Tuesday, March 14, 2006

#01 Welcome to Dead House


#01 Welcome to Dead House

Front Tagline: It will just kill you.
Back Tagline: Look Alive!

Official Book Description:
Amanda and Josh think the old house they have just moved into is weird. Spooky. Possibly haunted. And the town of Dark Falls is pretty strange, too.
But their parents don't believe them. You'll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends.
So Amanda and Josh do. But these new friends are not exactly what their parents had in mind. Because they want to be friends...
...forever.

Brief Synopsis:
Amanda and Josh Benson have been dragged by their parents to Dark Falls, a cheery-sounding town that has a lot of trees, causing a sort of permanent shade all over. Their dad has inherited a large house from his great-uncle who he didn't even know he had, and instead of questioning this development, he simply moves his whole family into the new house. The realtor, Compton Dawes, is a strange man who wears a cowboy hat and a full suit, even though it's the middle of summer. He takes the family to see their new house, but Josh has brought along their dog, Petey, because when you drive four hours to see a house, you of course take your dog with you? The dog freaks out at Dawes, and indeed the dog freaks out at everything in the town. While looking through their new house, Amanda thinks she sees a ghostly boy in her bedroom, but of course there couldn't really be a boy in her bedroom could there of course not how ridiculous.

Josh declines the offer to look at the house and instead pouts outside with Petey. When the family and Dawes comes out of the house, they find both Petey and Josh missing. Dawes drives them around until they see Josh running through the cemetery, chasing after Petey. Dawes drives them all back to his office where they make the final arrangements. The Bensons are officially moving to Dark Falls!

Moving Day for the Bensons gets off to an overcast, rainy start. As they wait around for the movers to show up at their Dark Falls house, Amanda thinks she sees another child roaming around the house and when she goes up to investigate. Upstairs a door opens and closes by itself, and this is the single scariest event in the book, and that's counting two pages later when we discover the door opened and closed because the window in the room was open. Amanda then freaks her brother out by pretending to be dead or something. And we're now at the half-way point in the book. Luckily, RL Stine would later learn valuable time-management skills.

The next few chapters cover some more breezy windows and more mysterious ghost appearances and noises coming from Amanda's room. Amanda eventually gets bored with the paranormal events and learns to ignore them. I think you learn in Intro to Creative Writing that when your characters themselves are bored, the odds of the reader caring are not very good.

One morning Josh is annoying his parents (Josh is a thoroughly unlikable character in this book) and they kick both kids out, telling them to go find some friends. Walking Petey on a leash, they find a young boy wearing long sleeve shirt and jeans despite the heat. He has a baseball cap in his backpocket and introduces himself as Ray. Ray offers to take the kids down to the schoolyard, where the three run into about a dozen kids of various ages. The kids form an ominous circle around Amanda and Josh until Dawes shows up for no reason to say hello. The kids break the circle up and play some softball. It's overcast outside, but once the sun starts to come out, all the kids seem to have sudden lunch appointments back at home.

At some point in all this, Petey runs away. Amanda and Josh's parents don't seem all that concerned, as they are the worst parents in the whole world. The night that Petey escapes, the parents are invited to a potluck dinner party in the neighborhood, and they leave the two kids home alone. Josh wakes up Amanda after midnight and tells her that he's figured out where Petey must be: the cemetery, as that's where he turned up last time he ran away. Josh's plan is to go to the cemetery after midnight in this strange town. I bet this all turns out well.

On the way to the cemetery, the two kids run into Ray, who is just I guess hanging around outside their house. Josh shines the beam of his flashlight at him but he then ducks behind a car and asks what they're doing. Ray tells them that they should avoid the cemetery but the two kids are insistent and the three walk to the cemetery. Once there, Ray shows them a large outdoor amphitheatre behind the cemetery, where they have town meetings and so forth. As he's showing them this, Petey appears behind a tombstone, but acts very weird and indifferent towards his owners. As Amanda chases after the dog, she sees a string of tombstones that read, in order, the names of all of her new friends in Dark Falls. It sure was good planning for the people who worked in the cemetery to arrange those markers in the order that she'd befriend those dead kids. She then of course sees Ray's tombstone, and he cops to being dead.

Ray explains that the town needs fresh blood, so every year they invite a family to their house, the Dead House, to be the town's next victim. He used to live in their house, everyone in town used to live in the house. Ray also explains that the town killed their dog, and that the Petey running around the cemetery is Goosebumps #32: the Barking Ghost. Then Josh accidentally shines his flashlight on Ray's head and all his skin melts off. What.

The two alive kids run back to their house to find their parents, but of course they're still at the potluck dinner. They panic, and then luckily all their dead friends show up inside the house and try to kill them, but not before making a truly excellent joke: "We used to live in your house. And now we're dead in your house!" Holy smokes.

