Goosebumps, the hit book series, international juggernaut, best selling blah blah blah, has come to televisions worldwide. 14 million people tuned in for the two-part premiere mere days before Halloween, and what was the first thing they saw?
Holy Christ. If I was a kid (physically, not just mentally) I'd have to turn this off right now and leave. That is fucking terrifying. I'll be honest, I had really low expectations before I hit play, and while the rest of the series maintains a lot of the Party City budget I was anticipating, it's a pretty good mask. Good on you series, you're starting strong. Despite all of my preconceived notions, I'm pleasantly surprised. I know disappointment isn't far behind, so I'm going to enjoy this earnest surprise while I can.
The camera pans to the right to another mask...then another...oh no, I know where this is going
|Wow, the Crypt Keeper looks like shit|
Someone somewhere decided to have Goosebumps' author R.L. Stine himself introduce the episode, and good God almighty is he a black hole of charisma. All of the tension and spooky vibes introduced by that mask are immediately done away with because instead of just cutting straight to the story, we spend 30 seconds talking to the least charismatic man I've ever seen in my life. This show is full of awful Canadian actors working for a bag of milk and a handshake, but all of them have more energy than him. If your horror host is going to be a Valium-addled Neil Hamburger with a mole that appears to grow larger by the second, then maybe just cut it and get straight to the ghouls. Don't tell me you needed it to pad out the runtime, you had to split this into two parts. You FUCKS.
Two pre-teen girls (every character in every single Goosebumps book is either 12, their 6 year old sibling, or their parents) named Carly Beth and Sabrina are walking alone in the dead of night. Apparently in Canada that's completely OK and not something parents should be concerned about. They come across a brand new store and slowly shine a light over the sign and sound out "novelty shop," which is a nice thing to do for the children watching. Alternatively, if you're too young to know how to read, maybe don't watch this show because it will ruin your life.
|I want to make fun of their outfits, but if you didn't own a jean jacket in 1995 you were put in the stockades for a week.|
The two kids, who have done their narrative duty by telling us watching at home that there is a shop in this rinky dink town that sells masks, turn around and leave as bargain bin Malcolm McDowell leers out the shop window at them. I'd wager that this guy was at a lot of auditions with Robert Englund and lost out every time. You can tell he's evil because he has a severe (but not too severe for young children who might be watching) burn on his face. Remember kids, never ever trust anyone who looks different than you.
The kids walk through a pumpkin patch in search of one to take home, despite all of the pumpkins being smashed or rotten. Neither of them acknowledge this, because Carly Beth thinks someone has followed them. Sabrina eggs her on for approximately 3 seconds then scares her, because two twenty minute episodes don’t allow enough time to let a moment breathe and create any sort of real tension. But wait - what is that in the pumpkin patch? R.L. Stine you god damn genius, you used some of that classic misdirection to really scare the Bejeezus out of us, your loyal and captive audience. You see, he lowered our guard with that fakeout, but right after that smoke and mirrors trick Carly Beth reaches for a pumpkin and a hand comes out of the hay! Hay may be for horses, but I say “nay” to this terrifying tale of torrid torment!
Oh no, a fade to black. How could you possibly put a commercial break at a time like this? Nesquik and Ratch Tech shoes be damned, what happened to that poor girl?
She screams incessantly as two large creatures surround her. And by two large creatures, I mean it's clearly 2 kids with shitty pumpkin masks. Nevertheless, she screams for help as Sabrina stands there like a fucking dolt. When all hope seems lost, the two monsters remove their heads and reveal that they are...2 kids with shitty pumpkin masks. The kids (Chuck and Steve) laugh at her for being a humongous coward with some of the worst fake laughing I've ever heard in my life. Call me a ‘fraidy cat all you want, but if I’m ever alone in the woods at night and two pumpkin monsters threaten to spitroast me, I’m going to cry too.
