Monday, August 31, 2009

Goosebumps: It Came From Beneath the Sink

This weekend, R.L. Stine refused to return my calls or answer my e-mails. I guess I was a little hard on him when I snarked the Haunted Mask. How was I supposed to know it's considered the jewel in his crown? It wasn't until I twittered that I was spending the night reading Goosebumps books and crying that he agreed to come over and help me out with this next episode. (I also had to buy him some mole glitter and tell him that it's a shame that M. Night's lawyers never gave him anything more than some jujubes and a free Haley Joel Osment plastic mask in the settlement where he alleged that The Sixth Sense directly ripped off The Ghost Next Door.)

And I'm glad he came back because this episode stars Katharine Isabelle, one of Canada's leading ladies (yeah, I know, contradiction in terms), and the star of the Ginger Snaps trilogy.

Kat and her family have moved to a new house in their same town. Their dog Killer starts freaking out because of something under the sink. So Kat investigates. Upon seeing some glowing red eyes, she assumes, "Aw, kitty" and reaches in. You know, during our cave unit of fourth grade science class, the first thing I learned was not to just reach into a dark space without making sure I knew what I was looking for. (In my defense, how was I supposed to know that Mrs. McCormack wasn't really a Mrs. yet and that she got her jollies that way?)

Anyway, Kat reacts much the same way I did when she sees what it is. Yech.

The rest of the family thinks it's just an ordinary sponge. (Well, except Killer.) You know, call me crazy but I thought that sponges were square and came in bright soothing pastels, usually yellow. ("Oh, please," sneers R.L., "that unrealistic, unattainable image for sponges?" Yeah, turns out that SpongeBob is to real sponges as Kate Moss is to girls with love handles and a penchant for eating Taco Bell.)

A series of terrible things start happening. And by terrible, I mean Kat's dad breaks the family china and Kat sees the sponge and then drops a glass in the bathroom that her little brother steps on. (This was the lead-in for the sequel, The Tetanus Shot of Doom.) After Kat tries to explain how it's the sponge's fault, her mom screams at her.

Kat's mom, this is why you take a page from Kate Gosselin--don't allow your children water when they're being whiny and make sure your husband is only entrusted with soft, unbreakable things, like his spine and that deformed sextuplet.

The next day, Kat comes downstairs. Her brother teases her with, "Look out, paper towel with eyes!" (R.L. leaps up in excitement with his pen and yellow idea pad in hand till I remind him that he pitched that one to Scholastic as his first Fear Street book and they 86ed it.) Then it turns out that Killer is missing.

Kat goes out on her bike looking for Killer when her brakes fail and she gets into a crash. She comes home and Daniel and his friend, Carlos, ask about Killer. She couldn't find him. Kat thinks it's the sponge's fault. She suddenly leaps up as she sees it under the bike helmet. It glows, and the other two finally believe her.

Kat decides to get rid of it by burying it. Carlos tells her they should keep and study it, but Kat is having none of that. As it pulsates, she drops it.

I just have one question. A black kid named Carlos? Were you originally trying to fill your non-white quotient with a Hispanic kid but then forgot to change his name when you cast an African American child?

The next day, the lawn is in shambles.

Somewhere, Hank Hill dies a little inside.

Kat and Daniel dig up the sponge. Kat takes the sponge to school and asks her science teacher Ms. Vanderhoff about it.

"Garden variety kitchen sponge by the look of it," says the science teacher. Okay...Really? Really?

All right. Is this the same science teacher I had in third grade who took off points when I brought in a diorama of plastic dinosaurs romping because Apatosaur lived during the Jurassic period and Triceratops lived during the Cretaceous, but gave me some extra credit due to the fact that they were all giving rides to my tiny Fisher Price kids? Damn that year we spent in Kansas.

Ms. Vanderhoff says it seems like a normal sponge to her but that she'll take a closer look at it later. Ms. V? Wearing a pair of thick tortoiseshells isn't going to make you a great intellect any more than said glasses made Tina Fey look like a nerdy bookish type.

Kat leaves the sponge with her teacher and heads home.

At home, Carlos is reading Encyclopedia of the Weird. "Does it have her picture in it?" Daniel jokes, gesturing at Kat.

