole. Like this could EVER happen in real life," but then I realized that for some nebbishes, sometimes dreams do come true.

Ricky proceeds to take Iris to lunch. Well, he takes her to the cafeteria and tells her that no one ever eats the Tuna Surprise. Iris is all, "Then why do they keep making it," and Ricky snaps, "It's a plot point, just go with it." Then Ricky says, "I can't believe you're talking to me." Iris asks, "Why's that?" and he shrugs. Gee, maybe because the Onion was joking when they wrote that article about Asian teenagers having fetishes for dorky white guys. Because you're a figment in R.L.'s sweaty, clammy, yellow feverish imagination? As they walk by a table, one of the bullies trip Ricky and he goes face down in his own lunch. Everyone but Iris laughs. Tell me this isn't the perfect likeness of a young Robert Lawrence Stine?

He runs off. Iris tells him to wait up, and he says, "Those guys are gonna pay. After Tasha, they're next." And considering your last revenge scheme, I'm worried. Are you going to write them angry limericks? Ricky mentions that he snuck into the newspaper office to play a trick. Are you watching this, little Dylan and Eric? This is the way to get revenge in high school on those who have angered you. Mean spirited little notes in a widely read paper! Not murder suicide.

Ricky leaves school early before he can get a copy of the paper. Iris calls him at night trying to warn him about something awful. His dad picks up on the other line and makes him hang up. Mr. Beamer, dude? Your son's getting calls from a hot girl. This is going to be his only chance for sexy pillow talk that doesn't entail running up the phone bill with calls to 900 numbers or perfecting a Real Girl who's passed the Turing Test.

Anyway, the next call is from a guy who rasps, "Hello, I'm a creep. When do we meet?" followed by several other equally sensual calls. Well, this makes the time at all girls' college when we all got calls from some perv who would ask us to put the Jergen's on our skin or risk the hose again look like Tommy fucking Tutone by comparison. I'd like to deride Ricky for freaking out but when it happened to me I ended up curled in a fetal position outside the R.A.'s room, so I won't. I will, however, mock him for the phone.

Is a glow in the dark phone really necessary? What, are you constantly fielding late night calls from your dealer?

The next day at school, Tasha reveals that one, she saw him that night, two, this newspaper has a better fact-checker than those guys who published James Frey, the Wall Street Journal, and Dan Rather. She somehow managed to see his fiendish little joke and changed it. Tasha laughs at him and then leaves, and the bullies saunter by, nodding and grinning. But not actually, you know, bullying.

At lunch, they stare at him longingly. Oh Ricky, you're so fine! One of them tosses the Rickmeister a note that says, "When will the creeps meet?" Then Ricky heads to his locker.

Well, you know, I'd suggest a picture of Brad Pitt, but then again, I was that weird kid who had a photo of Phil Spector in my locker. Incidentally, love the low camera angle, but that is NOT creepy lettering. The cover of the Goosebumps books? Now that's creepy lettering.

Iris comes up behind him and they talk about the weird events. Then she asks him to go bake cookies with him for the school bake sale. They agree to meet after school the next day, and Ricky's all excited because...well, cookie-baking with a cute Asian girl! You never know what this might lead to. Like, she might show him her collection of stuffed Pokemon dolls and name the cutest one Ricky. Or ask him to help her pick out another schoolgirl skirt. As Ricky stares at her happily, you can tell he's hoping her jacket will slip off her shapely shoulders a little, and I share his feelings, but only because I'm thinking, "This girl has to have a hump under there or a weird evil twin that comes out of her head a la Imprint because what the hell is she doing with Willard here?"

That night, Ricky takes the phone off the hook. Ingenius! However, I'd like to give him the same advice I got for MY weird phone calls in anti-rape class, which is to blow a rape whistle into the telephone receiver. The next morning, he puts the phone back on and the second he does, he gets a call from a female voice saying, "Don't ever take the phone off the hook." Whoa, the writers from that new Beyonce movie Obsessed were totally cribbing from this. The voice goes on, "How can we make contact? We'll be watching. Waiting. We will find you. We will meet soon. Very soon." Oh yeah. Well, who will watch the watchers, dumbass?

Later, Ricky's walking through the woods for no given reason when someone throws a bag over his head and kidnaps him. When he opens his eyes again, he's in a cave, and the bullies are there. They approach him apologetically. "We didn't meet to hurt you!" one says. "We didn't know!" Yeah, turns out they would never have bullied him if they'd known he was a creep like them. And what is a creep?