|Save the tag teaming for Revenge of the Jack O' Lanterns|
Carly Beth storms off on the verge of tears because she can't take a joke and is furious at Sabrina because she assumes she had something to do with it. Cool likable protagonist, I guess. Sabrina swears she had nothing to do with it and she would never hurt her, then Carly Beth apologizes. Valuable lesson to teach kids. If you think someone who cares about you is trying to harm you, forgive them the second they show a hint of remorse and let them right back into your life. Carly Beth resumes her endless complaining about how many times those two boys have teased her. She looks Sabrina dead in the eyes and says "they don't do this to anyone else but me. Why me?" I don't think it's possible to like a protagonist less. The world is against you and your white middle class cul-de-sac living ass because two 12 year olds scared you at a sleepover. Kick rocks you fuckin idiot, shit like this is why your garbage country hasn’t exported anything of value since The Kids in the Hall.
She pleads with God to answer as to why He has forsaken her, and Sabrina tells her it's because she's so easily spookable. "Everyone knows you're afraid of everything.” Wow, so she’s begging the cosmos for an answer for her relentless suffering, and you tell her it’s because she’s dressed that way. So much for the tolerant left. Carly Beth gets all worked up about how she hates being scared and vows that one day they'll know how it feels and runs off into the night. I’m not saying R.L. Stine purposefully made her sound like a school shooter - I’m not, because he’s not a good enough author - but I’m just saying there need to be one or two or thirty seven counselor sessions starting yesterday.
Sabrina chases after her "friend" and we see that the leering shop owner was watching these children the whole time, and that is definitely 100% OK and not a problem. Especially the part where it looked like the little girl was going to get fucked to death by pumpkin monsters. See something, say something you cretin.
Carly Beth - and I’m going to tell you right now, not once in this entire ding dong episode does anyone refer to her simply as "Carly" - returns home and Mom takes one look at her and can tell how shook she is. Carly B shrugs it off and that's good enough for Mom, who promptly disregards her daughter's trauma to show her some bullshit she has displayed on the mantle. Shake off that thousand yard stare soldier, the only PTSD in this house is your father’s plump, turgid, and stubby dingus.
Mom excitedly shows her a hideous mask and Carly Beth takes one look at it and says it looks just like her.
In what universe? That thing looks like Michael Meyers fucked Raggedy Ann.
She picks it up, looks at it excitedly for precisely one second, panics, and throws it back. She tells her mother the mouth opened, and I can’t shake the feeling everyone in this town has had it up to here with Carly Beth for pulling shit like this all the time. I bet you can’t go a day without her screeching at the top of her lungs about the wind rustling leaves on the sidewalk or the eyes in a painting following her when she moves.
Mom, once again oblivious to her scaredy cat daughter's glaring mental trauma and need for reassurance of some kind from someone she trusts, breezes past her hallucination to tell her that her duck costume is ready. Carly Beth, who is still coping with nearly being buttfucked by pumpkin monsters then having a John Carpenter-esque recreation of her face smile at her, is confused. Apparently they had been at the mall and she saw a duck or something and offhandedly mentioned it'd be a fun Halloween costume, so mom decided to surprise her and make one. You know, instead of spending the 10 bucks that costume probably would have cost. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but if it was Halloween and I got a costume that wasn't Batman or a Power Ranger, I'd be livid.
Wait a second, that ghoulish monstrosity has nothing to do with her costume. Does that mean her mom created that cursed artifact just to display it above the fireplace to ward off wayward souls? No wonder Dad is out of the picture. But I digress...
Carly Beth pisses and moans that she doesn’t want to be cute on Halloween, she wants to be scary. Look folks, I don’t endorse hitting your kids, but if I spent hours making my shit-ass daughter a costume by hand and she whined that it wasn’t scary enough, at the very least I’m thwapping her on the snout with a rolled up newspaper. Luckily this moral dilemma will never come to fruition because I am as physically repulsive as I am corpulent.