Carlos says that according to this book, the sponge is a grool, a creature that causes bad luck wherever it goes. It also feeds on bad luck, getting stronger the worse things become. Carlos clumsily foreshadows that it's a good thing that they didn't find a lanx, which is a vampiric potato.

Carlos also tells them that if the owner gives away the grool, then the owner will die. Kat realizes that she left the grool with her teacher. The kids head over to the school.

Open on a janitor listening to headphones and singing "You Are My Sunshine," as he cleans. The kids sneak into the science classroom but can't find the grool. They hide as the janitor comes in and turns on the light, revealing that the grool is sitting on a table.

The janitor finds the grool and starts using it to wipe down the counters.

The fuck? Does everyone think that's what kitchen sponges really look like? Ether Typhoid Mary runs a cleaning agency that this guy works for, or this episode and the book it was based on were commissioned by some angry sponges who wanted to do for the sponge image what Dove Real Beauty did for women with cellulite.

The lights suddenly go out and the janitor heads over to the circuit breaker when he bumps his head and passes out. The grool starts making noises and the kids try to find it in the dark. Kat sees a sign that says, "Danger: ACID." She climbs up on a stool and the grool surprises her. She falls, knocking over the acid, and the goggles, zey do nussing! The grool grows happily. The kids want to escape but the door is barred for no apparent reason. (Whoever gets to edit the goofs page on this episode's IMDb listing is going to have a long night.)

The kids decide to go out the window. They figure they'll have to carry out the still unconscious janitor, but as soon as they grab him, tape player falls down. The grool hears the awful corny music and starts to shrink. The kids realize that the music is pissing off the grool.

"The grool loves bad so it must hate good!" says Kat. So I have the grool to blame for drunken karaoke singers who think that Don't Stop Believing is their signature hit.

Daniel turns up the music but the tape player dies and the kids freak out until they realize they can just make up crap on their own (which is what Kiss said when their hair and make-up artist quit and how Peter Chris's kittykat persona was born). The kids tell the grool how awesome it is, and it shrinks. But then the acid starts making weird noises, until the janitor inexplicably wakes up and sprays it (with a fire extinguisher, pervs). Between all the spraying foam and the horrid music, I'm starting to get a flashback to the time my mom made me take my little cousin to a Jonas Brothers concert and a condom fell out of my back pocket and I had to spend the entire rest of the night being lectured to and trying on abstinence rings.

We cut to Kat's room the next day. She wakes up and puts a gigantic set of headphones on the grool's cage and tells him to enjoy as the sounds of Goosebumps music start to play.

The grool writhes in pain like a hipster forced to listen to a band that Pitchfork just wrote about and that now has a following of more than eight people.

Kat looks out the window and sees that the dog, Killer, has come back. The whole family welcomes back Killer (except Horshach who just does his trademark laugh). The family leaves and Killer drops something in Kat's lap. Kat asks what the dog brought her.

Aw, a dog who can bring me my favorite non-green vegetable! All right. (In other news, Dr. Atkins was once up on animal cruelty charges for beating his dog to death with a potato. His defense? Well, come on, the mutt brought him a complex carbohydrate. True story.)

The potato scowls and Kat screams.

You're probably laughing but this scene right here was the inspiration for the entire movie Teeth. (Well, a combination of that and the time that Mitchell Lichtenstein's girlfriend went down on him without taking out her retainer.) I'd also like to say that this is how this is how R.L. remembers the sexual encounter between him and the Missus that resulted in their son, Matt, being conceived, but I can't. No, not because I promised R.L. I'd cut back on those jokes, but because their kid was created in a lab somewhere. The closest they've got together physically is that time R.L. IMed his sweetheart with "*holding hands*"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Dangerous Soup

As we open on the Midnight Society, Frank is giving us the background to his story by having all the kids say what their worst fears are. They're pretty ordinary (dogs, heights) except for Sam who's afraid of birds and is probably the only person who genuinely thought that the Hitchcock movie The Birds was scary. Tucker claims to be afraid of nothing and Frank says he has something in this box that Tucker is probably scared of. Frank says it's no secret that he's afraid of the dark.

Kiki says, "Yes! He admits it," as she high fives Gary. And I hate to admit that the ten year old inside of me thinks, "Oh, he's got a tough veneer, but look at that vulnerability! He's like an ethnic Shawn Hunter." Anyway, Frank talks some more about fears and then calls his story the Tale of the Dangerous Soup.