Before the two kids can get murdered by dead people, a knock on the door scares off the entire group of kids. It's Mr. Dawes! He tells the kids that he was at the potluck dinner with their parents. The town formed a circle around the three and luckily they all escaped. He dropped the parents off at the amphitheatre for plot convenience and went to rescue the kids. The two kids get in the car with him because they are the stupidest kids who ever lived. He drives them to the cemetery and that's when Amanda sees his tombstone. He's one of them!

Dawes explains how the town used to be normal, you know, before all the murders, and how one day a yellow gas escaped from the plastics factory and turned them all into the living dead. Then Josh throws the flashlight into Dawes' face, with it embedding itself in his forehead. The two kids run to the cusp of the cemetery and spot their parents, tied to a stake in the middle of the stage, surrounded by the entire town sitting in the bleachers. Amanda comes up with the perfect plan: they'll uproot and topple over a tree that overlooks the amphitheatre, thus ending the shade and causing the sun to reveal itself. Because uprooting a giant tree is something two kids can do.

The tree falls over and the sunlight kills everyone in the town in gory detail. The best part is probably the young girl that Amanda had befriended thanking Amanda for killing her as her hair catches fire and her skin melts off. The two kids untie their parents and the family prepares to leave behind Dark Falls forever.

But the Twist is:
As they are about to leave, Amanda gets out of the car and takes one last look at their old house. As she's about to leave, a red station wagon pulls up, and a new family gets out. On the way back to the car, Amanda spots someone who looks an awful lot like Dawes letting them into the house.
SO THEY THEN JUST DRIVE AWAY, ESSENTIALLY CONDONING THE MURDER OF ANOTHER FAMILY.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Amanda and Josh Benson, a brother and sister whose friend Ray's face disappears halfway thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Actual line spoken by the naive mother to her daughter: "Boys in your room. Curious blowing. You have to realize that you're nervous[.]"

Confusing Monsterology Alert:
It's not very clear just what the townspeople are in this book. They aren't really vampires, and they aren't really zombies, but one thing they definitely are is boring beyond belief.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 6/7:
Amanda goes to close her window but it's already closed!
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Great Prose Alert:
"I snickered to myself."

Conclusions:
I started reading this series when it first came out. I remember how the first three volumes were released at the same time, and I bought all three and couldn't have been more excited about them. As a child I always considered Welcome to Dead House to be the darkest, "scariest" entry of the series. But reading it now it's surprising how dull and artificial the book is, even compared to later successes like the Haunted School or Werewolf Skin. The book is by far gorier than any of the subsequent titles in the series, not including the first couple of titles, and I suspect that's the aspect I responded so strongly towards when I was younger. Reading it now, it's hard to imagine that this is the book that spawned the best-selling children's series in publishing history.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

This blog is fantastic, keep at it!

Anonymous said...

a nice treat to read when i'm sick and my bones hurt. good entry! it's weird, the first goosebumps i read was horrorland, and i remember being really excited to read *THE FIRST ONE*, and i think i was a little bored by it, even then. great entry though, dude.

Anonymous said...

fantastic as always.

also i saw the coin infomercial again.

-nailbomb

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Anonymous said...

This was the first Goosebumps book I read (although I started reading them long after this one was published). I remember liking it a lot, so I tried to read it again much later to get very bored with it and put it down halfway through.

The pacing is horrible! Aside from the kid in the window, nothing happens until the final chapters of the book! And the whole vampire-ghosts thing doesn't work.

Riz said...

hii, i wonder if there is anysite where i can read goosebumps online for free...coz as i live in kuwait, its not much of available in here..
thanks!

Anonymous said...

keep em comin, this blog is awesome

GOP said...

wow sounds dull


F


bad way to start the series

Bup said...

Hmm...this one always bored me

Anonymous said...

When you thought goosebumps couldnt get any more boring or not scary....IT JUST DID!!

Anonymous said...

When you thought goosebumps couldnt get any more boring or not scary....IT JUST DID!!

Reply: At least the TV version of it actually *had* the townspeople as zombies (due to a chemical factory accident that killed everyone). And the ending where the family finds their dog and discover that the dog is a zombie is better than what the book had.

C.L. Young said...

Good review, but I'm surprised you didn't put up any "Out of Context Alerts". I know it's the first book, but it did have a lot of these OoC lines. Here's the ones that stand out to me:

"It's hard for kids," my mother added, smiling at Mr. Dawes, her hands shoved into her jeans (ch. 1)
===================================
"Look how big it is," Mom added (ch. 1)
===================================
I don't think Josh could hear him over Petey's wails. (ch. 1)
===================================
"He's never done this," Dad said apologetically. "Really. He's usually very friendly." (ch. 1)
==================================
He was licking me frantically [...] "Oh, Petey! Petey!" I cried [...] "Stop! You're getting me all sticky!" But he wouldn't stop. He kept on licking fiercely. (ch. 5)
===================================
I knew when he saw me sprawled on the floor like this, he'd totally freak out! (ch. 5)
===================================
They looked so uncomfortable [...] Dad's face was bright red. Mom's hair was all messed up, hanging wildly down over her forehead...(ch. 17)
===================================
Josh poked me hard...(ch. 17) ===================================
"Push!" I cried. "Push it again!"
Josh let out an exasperated, defeated sigh. "I can't, Amanda. I can't move it."
"Josh -- " I glared at him.
He backed up to try again.
...
"Push! Keep pushing!"
The veins at my temples felt about to pop.
...
It gave a little, but bounced right back. (ch.18)

Anonymous said...