Carly Rae Bethson leaves the room in a huff, because she doesn’t know how to enter or exit the scene without whining about being scared or not being scary enough, and heads fo-JESUS WHAT THE FUCK
|I LIVE IN A GOD DAMNED NIGHTMARE|
If you want to be scary for Halloween, just put that mask on and chase Jamie Lee Curtis around.
Carly Beth saunters down the hallway towards her room, but for some particular reason this is being played for scares. The music is swelling up as she slowly reaches for the doorknob, because whoever directed this knows how to use horror tropes but doesn't know what makes them effective. You can barely make out a sound on the other side of the door as her hand shakes. Knowing that this is Goosebumps, a property that is literally nothing but fakeouts for 110 pages and then the "real scare" at the very end, I will bet everything I own that it’s her yet-to-be-mentioned sibling. She opens the door and…
her little brother is in her duck costume yelling QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK as she screams in horror and begs him to stop.
I fucking hate Carly Beth.
I've got a couple of problems with this duck costume: first off, it clearly was bought for a small child and would not fit her. Second, I don't know what bullshit hand-me-down store the set dressers got it from, but every time that kid moves a bunch of yellow feathers fly off. This show is so cheap it can’t even afford a costume that doesn’t fall apart at the slightest movement. Luckily, Samurai Karasu and I have a lot of experience writing about shows of this caliber.
The next day, Carly Beth and Sabrina are at a Definitely American School full of Cool American Kids. Is it Halloween yet? Who’s to say. There is a grand total of one kid dressed up as a clown, so your guess is as good as mine. Either Chuck or Steve (it’s impossible to know or care which one) walks over - he doesn't sneak over, he casually strolls across the set - and puts a miniature Jack-O-Lantern near her that audibly says ‘Happy Halloween' and she fucking screams. That’s our lovable hero, screaming and then crying because someone scared her. Rinse and repeat until we’re all six feet under.
That feeling is confirmed when the other bully - a staple of R.L. Stine literature is that no matter what person, place, or thing is haunted, bullies always come in pairs - puts a worm in her sandwich. He doesn’t subtly fold it up and hide it in the peanut butter or humus or whatever this goofy broad is eating. No, the worm is literally sticking out from both ends. It could not be more apparent to anyone with eyes that something scandalous is afoot with her comestibles.
She takes a bite anyways, because she's the dumbest person alive. She spits out the sandwich, as any human being in the world would do, and I'm not exaggerating when I say every single kid at lunch points and laughs at her. She runs off in a huff (as per usual) as kids get out of their seats and follow her, pointing and laughing the entire time. It’s so over the top and mean that it’s absolutely hysterical. Well, hysterical for me. It won’t be hysterical when this moment is used in court as exhibit A as to why she walked through the library with a sawed off shotgun while wearing a trench coat and Halloween mask.
Carly Beth and her overalls sprint home, run straight to her room, and in a fit of rage she rips up the costume her mother made for her. It didn’t take very long because at this point there were only four or five feathers left on that cheap piece of trash. That costume must have taken hours, if not days, to carefully craft for her one beautiful daughter, and this garbage child of the highest order rips it to shreds. I don’t care how many times you get spooked by strangers, I hope Mommy Beth makes her eat a whole cluckin handful of worms.
Still a frantic mess of paranoid energy, she gathers all the cash she can scrounge up from her room, then brushes her hair in the mirror while saying aloud “it’s my turn now.” She needs to find a mask in the next five minutes because we are about to go down a path I do not want to follow. I’m getting very uncomfortable at what her definition of scaring people might be.
Thankfully she goes to the mask shop instead of an Army Surplus Store. It’s a good thing this is shot in Canada where guns don’t exist or else all of those kids would be sore-y. She describes the masks as both "cool" and "excellent" because it's 1995 and the writer didn't realize that Wayne's World is a parody.