We cut to a guy in a room with fans. A chair appears, and a disembodied voice tells him to take a seat. Oh my god, it's Chris Hansen! Like such great TV hosts as Marc Summers and Mike O'Malley before him, he too got his start on Nickelodeon before going on to such bigger and better things as voicing animated series, doing shows on the Food Network, and mining pedophiles for fun and profit.

No, I'm kidding. It turns out to be Dr. Vink. So the guy sits down and asks, "Now what?" This is strangely surreal for the normally straightforward Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Is this a dream sequence? TV show within a TV show? Oh my god, if I'm watching yet another experimental film about gay cowboys eating pudding, or an off-off-off Broadway play about stripper lesbians with issues talking about heteronormativity, I'm so out of here. So the guy is suddenly strapped into the seat and a statue of a gargoyle creature appears.

This is scary? I've seen lladro more frightening than this.

The voice giggles. "It knows what scares you!" A snake appears between the young man's legs as he starts screaming and we cut out.

Next scene. Neve Campbell welcomes us to a restaurant called the Wild Boar while silently asking herself if she'll appear too desperate if she calls up the Party of Five producers to see if they've made a decision about the Julie Salinger role yet. As she walks by, another waitress hands a couple some menus but they tell her that they've just come for the soup. As one of the waitresses and Neve talk back in the kitchen, it turns out this soup goes for a hundred dollars a pop.

A busboy bumps into them and drops some knives on the floor. One of the waitresses, Jersey, freaks out, screaming that she doesn't touch knives, she just doesn't, and stalks off.

People eat the soup with oddly orgasmic looks on their faces.

Then as the chef emerges, they applaud. Good god, I haven't seen this much excitement over soup since Carole King sang Chicken Soup With Rice. As it turns out, the chef is Dr. Vink. He takes a bow and thanks everyone for coming.

Next scene. A scruffy young man asking only workman's wages comes looking for a job. Neve, er, actually, her character is called Nonnie, interviews the guy, Reed, and explains about Dr. Vink, who's the chef and owner and basically heart and soul of this operation. Dr. Vink pops up out of nowhere and says, "A cook feeds the stomach. A chef nourishes the soul." And Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain rape the spirit and leave it for dead in a ditch somewhere moaning (sorry, too much Food Network this weekend).

Young Reed eye rolls and asks if Dr. Vink is supposed to be the best or something. Dr. Vink eyes him with the look of Meryl Streep eyeing young, fresh-faced ingenue Anne Hathaway, and just as Ms. Streep hired the girl who doesn't know from Dolce and Gabanna, Vink decides to hire the kid who can't distinguish between tripe and his own asshole. (Though to be fair, it's the blind taste test that four out of five Top Chef contestants consistently fail.) As Dr. Vink heads into the kitchen to show him around, Reed mutters to Nonnie that Vink seems like a nutbag.

Vink shows his new employee around the kitchen, talking about how cooking is an art form. He offers Reed a taste of the soup, which he thinks is, "pretty good."

"My friend, the flavor dances over the tongue in a symphony of flavors." (You know, if the restaraunt business doesn't work out, Dr. V. could so write pop songs for 1960s girl groups. Or soft-core vampire porn because that little love note to soup was better than 90% of the first Sookie Stackhouse book.) Vink warns Reed that he's not allowed to have another taste.

"And I am NOT a nutbag," he adds. Dr. Vink? Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. Thanks.

Frank narrates that once in a while, someone would just up and quit for no reason. But the Wild Boar flourishes.

Next scene. Jersey and Dr. Vink argue while Reed and Nonnie talk. Reed explains some of his behavior. He mentions that he's always been on his own and it's hard to ask other people for help but Nonnie's been really awesome (she covers for him when Vink catches him trying to sneak a taste of soup). She bats her eyelashes and silently wonders if doing a Nickelodeon show will make it too sleazy when she does her first Playboy spread a few years down the line.

We cut away to see Vink fighting with the waitress Jersey, who says she doesn't do dishes. (You don't do dishes and you hate knives and yet you work in a restaurant? You know, the likelihood of the position of "Padme Lakshmi" opening up at the Wild Boar is slim to none.)

