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.