Patrick Stewart with oatmeal on his face notices her and yells "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" in a vaguely German accent, because everyone knows that if you want a character to sound evil, make him German. Carly Beth, face to face with an imposing figure with a hideous burn on his face surrounded by wall-to-wall monsters, stammers out that she wants a mask and he tells her he’s closed. So let me get this straight: It’s almost Halloween, he runs a store that sells nothing but masks, a child is there with money in her pocket and a hole in her heart that only a Chinese knockoff Freddy Krueger mask can fill, and he says he's closed. Everyone in this show is a god damned fool. Just rob her blind, sell her a Spirit Halloween mask for triple the price, and laugh all the way back to the bank in whatever European country your accent came from. A phone rings in the background, because it's 1995 and corded phones are still a thing that exist in everyday life, and he angrily shouts that everything he has for sale is up on the wall and storms off, because he hates children so much that he's committed his life to running a shop that caters to them.
She looks through masks, including a werewolf with sunglasses straight out of the Mos Eisley cantina, while he yells at someone over the phone. Do we get a fun montage of her trying on different masks? Of course not. What are you, dumb? That would take tons of time and it's not like we stretched a children's book into 40 minutes or something. Instead she takes one off the shelf, silently walks over to a mirror and then holds it up at about shoulder height and stares at it without making any form of noise or expression. It's haunting just how ghoulish this dead eyed child is.
She notices a door slightly ajar. The fact that this man with a burnt face was seconds away from giving her five across the eyes for walking into his open store does not faze her, and she barges in. "Hi, I'm Carly Beth. I'm scared of children dressed in duck costumes but I have no problem sneaking into Himmler's Tales from the Crypt dungeon."
That back room, which is decorated like a 1950's mad scientist's lab, is home to six masks which I have to say are all actually pretty creepy. I won't throw this show many bones - mostly because it sucks - but the titular Haunted Mask is pretty creepy. If I was a child I would definitely be laughing uncomfortably and yelling "HAHA YEAH RIGHT LIKE A MASK IS SCARY" while stuffing popcorn in my mouth as fast as possible to hide my heavy breathing.
I was 5 years old when this show premiered, and I can guarantee you that this episode fucked up my whole world. It's not enough that the masks were the only things I saw when I closed my eyes for about a month, but they moved. The god damned masks moved on their own Nope. Get me out, I don't want to be on this ride anymore.
Tall McSpooky Man catches her snooping around where she doesn't belong and yells either "I SAID NO" or something about the panzer division. It's difficult to understand his thick accent. When Carly Beth turns her back to the masks, they all turn in unison to look at her. Fuck this. Fuck all of this. This show is stupid guys, let's turn on something else. I mean who would even be scared of this, right? Masks...haha. So dumb.
Tall Man closes the latch on the door and I nervously remind myself that this show is rated TV-Y7 ("...and it may be too scary for children under 7!"). He lightly caresses the masks and tells her they aren't for sale. My forehead now perspiring, I again remind myself this show is for small children and it's going to be ok. Carly Beth, unable to take a hint, asks why they're not for sale, because that is her primary concern at this moment. He tells her they're not for sale because they're too scary. This bullshit is why mom and pop shops all died out. Cry all you want, but Wal-Mart would have closed this sale 15 minutes ago while you sat there trying to neg her into buying Haunted Romani garbage.
Carly Beth points to a mask on the very end that's definitely not haunted and he responds by getting incredibly aggro and cornering her and telling her he'll give her a gorilla mask for "NUZING" instead. Carly, who can't take a hint if it's staring at her through Dr. Belloq's eyes, insists that won't be scary enough for the children who tease her for being a gigantic pussy. He asks what that has to do with anything, and she says she wants to get even. He looks her dead in the eyes, chuckles and says "ah, revenge..." and stares at her for a solid couple of seconds before putting his hand on her shoulder.
Yep, just gonna breeze right on past that.
He asks her name and she stutters through it. It's a no joke, grade A "C-C-C-C-C-C-Carly Beth." It's horribly embarrassing to watch. He tells her she has a nice face, and I'm beginning to think R.L. Stine has no idea what he has written. Stay tuned for his next book, Der Lovely Bones.