Vink tells Jersey he wants to make her his protege by moving her to the kitchen, and will reveal to her the secret of his soup. Telling her how brilliant she is, he invites her into that little room. Oh, Jersey, you sad, stupid little girl--this situation couldn't be any more of an obvious set-up for your being taken advantage of if it involved Qualudes, Jack Nicholson's hot tub, and an Eastern European dwarf with a penchant for making Satanic horror films.

Jersey goes inside and has a seat. Suddenly a large axe appears from the ceiling and starts swinging down several feet from her neck.

"It knows what scares you," chuckles Vink. As she screams, we cut to a vial being filled with green liquid.

Oh, cool, it looks like my slutty college roommate's pap smear after she discovered "casual encounters" on Craigslist.

Nonnie and Reed hear the screams and come to investigate. Eventually, Vink opens the door and Jersey leaves the room, looking shocked.

Reed wants to know what's going on. Vink offers to show him the secret. He explains that in his travels, he came across a tribe that had a statue that knew what you were afraid of. "It could reach into your mind and actually create your deepest fear. It was only an illusion but the more you believed in it, the more real it would become." The tiny statue also produced an elixir that the tribe would drink for potency because it makes your pulse quicken or something. Nonnie finally realizes that that this is why everyone quits--they get scared away by Vink so he can make the fear soup. Yep, the audience loves these slow learners.

Wouldn't a soup made from fear taste horrible and be awfully fattening? ("Yes,'s mostly for show," points out Dr. Vink, and before I can point out that this makes absolutely no sense, he's gone.)

But Reed doesn't believe him and he wants to stand up to Vink. Vink invites Reed into the little room. Reed resists but Vink starts talking about how Reed was an orphan raised by a terrifying old uncle. (Yeah, well, I was practically raised by TV in the early 90s when Full House ruled TGIF with an Olsen twin sized fist, and I'm not afraid of any uncles. Though I did experience flashbacks when I got free tickets to Dave Coulier's ninety minute stand-up act a few years ago. If you thought two minutes of wood jokes were bad...ugh.)

A coffin appears in the room and Reed freaks out. (Oh, you're afraid of clumsily foreshadowed plot points, too?) He opens the coffin and Reed's dead uncle comes to life and starts choking him.

Vink steps away from the window and Nonnie can't bear it any more. She opens the door and the gargoyle talisman flies out.

"You've unleashed it!" screams Dr. Vink. Apparently it's going to go terrorize the entire world. Vink had it under wraps for a while but now it's unleashed on the general public. Dr. Vink runs out of the restaraunt to track it down. When did this become The Howling Man episode of the Twilight Zone and are the members of the Midnight Society going to take up smoking in homage to Rod Serling?

Dr. Vink runs out and kids aren't sure what to do. Then the lights go out and it turns out that the demon statue came back. They open a door and inexplicably it's huge.

Yeah, you know, I always thought that the Room 101 part of 1984 would have been so much scarier with a gigantic flying gargoyle.

Reed tells Nonnie to clear her mind, not think about what scares her. But then a snake appears and she shrieks loudly despite what Reed said. (Great advice, Reed, but she's angling to appear in Scream next, not in Prozac Nation.)

They go into the kitchen and what appears to be wind blows Nonnie conveniently into the fear room and locks it. Then it turns out that her fear is closed spaces and she begs Reed to open the door.

He tells her to face her fear and that it's all an illusion (um, where was all this Dr. Phil meets B.F. Skinner talk when Uncle Vanya was giving your neck the choking chicken treatment?).

Then Reed goes out into the restaurant and sees the coffin. It opens and Reed's uncle trots out staring at him.

Reed sinks to his knees (I guess that's the position he associates with his uncle the most?) and yells, "You didn't molest me! You don't love me!" (no, wait, I changed channels to the Brown Noise episode of South Park). He yells that he's not afraid, that he doesn't believe in it and his uncle disappears. And it should say something that Macauley Culkin's performance where he faced down that scary furnace in the basement was even more convincing than no name actor here.

Anyway, the fear is over. Reed runs into the little room and hugs Nonnie and tells her that it's all over, that Vink won't be making any more soup. "That's where you're wrong, my friend," Vink tells them, staring in through the window.

"It still knows what scares you." (You know, if this fear soup thing were a franchise of movies, that would be a great tag line. Come on, you just know that when Kevin Williamson and his Joey Potter look alike friend were sitting around, brainstorming ideas for the sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer, Kevin chanced upon this episode and decided it was brilliant. "Yeah, but you still have no plot," pointed out Joey doppleganger. "Oh, um, we'll put Jennifer Love Hewitt in an even tighter, more improbably low cut sweater and maybe no one will notice?" And the rest was history.)

