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*"