Based on the cover of the book, I get the feeling that R.L. Stine told scriptwriter/show creator Dan Angel, "Yeah, I'm thinking raptors meet Dennis the Menace," but they only had enough cash for some cheap raptor head knock offs at K-Mart that someone had accidentally spilled yellow paint onto. So, now the erstwhile bullies have yellow dinosaur heads and are doing the Christian Bale Batman voice. Cheap transformation--we don't even see it. One minute we see regular kids, then we cut away to Ricky's rugged visage, and then when we cut back, it's yellow K-Mart dino heads. C'mon, R.L. Stine, what'd you do with the budget money for this episode? Spend it on booze, Asian hookers, and mole glitter?

The dinosaur things explain that they need to get everyone in the school to eat these identity seeds so they'll be changed into creeps as well. If you really want people to know what it's like to be a creep, can't you guys just write a gripping expose on the life of a creep? Creep Like Me? A Creep of One's Own? Then one of them (yes, it's the fat one) eats a fly near Ricky's head with its long, serpentine tongue.

If Ricky's the leader of the creeps, then why are they telling him what they need to do? I haven't been so disgusted by a plot point since Alex Fernandez on Ghostwriter snuck into Thabto headquarters pretending to be the Thabto leader but then some other goon led the meeting. From that moment on, children's TV jumped the shark for me.

The creeps ask him how they should disseminate the identity seeds. Ricky has no idea. The female creep proposes that they put the seeds in the cafeteria food and the other one asks Ricky if he thinks it's a good plan. He replies, "I guess so," and another creep says, "Then it's decided. Seeds in the cafeteria food. It's a goooood plan." So...all he did was stare at them while they came up with ideas and then tell them it was a good plan? I'm suddenly reminded of the decision process for most of the last Bush administration. Ricky IS the deciderer!

Cut to the next morning, in the cafeteria. The creeps need Ricky to dump the seeds. He's unsure and they start to doubt his commitment to the plan. After all, Ricky might not be a team player. They decide to transform and ask him to join them to prove he's a creep. Ricky protests that he is indeed their commander. Well, I can't argue with that. Ricky decides to put the identity seeds in the Tuna Surprise since no one eats that anyway. He dumps it in. Then a cafeteria worker shows up and tries to make him eat it, telling him Tuna Surprise is good nutritious food and that they kids shouldn't mock it. "No, I, uh, never eat tuna in the morning!" Ricky says and then leaves. I'm thinking you're going to have to change your morning fish-eating stance if you want to get into Soon Yi's Digimon themed panties, but okay.

At noon, Ricky anxiously tries to make sure that no one is eating Tuna Surprise, and when he sees Iris has it, he makes her throw it out. She reminds him about their cookie baking date, and he gets impatient and snaps at her, so she leaves. Can I add "has a working spine" to reasons why I love Iris?

Later, in the cave again, the creeps harass Ricky for screwing up the plan. They want to devour him for his poor job performance. (May I suggest placing a pube on his can of Coke?) Then Iris shows up, telling them that she's the second in command and that that plan was just a test run. So Ricky comes up with the plan of putting the Identity Seeds in cookies for the bake sale.

The kids bake cookies in the cafeteria later. Ricky questions Iris separately, and Iris reveals that not ONLY is she a non-creep, cute Asian schoolgirl with a backbone, but that she's also brilliant and came up with this fake plan to get Ricky out of a tough situation. Get the girl a kitten and put her in a Lolicon outit, and I'll start squeeing. The creep-kids chant, "Humans are the past. Creeps are the future." Okay, as slogans go, it's no One of us! but for adolescent-freak things, it's not bad. Even George Orwell probably had to start somewhere lame before he got Four legs good, two legs baaaaad.

At the bake sale, Tasha mocks Iris for being friends with creepy Ricky. Ricky sports another hot sweater vest. Fat creep screams, "Free cookies," and the kids swarm. Ricky tells them not to eat the cookies, but they start laughing at him and chanting, "Ricky the Rat!" The creep-kids tell them that he'll be their leader once everyone eats the cookies. Ricky looks tempted to go mad with power. After all, have you ever gone mad WITHOUT power? It sucks.

Iris tells him that they have to get everyone to stop eating the cookies. But the creeps are quite Mephistophelean. They tempt him with the idea of being leader of the creeps (vroom, vroom!).

Pasty ginger creep leans forward to whisper in Ricky's ear. Just think. Your own line of sweater vests. Also, Feed me, Ricky, feed me all night long! Ricky tells the kids, "Enjoy the cookies," and everyone devours them. Iris protests. One of the creep-kids hands Ricky a cookie and he takes a bite and the credits roll. Uh, don't the creep kids think he's ALREADY a creep? Why hand him a cookie? Well, okay, maybe he looked like he needed the blood sugar rush.

Anyway, I have high hopes for Ricky. I seem to remember one gawky teenager with a cute female sidekick (albeit a redhead, not an Asian) who grew up to become a creep. And he got to be in a Tim Burton movie AND star in a USA series. If you don't know who I'm talking about, do not pass GO or claim $200 but go directly back to the eighties and bone up on your John Hughes movies.