This week, I decided to go back… way back… to exactly 1995. How old was I in 1995? I was 8. The perfect age for this particular show.
I give credit to three book series that influenced me to read more: Animorphs, Harry Potter and today’s topic, Goosebumps! How funny all of them are from Scholastic…
Ahh, I remember those days of going to the book fair and seeing Goosebumps on display and hoping I had enough money to buy a book! Do they still do book fairs? Is that a thing? Nothing compares to book fairs. Anyway, now at 32, I decided to rewatch some episodes of Goosebumps.
So let’s talk about it!
I didn’t go in a particular order and I did ignore the more popular ones that I’ve seen countless times (The Haunted Mask, A Night in Terror Tower, One Day At Horrorland). Instead, I went for those that I kind of remember or I haven’t seen frequently.
I watched: The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Return of the Mummy, Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Piano Lessons Can be Murder, Shocker on Shock Street and Ghost Beach.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room: DO NOT COMPARE GOOSEBUMPS TO ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK. Both are two completely different shows for two very different audiences. If you want to compare Goosebumps, compare to Tales from the Crypt and for AYAOTD to The Twilight Zone.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
It was interesting to watch Goosebumps as an adult in multiple episodes back to back. What I realized is Goosebumps is for kids about kids and their fears, growing up, authority figures, and ironically a little “grounded” in some kind of reality. It seems like the episodes I watched were kids who were experiencing events that were out of their control, they witnessed these events, tried to get help or tell someone and their parental figures or authorities did not believe them.
The episode Scarecrow Walks at Midnight really drives this idea home and at one point made me really uncomfortable. The story is that we have two siblings who are visiting their grandparents in the country (they live in the city) who are slowly beginning to realize that they have changed and not the better. As much as we want the terror to be the scarecrows, it’s the adults. I said adults, plural with an s. The adults are very… secretive and fearful. And as kids, you would feel fearless when the ones you are looking to protect you are also scared. The scarecrows are merely puppets to incite the fear but the puppet master was living under the roof with them.
The acting is not the best, sometimes a little forced at times. The special effects are also just okay. I think some episodes are clearly better than others and some just look cheap. Maybe cheap is the wrong word. Not given the same kind of attention they deserve is a better way to say it. But what Goosebumps has going for is the writing. The foundation was set using the works of R.L. Stine and sometimes the screen adaptations are closer to the book, sometimes exact and other times, the endings are different. Now I can’t sit here and say “the adaptations are better” or “the book is better” because I haven’t read ALL of the books. I have some in my collection and I had more when I was younger but I will say that the books create a different imagination pathway because we all see things differently and while reading, we can spook ourselves with our imagination. The adaptations are interpretations of what OTHERS see and try to convey that to the best of its ability.
Goosebumps deserves to be talked about. It deserves to be respected for making reading fun, exposing a young audience into horror with baby steps. This, along with AYAOTD, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Eerie Indiana and a small handful of other shows in the 90s to be part of the horror for kids explosion. It’s great that Goosebumps existed and is still relevant today. For a lot of us, it is nostalgic heavy. For a younger generation, it’s a brand new experience for them.
It’s fun, campy, ridiculous at times but I think that’s because it’s a product of its time but don’t let it stop you.