The episode ends with Dr. Vink laughing in his typically crazed manner as the kids look horrified.

Everyone thinks the story was great except Tucker who thinks that the room wouldn't work if nothing scares you. Frank offers Tucker the chance to be the first to reach into the unknown, offering him the box. Is Frank going to put the box in his lap, opens the lid on top, and unleash his John Thomas? Because that's why I'm afraid of eating popcorn at the movies. Tucker's too scared to open the box. Gary asks what's inside. "Exactly what Tucker's afraid of. Nothing," says Frank, revealing that the box was empty. Oh, Frank, still waters run deep as usual.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask (Part 2)

And we're back. Yes, Sabrina's okay and Carly Beth hasn't gone off the deep end yet. (And as for the mole--"No, it's part of a fine Stine tradition of excellence in facial blemishes.") "Gotcha!" yells Carly Beth. "I was getting into character, you know, gettin' in the mood!" she says as she dances a little. Awkward. Well, I guess that's the pre-teen girl version of, "Somebody STOP me!"

At the next house, they ring the bell. A mom and her kids answer. One of the little kids says she doesn't like Carly Beth's mask. Carly Beth responds, "You better watch what you say if you know what's good for ya!"

The children that Carly Beth is shrieking at, Sadako, her teddy bear collection and (I'm willing to bet) a lot of this blog's followers, and David Gest all cower in fear. Touche, Stine, one for you. The mother of the kids gets pissed, understandably, and finally Carly Beth tells her she'll get what's coming to her and then grabs a handful of candy as she runs off.

The mother says to Sabrina, "You tell your sick little friend that I'm going to call the police." (Yeah, but you're going to wish you hadn't called the cops for preteen girls hopped up on sugar when the half way house opens up across the street, the tweakers move in, and behavior like this becomes as common as Starbucks.)

Sabrina wants to go home but Carly Beth ditches her to go find Chuck and Steve. We cut to the guys dressed as pirates singing in the town cemetery. Carly Beth stalks them from the bushes. Since she hasn't been exposed to Captain Jack Sparrow and only knows Pirates of the Caribbean as a Disney ride, she's probably not going to leap out at them with KY jelly on a rubber glove. (Sidenote: since turning Disney rides into movies apparently makes things hot, how come the Country Bears didn't do for those Charmin bears what Johnny Depp did for pirates?)

Carly Beth surprises Chuck and Steve and terrorizes them. They think it's her, but they aren't sure. And they're very, very afraid. Then Carly Beth starts referring to herself in the third person, telling them, "Apologize to Carly Beth!" and brandishing her head on a stick. Oh, R.L., THAT'S your idea of creepy? By that rationale, Bob Dole is the creepiest man in politics. (After R.L. stared at me pointedly, I got the message.)

Then the Carly Beth head quivers and says, "Help me," and the boys flee. Carly Beth digs a hole for her head and ditches it, then heads to Sabrina's. (See? Her personality's been co-opted. Did you get that? Do we need to spell it out for you any more clearly?)

Other, non-pictured things that Carly Beth does while wearing the mask: almost gets forcibly checked into the Betty Ford clinic, tricks a dumb sorority chick into thinking she's having sex with her jock boyfriend, and fields sexual come-ons from most of Lisa Lampanelli's exes.

At Sabrina's, the two girls look at their candy haul. Then Carly Beth tries to remove her mask. It won't come off and she asks Sabrina to cut it off.

Sabrina tries to find where the mask ends and Carly Beth's skin begins...but there's no line. Carly Beth takes off and runs screaming into the night. Sabrina the Pre-Teenage Bitch watches her go without trying to stop her. "Uh, do you still want your candy?"

At the mask store, the store owner tells her a tormented tale about how he was originally trying to create some beautiful faces but they all went wrong and somehow turned evil and ugly because of the evil within him, or something. (I wonder if this guy is responsible for the plastic surgery work on Cher and Joan Rivers.)

