Wednesday, January 17, 2007

#02 Stay Out of the Basement

#02 Stay Out of the Basement

Front Tagline: Something's waiting in the dark...
Back Tagline: Live Plants...Dead People?

Official Book Description:
Dr. Brewer is doing a little plant-testing in his basement. Nothing to worry about. Harmless, really.
But Margaret and Casey Brewer are worried about their father. Especially when of the plants he is growing down there.
Then they notice that their father is developing plantlike tendencies. In fact, he is becoming distinctly weedy--and seedy.
Is it just part of their father's "harmless" experiment? Or has the basement turned into another little shop of horrors.

Brief Synopsis:
Siblings Margaret and Casey Brewer are playing frisbee outside on a warm California winter day. Casey attempts to throw the frisbee at their father but he gruffly declines, as he has much work to do in the basement. See, Casey and Margaret's dad is a CEO for a very important office supply firm and -- just kidding, he is of course another scientist. Ever since he got fired from PolyTech, their botanist father has been hanging around the basement, experimenting with plants. When Margaret tries to go down to the basement to see her father, he holds a bloody hand up to the light and utters the titular line, Be Careful What You Wish For...

Casey and Margaret's mom, Mrs. Brewer has to leave to Tucson to visit her sick sister, and Mrs. Brewer reminds Casey, Margaret, and even Margaret's friend Diane to be nice to Dr. Brewer and make sure he eats meals. Once Dr. Brewer emerges from the basement, his hand still bandaged, and takes Mrs. Brewer to the hospital, Diane gets a great idea: they should Stay In of the Basement, and go investigate Dr. Brewer's secret experiments. Casey would rather watch his action movie that he rented, the title of which is left unsaid but the reader gets the clues that it is hyper-violent and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it is obviously Junior. Eventually the three children make their way down into the basement, which is stacked with large tall plants of many variations, some bearing fruits, all very large for plants that supposedly had only been growing for a few weeks. Out of respect for the many elementary school children who use this blog to cheat on their book reports, I will refrain from making a marijuana joke.

Casey notices a large glass contraption similar to a phone booth hooked up to a generator in the corner. He walks over to touch it and his body jolts with electric shocks. Only he was just funnin, he's not hurt at all. RL Stine beat Jurassic Park to making this scene by over a year, so I guess now we know the answer to the question of whether Spielberg influenced Stine or vice versa. After admonishing him for his "hilarious" prank, the girls stop and listen to the plants, which sound like they are breathing. No, sorry ladies, that sound is millions of readers gasping for breath at Casey's deliciously humorous prank. The tendrils of some of the plants begin to sway, as if beckoning the children towards the plants, and indeed some of the plants were heaving as if in breath. The children wisely decide to Stay Out of the Basement afterall, and scatter out just as Dr. Brewer pulls up in the driveway. I guess they live three minutes away from the airport.

Suddenly Casey remembers that he left his sweater down in the basement! He quickly runs down to retrieve it while Dr. Brewer is stopped by their neighbor in the driveway. Casey spots his sweater next to one of the tendriled plants, and when he goes to retrieve it, the plant's arms grab him and hold him tight. Margaret comes down to rescue Casey and she looses him and as they make their way up the stairs, they run into Dr. Brewer. Dr. Brewer calmly sits them down at the kitchen table and tells them that one day he'll explain everything in the basement and they'll all go down together, but until that day, they are not allowed in the basement. The next morning, Dr. Brewer has installed a lock on the door.

That afternoon, Mrs. Brewer calls Margaret to tell her that her sister's surgery didn't go as planned and she'll be staying in Tucson a few more days. Margaret tells her mom about the basement and how Dr. Brewer has started wearing a Dodgers cap at all times (the sports team, not like an Artful Dodger-type hat, sadly). Mrs. Brewer tells her daughter that her father probably feels like he has something to prove to Mr. Martinez, his old boss who fired him.

After getting off the phone with her mother, Margaret heads downstairs and spies her father in the kitchen, eating something from a plastic bag. She stays hidden until he leaves, and when she retrieves the bag, she discovers it's plant food! She tells Casey about this as she makes him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but he doesn't seem to think it is all that weird that their father would be eating fertilizer. He then mocks her for several pages by pretending to be the Incredible Plant Man and she's Weed Woman. I don't know, anyways,

A few days later, the two siblings and Diane are playing frisbee, again. Was this book underwritten by the California Frisbee Council? Casey tosses a frisbee at their father, who has emerged briefly into the sunlight, but it hits him in the head, knocking his Dodgers cap off and revealing green leaves growing on his scalp! Stay Out of the Organic Hairclub For Men. Dr. Brewer finally sits down with his kids and explains that the leaves are just a side effect-- a side effect to what, he won't say, but he does explain his experiments. He asks if the kids are familiar with DNA, and since all eleven-year old kids are familiar with DNA, he continues. He's trying to take animal cells and put them into plant cells to create hybrid plants that have never existed. The glass booths in the basement are his transports, and though he's real close to succeeding, he hasn't quite made it work yet. He then brushes off all the moral and ethical concerns of his children as he heads back to the basement for more God-playing.

That night, Margaret again spies on her father in the bathroom... uh... anyways, she watches him take off his bandage and the blood from his wound is bright green! She also takes a peak in his bedroom and notices that his bed is filled with moist dirt and crawling with worms. So what, a lot of guys revert to their bachelor ways when the wife's out of town.

