Sure, the '90s are long gone. Just don't tell that to the people who made the Goosebumps movie; a film so blissfully unaware of the fact an entire decade has passed since its topic was relevant, the whole thing just becomes a sort of infectiously delightful. It opens a vortex of nostalgia through which audiences fall head first into sweet reminiscences of the sleepless nights spent revisiting the traumas of R.L. Stine's literary catalogue.
Born Robert Lawrence Stine, the children's author has created a legacy of terror (in the fun sense) so exhaustive, so widely-enjoyed, that many have come to label him the "Stephen King of children's literature". He's sold over 400M copies of his books, with USA Today naming him the best-selling author in the US for three consecutive years during the '90s.
And so, in that reflective spirit, it seems only fitting to pay tribute to a body of work that caused so many sleepless, fear-filled nights of so many childhoods; especially in honour of the film's own R.L. Stine, as played Jack Black, working to defeat his own creations when they're unleashed upon suburban America.
13. Welcome to Dead House (#1, 1992)
Tagline: It will just kill you.
Here's where it all started. R.L. Stine's first ever novel in the series took a twist on the classic haunted house narrative, immediately branding his own strain of oddball spooks and twist endings. Here, the children of the Benson family begin to suspect there may be something a little odd about their new home, and that there may be a sinister reason the local children they befriend are acting so strangely.
12. Ghost Beach (#22, 1994)
Tagline: No swimming. No surfing. No haunting.
To be honest, the plot of Ghost Beach is essentially same as the plot of Welcome to Dead House: a simple warning that kids should never trust their friends. Or anyone in fact. Yet another pair of siblings is faced with an unexpected haunting when sent to stay temporarily with distant cousins, encountering a trio of children on the beachfront that claim a local cave is inhabited by a deadly ghost, who comes out to prey when the moon is full.
11. It Came From Beneath the Sink (#30, 1996)
Tagline: It's warm... it's breathing... and it doesn't do dishes!
A novel which perfectly encapsulates Stine's skills in manipulating the most unique, specific fears of children. The idea of a monster living underneath the kitchen sink may seem ridiculous to the adult breed, but childhood's fervent imagination created a host of unknown horrors living amongst the pipes. It might also have something to do with how despicable children tend to find the task of washing up.
10. Go Eat Worms! (#21, 1994)
Tagline: Homework was never this gross before!
It's hard to figure out what was scarier about this: the fact a child could be tortured by worms seeking vengeance against their murdered compatriots, or the fact this kid was so obsessed with worms he'd attract their wrath in the first place.
9. The Horror at Camp Jellyjam (#33, 1995)
Tagline: Tennis... Ping-Pong... Monsters, anyone?
David Cronenberg's favourite Goosebumps book. Probably. Possibly. It certainly possessed one of the series' most surreal, nightmarish plots; involving a giant blob of jelly keeping athletically-primed children as slaves to continually clean his jelly body, as he sweats snails all over them. Yes, this is a real book.
8. The Blob That Ate Everyone (#55, 1997)
Tagline: He's no picky eater!
Itself inspired by the 1958 film The Blob, Stine's tale is a major inspiration for the new Goosebumps film, specifically in the magical typewriter which turns everything written with its keys into a reality. Here, we see a young boy type out the story of a giant, pink blob attacking the neighbourhood and, tada, a giant pink blob attacks the neighbourhood.
7. Monster Blood (#3, 1992)
Tagline: It's a monster blood drive!
Continuing his penchant for all-devouring, gelatinous substances, Monster Blood's titular creature essentially consists of a green substance, not unlike Silly Putty. Except Silly Putty doesn't tend to turn people into giants. Indeed, a wise lesson that anything which labels itself as a 'Surprising Miracle Substance' is best avoided. Hear that, all anti-aging products?
6. Welcome to Camp Nightmare (#9, 1993)
Tagline: It's the little camp of horrors!
Summer camp, truly the scariest place on Earth. Here, the delight of Camp Nightmoon promise such recreational activities as, 'being bitten by poisonous snakes', 'getting eaten by toothy creatures called the Sabre', and 'pretending to have fun in your letters home'.
5. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder (#13, 1993)
Tagline: Play it again, hands!
The #1 threat to the piano teacher gig, Stine warned kids that their piano is most likely haunted by the phantoms of handless women. A fact many a child must have used when they tried (and presumably failed) to get out of their own piano lessons.
4. Say Cheese and Die (#4, 1992)
Tagline: One picture is worth a thousand screams.
Time for a positively essential factoid: a young Ryan Gosling starred in the TV version of this classic Goosebumps tale, taking on the role of a boy who comes across a strange camera whose photographs seem to predict terrible futures. Gosling's entire gallery of concerned expressions as he stares at these haunted photographs was surely ample practice for a future of concerned expressions in the likes of Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines.
3. Night of the Living Dummy (#7, 1993)
Tagline: He walks. He stalks...
If there's one thing the new Goosebumps film understands best, it's exactly how terrifying Slappy the Dummy was. Just take a look at that vacant expression, and say goodbye to your chances of a restful sleep tonight. Indeed, Slappy arguably remains the most memorable, and popular, of the Goosebumps creations; the character spawning a further seven sequels. The guy even managed to both get married and somehow spawn a son.
2. One Day at Horrorland (#16, 1994)
Tagline: Enter, if you dare...
Though theme parks may be a well-worn trope, Stine's One Day in Horrorland has remained one of the best in the series thanks to its wild invention; delivering a last act, reality TV show twist that added an entirely new level of macabre humour to the proceedings.
1. The Haunted Mask (#11, 1993)
Tagline: If looks could kill...
The Goosebumps most likely to terrify the living daylights out of even adult readers, The Haunted Mask managed to create that perfect storm of psychological distress, playing on all our latent fears of both claustrophobia and demonic possession. The tale sees a shy, downtrodden girl attempt to seek revenge on pranksters by purchasing a mysterious scary mask. Except the mask doesn't appear willing to let go of her face, transforming her into a total monstrosity hell bent on terrorising the local neighbourhood.
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