Turns out his own face was one that he created that will soon turn oogly. Store owner tells her that if the mask has already been removed once, she can't take it off again. She cries that it's not fair and starts flipping out and shaking him, and it's almost good enough to be a Montana Meth ad. The man says something about a symbol of love removing it. Oh, but the next time someone dons the mask that'll be it. Forever. No, seriously this time, really. Then the masks wake up and start to float after her.

Chased out by the other masks, Carly Beth runs for the hill, for her life and digs up the plaster of Paris mold shaped like her head. She puts it on. Yeah! That'll spook the other masks. I mean, that's a great symbol of love. It works, and as soon as she takes off the plaster of Paris head, the gross mask comes right off. She runs home, hugs her mother, and is super grateful for her own face.

Then Carly Beth's little brother comes in wearing the mask. Uh oh! Somebody call Customer Service! Or an Exorcist.

You know, this ending would be a lot more creepy if I hadn't seen the sequel, the Haunted Mask II, which totally retcons the "Carly Beth's Brother Has An Evil Mask For a Face" ending.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask (Part 1)

Before we get started, if you guys want to watch this episode for yourself, you can find it here on youtube.

Intro. The camera pans past a bunch of ugly masks to the most hideous one of all.

(Sidenote, Sadako to R.L.: "Nice FX for once! How'd you get the facial mole to throb like that?" R.L.: "It's a side effect of Lipitor and if you look directly at it, I'll get your soul in the mail along with my residuals.")

Okay, R.L. introduces us to the first episode ever of Goosebumps before joining me to feast on Milky Ways as he tries to defend his artistic integrity from my snark like Tom Wolfe's Charlotte Simmons defending her virtue from frat boys armed with Rohypnol and Smirnoff Ice. Blah blah blah, haunted mask, Carly Beth learns about the love of her family, yeah. Got it. The episode begins.

Carly Beth and her friend Sabrina walk through a pumpkin patch. They stare at a weird looking Halloween store and wonder aloud about it. The store owner stares at them. Then they traipse through the patch looking for a last minute pumpkin. Sabrina exposits that Carly Beth is terrified of her own shadow and that these guys at school are always picking on her.

Then Carly Beth screams. Two creatures in pumpkin head regalia jump out and assault her. It turns out it's just two boys from school, Chuck and Steve.

This is only the first time we see Pumpkinheads depicted as The Scariest Thing Ever. Jesus, R.L., is this inspired by an event where you were held down and sodomized nightly by a creature with a gigantic oozing Pumpkinhead? (He pipes up with, "I'll thank you not to refer to Mrs. Stine that way.")

Carly Beth stalks off in a rage. Sabrina tries to comfort her but ends up laughing, saying it was pretty funny. Shut up, Sabrina the Pre-Teenage Bitch. When Chuck and Steve end up publicly teabagging you after a few too many shots of tequila, you're going to be crying on Carly Beth's shoulder, begging for a little coke and sympathy.

At home, Carly Beth's mom tries to show her a mask she made at art class of Carly Beth's head. You know, there are some moms who really shouldn't go the extra mile to express love by creating face masks of their offspring. Carly Beth's mom, Judy Garland, and Katherine Jackson fall into that category. Carly Beth freaks, thinking that the mask smiled at her and her mom rolls her eyes. (Yeah, if this took place only a decade in the future, you could just reach for the Kiddie Prozac.) To be fair...look at that creepy head. It's so Uncanny Valley.

Oops. Wrong head.

Carly Beth's mom tells her Excitable Offspring that she bought her a duck costume for Halloween. In the last scene, we see the plaster of Paris head smiling.

Upstairs, Carly Beth goes to find her costume, but then her little brother, wearing it, attacks her. She freaks out before realizing it's her kid brother. Man, can we get this girl together with the loser from Calling All Creeps?

At school the next day, Chuck and Steve manage to put a worm in Carly Beth's sandwich. The final nail in the coffin. She freaks out and runs home crying and rips up the horrid duck costume in a rage. She goes to the Halloween store she saw last night in the hopes of something that will scare Chuck and Steve. In the costume store, she goes into a secret hidden room and finds a bunch of hideous masks.

I'll take Likenesses of Things Coughed Up by Amy Winehouse on Day 3 of the Honeymoon with Blake Fielder Civil for a thousand, Alex. Carly Beth reaches out for the scariest. It looks...oddly familiar.

Ooh, I know! Nicole Ritchie without any make up, with the same expression she made when she found out Cosmos had calories. Do I get a prize? Where's my Kewpie doll?