Sensing the putrid stench of sodomy in the room, Carly Beth carefully creeps over to the masks and offers him 30 dollars for the scariest one, the one she had pointed out before. He is visibly shook - whether it be about ghoulish goblin masks or savage cock blockery, we'll never know - and unlocks the door and tells her he can't sell it to her and that she needs to leave. She didn't take him up on his outstanding gorilla mask offer so she can get her shit and get the fuck out this instant, as he reserves the right to refuse to service to any garbage kid with sunken dead eyes. She is determined to get one of these scary masks because, in her own words, "Chuck and Steve would just die." Yikes.
Carly Beth, who has up to this point been a spineless insufferable cry baby, grabs the mask, runs out of the room and throws the money at him. I thought the entire point of having a protagonist was for me to be on her side as she goes through terrifying trials and titillating tribulations. At this point I'm kind of hoping the mask she picked out crushes her head like in Halloween III and a bunch of crickets and rattlesnakes come out of her skull.
She escapes the shop and ends up outside where it's daylight for some reason and has second thoughts. "Why did I, the biggest turkey this side of Toonsville, think this would be a good idea? There's a solid 60 percent chance that friendly shopkeeper Mengele made this mask out of skin, so maybe I should take it back and apologize." She heads back to the store but Goebbels shuts the door, locks it, and puts up a closed sign.
Well, I'm sure she won't be haunted for eternity by the nightmare she's holding in her tiny Canadian hands. God forbid she picks a single hint he's dropped and takes it for Christ's sake.
She leaves the store with a smile on her face, knowing that the tables have turned and that she can use his Nazi magic to scare two 12 year olds who are mean to her sometimes. She goes home and puts on the mask and honestly I'll say it again, it's a creepy ass mask. If someone snuck up on me wearing it guarantee I would either reflexively flail my arms in hopes of sending them back to the realm they escaped from, or simultaneously shit and piss myself. It's a coin flip.
It's Halloween night, baby. Time for cranks, pranks, and midnight yanks. Her little brother (who I'm sure has a name but I can't be bothered to find it) is walking around the house in a spider costume that's more in line with the series' budget than the cool masks we just saw. Long story short, she scares the dogshit out of him. It's kind of underwhelming because she's such a spineless awful character that the second he looks like he's about to cry she stops doing her fake monster voice and tells him it's just her. Bitch, nah. If that little dickhead had crawled into my duck costume just to give me a solid spook, I would stand over him with that mask on and scream the True Name of God at him until he was so scared he swallowed his own tongue.
He keeps whining and crying like "uhhhhhhhh take off the mask" and "uhhhhhhh you're scaring me" and "uhhhhh stop using weapons proliferated form World War II compressed into a mask to growl at me." She relents and tries to take off the mask because she can't even get revenge without being a huge fucking baby about it every step of the way. But then...it won't come off! Jinkies. So her big problem is it's Halloween night, she wants to scare people, has the scariest mask this side of the Berlin Wall, and it's stuck to her fa-oh wait nevermind. Yeah, it came off. Yep. She got the mask off guys. I would bet every dollar I own that was a chapter-ending cliffhanger in the book.
She heads out to go to Sabrina's house, but before she leaves, her brother asks how she changed her voice. She says she doesn't know how it happened, but she liked it. Well that might be a spooky idea in theory if they dubbed over her or did literally anything, but it's so god damn apparent that it's just her talking in a low gravelly voice that you would think this was written for 9 year olds who don't know any better and not men in their late 20's writing their way through an existential crisis.
She stops short of the front door to put the mask back on. It seems to mold into her face after she stops adjusting it and she makes no notice of it, because she has the situational awareness of Helen Keller. She takes the terrifying nightmare inducing mask her mother had made of her likeness if she was a ghost haunting the Strode family and puts it on a broomstick so it looks like she's carrying her own severed head, but in a way that won't make children cry. So you're taking something your mother spent hours making for you out of love and affection and using it as a prop. I hope you eat so many fucking worms tonight.