Oh my.

Elizabeth said...

Didn't the TV show version have some sort of decoration over the fireplace that prevented the townspeople from being able to harm the family? I don't remember if it was in the book.

C.L. Young said...

[QUOTE]Didn't the TV show version have some sort of decoration over the fireplace that prevented the townspeople from being able to harm the family? I don't remember if it was in the book.[/QUOTE]

Yes, it did. And the family burned it because they thought it was bad luck.

Oscar said...

i love this blog i go on it every day welcome to dead house scared the crap out of me when i was 6. I had nightmares of it for 5 months straight freaked me out totally but i loved scaring my brother!!!

Anonymous said...

I totally thought the television version of this book was way more scary. I like the way the television version played out better too.

troy steele said...

This remains the most read entry on the site and man do I wish this update was actually funny

Bunny Slipperz said...

[QUOTE]This remains the most read entry on the site and man do I wish this update was actually funny[/QUOTE]

Many is the time I wish the same about your entire blog.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you have to do much better than that, miss c l young, whoops, I'm sorry, "bunny slipperz".

Anonymous said...

I feel stupid for pointing this out, but Animorphs was the best-selling children's series in publishing history as I recall.

I could be wrong though.

Damn good review though

Anonymous said...

what exactly does a great prose alert mean??

Marco said...

Monsters that die with flashlights? I can see where the inspiration for Alan Wake came from.

Pizza said...

This book was too boring to read as a child because I had already gotten used to the cheap and immediate spaz-tastic thrills that subsequent titles offered. The first few chapters were too slow paced to hold my soda-infused brain's attention. When the special edition came out a few months ago I picked it up and was finally able to enjoy it as an adult.

Anonymous said...

this book is teaching kids lies.toxic gas from a chemical plant cannot turn people into the living dead, or the swat team would probobly come or the F.B.I. would.seriously, i love the movie of the book better.by the way, where can you get that movie for free without having to buy it off the internet or Amazon.com?

Anonymous said...

benny here.goosebumps 1 it is okay but it could be more exciting.

Anonymous said...

im the one who said they liked revenge of the living dummy. i am creating a fake online name. it is going to be benny. i will comment on every on of these books. 1 it was okay but it could have had more adventure in it. 1 5/10.

Anonymous said...

DUDEEEEEEEEEE do you really need to add your opinion?! I know its your blog and whatnot but can't you save your opinion in another paragraph? shiz -_-

CheeseVision said...

I can't believe after going through all that they don't really tell or warn anyone about that town. I kind of like how RL Stine didn't really state whether the towns folk were zombies or vampires.

I found out about this blog about a year ago, and love it. The sarcasm, the jokes, and the realization that the Goosebumps books I grew up reading were really cheesy.
I'm going to make more of an effort to comment, because I feel like this blog is too good for me to just sit here and read for free, so I'll give my two cents.
Keep up the great work Troy. :)

rayinne said...

hahah lmao that was a funny blog i loved the sarcastic coments they made me laugh i loved
r.l stine as a kid i still do as an adult but its funny how when you read them as a child they were exiting and scary and reading them as adults there booring and pointless keep up your blog ill sure to follow ;)

Mr. Me said...

This book wins the award for "Best Front Tagline Ever".

Anonymous said...

Benny here. This episode was my favorite. It was so amazing. The best episode 9/10.

Anonymous said...

unlike his namesake, when gozer arrived ray thought of zombies, not marshmellows

Kattixie said...

I felt so empowered by the mere *ownership* of this book. I brought it to school daily. I wanted everyone to know I intended to read it. Then, quite suddenly, it was stolen from my desk while we were out at recess! Sometimes, late at night, I still find myself wishing a cruel fate upon the thief. I never replaced it. I did buy other Goosebumps books, though, and I am now organizing a long-overdue garage sale, and somehow I found my way here and now I daresay I will have to read every single one of these books before the final parting. Great blog!

Gillty as charged said...

I have a few of the books including this one. I also own the movie/show version of the book. I actually have two copies of this specific book. I don't really remember what happened in the book. I remember the movie/show version better than the book which is pretty ironic. I don't remember it being this awful when I used to read it as a kid.

forgotten sin said...

Get ready to feel like an old fart, because this book was released for the first time this week in 1992, 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Wheres the update!

Corey said...

This book is already one of the darker ones in the series due to the ending, but let's not overlook the fact that THE DOG WAS MURDERED AND LEFT BEHIND. Damn, RL Stine. That's cold.

matt said...

how the hell does this town even run? how do they pay their taxes?