The store owner steps in and stops Carly Beth. He tells her about how the masks are truly dangerous and horrifying and possibly cursed. But Carly Beth is stupid and passes up the Frogurt with free toppings in favor of the hideous mask. She throws her life savings (thirty dollars) on the ground and runs out of the store as the man howls in rage.

Later, she scares her brother in revenge for the duck trick. She tries to remove the mask. It won't come first. Carly Beth puts it back on.

Then she sneaks out of the house with the face-mask her mother fashioned for her. She scares some kids whom she thinks are Chuck and Steve by ripping off their costumes and screaming that if she had been coherent enough to figure out who they were, she'd make them sorry.

(And somewhere David Gest shudders and reaches for the Klonopin as he gets a flashback to his wedding night with Liza.)

Then she meets up with Sabrina who's dressed as a cat.

This is soon followed by a predictable barrage of comments on the order of "Aw, what an adorable SEWER RAT" or "Oh, what a scary mouse costume!" (Well, at least it isn't the Halle Berry as Catwoman costume, complete with CGI whip.)

MJ and Ben head down the street. Sabrina says that Carly Beth's costume is a little gross and that it feels like real skin.

Sabrina wants to know if it's real and begs her friend to take off the mask. Carly Beth gets pissed at this line of questioning and starts to strangle her. Years later, Tyra Banks would re-enact this scene when Paulina Porizkova just would not step down about the weave issue. And that's the end of Part the First. Is this the end of Zombie Sabrina? Will Carly Beth make the Bad Seed girl look wholesome? And will Sarah Jessica Parker give R.L. Stine the name of her plastic surgeon?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors

Betty Ann's up tonight. Eric whines, saying her stories are kind of gross but always end the same way. Betty Ann's about to shock him tonight, though. She calls this story the Tale of the Nightly Neighbors.

Our heroes are Dayday and Emma. While Dayday watches Night of the Living Dead on TV one night, Emma startles him. Then she yells at him for watching TV when he could be improving his mind. She stares out the window at the new neighbors who are wearing all black. They're moving in and Emma's curious.

(Someone just gave Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane a run for their money in terms of casting for the newest Addams Family vehicle on Broadway!)

The next day, Emma and Dayday go visit the new family to be neighborly. Bring over a casserole, maybe point out the nearest Hot Topic. They see a guy delivering two huge crates. They ask him about the neighbors. According to the paperwork, they're the Braun family (hey, and I thought Adolph and Eva didn't have any next of kin!). They're from the Ukraine. (Oh, AYAOTD fact-checker? Braun is a German name.)

Emma squeals in excitement. (Oh, don't believe what they say about Ukraine girls, Emma--I have it on good authority that Paul McCartney never even crossed the Iron Curtain.)

Delivery guy leaves the two gigantic boxes in the driveway. Emma thinks that maybe the nightly neighbors are "KGB agents who had to bolt when the Soviet Union crumbled." I bet TV writers got terribly emo when the Union fell because there was no readily available enemy to blame everything on. The way things will be when the last Nazi war criminal dies off and writers won't be able to use Nazis as their go-to enemy.

Anyway, they run into the mailman who reports that he's feeling "weak as a kitten" and has "got a touch of something." Turns out the night that the Brauns came to visit him, he started feeling weak. He leaves to spout more cliches and Emma and Dayday gaze at each other.

Betty Ann narrates that all over town, people are getting weak and feeling unwell and their necks are adorned with large, flesh covered bandages.

Oh, guys. Don't be ashamed--Kat Von D makes a great tattoo and/or hickey cover up.

One night, Lex asks if he can come in. Emma says it's kind of late, in the tone most girls reserve for trying to get the town date rapist to go away.

Emma, in all probability, he's the son of really annoying goth/punk types, not a raccoon. You know, the kinds of people who go to Trash and Vaudeville and buy their kids "I love Joey Ramone" bibs and onesies adorned with chains, and whose kids will all rebel by growing up to be i-bankers with lifetime Wall Street Journal subscriptions.

But in all seriousness, Emma has no idea what the deal is. I know the audience loves a slow learner, but they mean more like Forrest Gump slow. You know, slightly dumb but still lovable. Not Keanu Reeves dumb, which is where we are now. Creepy foreign goth family moves in with thick accents, they only come out at night, everyone starts getting weak and anemic, and our Emma has no idea that maybe they could be vamps? Methinks she should have watched more late night TV with Dayday--maybe they'd have seen an Elvira episode.