She's hustling down the street, grunting and hollering like an overacting teenager would do on a shoddily made television series. We keep getting her POV, which is basically 90% black screen because it's concealed by the mask. It sucks. She's trying her best to scare everyone, but she's still dressed like a complete asshole so it loses a bit of effect.
|"Hey Carly it's me, your talking mask. Listen closely, I was thinking maybe you could try scaring them with guns. Make them sorey they ever crossed you. Make them beg and plead to God."|
She's going out of her way to run up to kids and scare them, which is supposed to convey that something is wrong with the mask and it's making her more aggressive. Look I'm just saying if my kid is relentlessly bullied by everyone, including her closest friend and sibling, and the worst they do is harness Third Reich sorcery to spook children on the one night a year children are supposed to get spooked, I'm happy.
She sees the two bullies and runs up on them. She scares the piss out of them and...whoops wrong kids. I fucking hate you Carly Beth. You and your stupid names.
Those kids run off horrified because apparently nobody in this quiet Canadian-American town ever wears a scary mask on Halloween. Carly Beth yells "THATS RIGHT I'M CRAZY" because I can't comprehend hugh-mon emotions unless that fleshbag actually tells me what they're feeling. Sabrina walks outside cautiously like she heard someone screaming for help and she's not sure if she wants to get involved.
She nervously asks who it is and...who the fuck do you think it is? Who else dresses like Freddy Krueger's autistic niece? Sabrina compliments her mask as the scariest fucking thing that's ever happened and asks about the one on the pole, which is still a thing nobody else has acknowledged. She says it's lifelike, which is just a bold faced lie and I'm personally insulted by it. Joke's on whoever wrote the script without seeing the props first. Carly Beth responds that it's her - it's who she used to be, and it's hilarious because instead of dubbing the lines in later they just use the take of her muffled voice coming from underneath the mask. What's not hilarious is that instead of asking her closest friend if she wants to sit down and talk about something, Sabrina brushes past that chilling comment. Carly Beth asks where she can find the two boys who bully her so she can get revenge. Sabrina, your best friend is dropping a lot of hints. It might be time to get the Mounties involved.
Nope, it's fine. Just a good ole fashioned scare. Oh they'll be scared alright. They'll be so scared they'll cry. And beg. "Please Carly Beth, please stop. I'm so sore-y." But it won't be good enough. Not until they're scared to death. They're all gonna pay, every last one of you jock mother fu-
Anyways, they walk down the street and Sabrina asks if she got that mask at the spooky shop run by a Nazi propaganda Scooby Doo villain, how much it cost, and if she can touch it. Carly Beth answers none of these questions and opts instead to stand still so Sabrina can awkwardly touch her face. Sabrina looks grossed out and tells her it feels like real skin. This is apparently a deal breaker for Sabrina, because she keeps insisting Carly Beth take the mask off. "Wow your mask is so lifelike and scary, I demand you take it off for the rest of Halloween. Look at me, I'm dressed like the world's dumbest asshole cat, and I demand you remove your cool mask that people will remember you for. This is the one night you might leave a positive impact on someone else's life, so I DEMAND you take it off and be miserable."
Hand to God, Carly Beth starts screeching "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP" like she's about to rip her face off like an angry chimp and grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her while "TO BE CONTINUED" appears on screen.
That's it. I am not even a little bit joking. That's how it ends. That's the big cliffhanger. Carly Beth has become unhinged, possessed by the evil magic of the mask and is shaking her friend the way a man shook a hysterical woman in every single movie made in the 1950s. What will become of Carly Beth? Will Sabrina survive this vicious assault? Will the shopkeeper successfully flee to Argentina, or will he be caught and hanged? All these questions and more will be answered in Part 2.