That night, Emma has a dream that Mr. Braun sneaks into her house in a cloud of smoke and is about to bite her neck.

Emma screams and wakes up. I sympathize. I had that exact dream every time my parents brought me home a new Bunnicula book. (Hey, in my defense, vampire bunny wasn't cute in MY dreams--he was more like a Monty Python bunny, or a Jimmy Carter-attacking bunny. The director of Donnie Darko so mined my dreams when he came up with Frank the Rabbit.)

Finally, Emma decides that we've had enough exposition, and she's going to go look for coffins in the neighbors' house and see if they really are vampires. The Brauns leave for the night and she enters their house. But it turns out they were planning on visiting Emma and Dayday's house. Dayday tries not to let them in but his mother tells them to come on in.

The Brauns say that they're in the States to study our healthcare system as paramedics. It's really interesting work, says Mrs. Braun, but a bit "bloody." (Since this show is written and created by Canadians, somehow I feel there was a U.S. healthcare joke that went way over my head.) Then the Brauns say they must go, and Dayday, worried about Emma, tries to stall them, asking if Lex wants to play video games. Lex's response:

Oh, come on, Lex, it's the golden age of video games--Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Yoshi's Island. But the Brauns go home and Dayday starts panicking.

Dayday sneaks into the basement to warn Emma. Before they leave, Emma opens the box and it's a refrigerator...of blood.

They look horrified, and so am I. Come on, vampires, are you telling me you guys steal from blood banks? That's as emo as Angel and Anne Rice's Louis only drinking from animals to spare people. And not cute animals--disgusting animals that no one would miss, like sewer rats. Way to miss the point.

Emma vows to hunt the vampires down the next day after school. She wields a baseball bat as she talks. (Well, maybe she's just going to tell them that they can't be on her vampire baseball team. That would shatter them.)

The kids set off for the Braun house. Emma wears a gigantic cross around her neck, as does Dayday. Well, they're from the Eastern Bloc, guys, let's be creative. How 'bout wearing a gigantic Star of David? Or they could be atheists--how 'bout a Darwin fish? I'm so sick of these motherfucking Christian vampires on my motherfucking street.

The kids sneak in and find another padlocked door in addition to the refrigerators they saw last time they were here. Emma tries to open it as Dayday simpers.

Then someone comes downstairs and the kids hide under a table. Whoever it was leaves and the kids go outside again. They see Mr. and Mrs. Braun outside. Dayday hisses at Emma (and Stephanie Meyer), "I thought vampires couldn't go in the sun."

Emma wields her cross and Mrs. Braun just smiles. (See? Told you I was right about my Darwinfish idea.) The Brauns explain that their schedule changed and now they work in the daytime. They also explain that the hospital had a surplus of blood that they were storing.

They bring the blood out to their car. Um, yeah, that's as plausible as the time my friend of a friend's cousin's boyfriend thought there was a surplus of money when he worked at Citibank. Come on, Braun family, are you cribbing cover stories from Bernie Madoff's lawyers?

Then the Brauns ask if Lex could come over that night and play video games with Dayday. Dayday agrees. The kids leave, realizing that they were wrong about the Brauns.

Down in the basement, the Brauns talk as they put more blood in their fridge. They open a padlocked door revealing a coffin that houses Lex. "Wake up, Master," they tell him, saying he was right that they should come to this country for the fresh blood. (Oh yeah? But what about the brain drain? I wonder what the zombie lobby has to say about that.) "And no one believes that a little boy can be a vampire," says Mr. Braun, as he and the Missus laugh and Lex awakens.

To be fair, Mr. Braun, if your vampire had been a little girl, we'd have caught on much sooner. We already knew that young girls could be possessed by the devil, sociopathic murderers, 19th century-era vampires, and we'd soon learn they could haunt video cassettes in Japan.

Oh, for the days when kids' shows could have creepy endings! And for when vampires weren't twisted sad emo creatures, when little girls thought that vampires needed butt-kickings instead of therapy. And for when kiddie vampires were cool. (I blame Jonathan Lipnicki and the people who made The Littlest Vampire for the downfall of child vampires.)