The next afternoon, Margaret tells Casey all about her spying discoveries from the night before. Suddenly, Dr. Brewer appears and tells his children that he's made them lunch. The two are served what appears to be green mashed potatoes, and their father yells at them to eat it. So the husband is a slob and can't cook, still nothing out of the ordinary here. Luckily for the kids, the doorbell rings and Dr. Brewer leaves to talk to Mr. Martinez, who has stopped by to check on Dr. Brewer's progress. The two kids scoop their green food into the trash and tell their father that they ate it. Oh kids.

The next day, Dr. Brewer tells his kids he'll be out for a few hours to help their neighbor install a sink. Maybe I didn't grow up in the right neighborhoods, but is that really something you casually ask a neighbor to do for you? The kids see this as their chance to once again not Stay Out of the Basement and as soon as he leaves, Casey picks the lock and the two venture downstairs. They come across Mr. Martinez's suit, neatly folded and hidden near a table, and the two realize that neither saw Mr. Martinez leave the house after visiting yesterday. The two hear footsteps above and realize their dad's come back. The two emerge from the basement just in time to be caught by Dr. Brewer. He explains that Mr. Martinez simply got hot in the tropical climate of the basement and took off his suit and left with out it. The kids buy this because they are retarded. Dr. Brewer heads out to continue work on the sink, but before he goes, he threatens the kids to... well, you know by now.

The next day, Dr. Brewer tells his kids the great news, that their mother is coming back within the hour and he's going to go to the airport to pick them up. This so excites Casey that he insists that he and his sister go fly some kites while they wait. That's really what happens. But of course the kites are in the basement, so they break in again and that's when they stumble upon Mr. Martinez's shoes and pants. Finally they realize that maybe just maybe Mr. Martinez didn't leave their house naked. The two kids hear thumping from a supply closet that has been nailed shut and the two pry it open, only to discover hideous plants with human features. One has an arm. The other has fingers. A third has pride.

Margaret notices two pairs of feet in a dark corner and the two kids walk over to discover their father and Mr. Martinez, bound and gagged. Dr. Brewer still has the green leaves on his scalp, and when Margaret removes his gag, he tells them that the Dr. Brewer driving to the airport is in fact a plant version of himself and that he's their real father. Margaret unties him and he leaps into another corner of the basement and grabs an axe. The axe-wielding capless Dr. Brewer charges towards the basement stairs, where the cap-wearing Dr. Brewer has just arrived with Mrs. Brewer from the airport. The cap-wearing Dr. Brewer tells Margaret that she's been tricked, he's the real Dr. Brewer. The axe-wielding Dr. Brewer maintains that he's the real Dr. Brewer. Margaret charges after the axe-wielding Dr. Brewer and wrestles the axe from his hand and stands between the two Dr. Brewers. She orders Casey to stab the capless Dr. Brewer with a knife and he does, and the blood that pours from his arm is red-- he's the real Dr. Brewer. Margaret gives the axe back to the capless Dr. Brewer, who runs towards the cap-wearing Dr. Brewer and chops him in two, right down the middle.

Dr. Brewer explains that he accidentally mixed his own blood with the plant materials when he began experimenting and that suddenly the plants took on human characteristics with one becoming powerful enough to clone Dr. Brewer completely. The real Dr. Brewer has the green leaves on his scalp too, which he claims is a result of the plant material getting into his own blood by mistake. Dr. Brewer goes into the basement and destroys all of the plants, save a few which he plants in the garden.

But the Twist is:
Margaret walks by the new flower garden and a flower pleads with her that he's her real father.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Siblings Casey and Margaret Brewer, whose friend Diane disappears halfway thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Margaret's dad calls her "Princess" and "Fatso" (because she's skinny-- he's an ironist you see). Oh and that whole trying to kill his whole family thing too I guess.

Early 90s Cultural References:
RoboCop, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sassy

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
"We need a lemon tree," Casey said as they slowed to a walk. "They're cool."

Useless Trivia Alert:
The cover to this book is one of two not drawn by series regular Tim Jacobus (the other being #12 Be Careful What You Wish For...). This is what me doing my homework on the series results in, trivia. And not even the good kind of trivia I can use at parties and other social gatherings, it's Goosebumps Trivia.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 13/14
Something is attacking Casey! It's... it's... it's a squirrel? Okay.

Great Prose Alert:
"So what are you trying to say, that Dad is out of his tree?"

Stay Out of the Basement is the sort of Goosebumps book that grows on you,
hahahahahahahahahhahahahahaahaha get it?


Anonymous said...

WHA--? Another so soon? Awesome.

The Miniboss At The End Of This Level said...

You mispelled Tucson AHA I HAVE YOU NOW

troy steele said...

Sorry, as a general rule, I Stay Out of the Atlas. It's fixed now, Internet Gaffe Squad.

Rob said...

Keep 'em coming!

- Kev'n

The Miniboss At The End Of This Level said...

There's a whole squad of us? ALRIGHT! I feel just like the Superfriends, only even lamer.

Tom Foss said...

"Stay in of the Basement" is one of the funniest phrases ever. You rock.

Anonymous said...

Two updates in one week, awesome :D. Thanks for keeping this going -- I obviously need to visit more.

Anonymous said...

More! More!

Anonymous said...

way to never update, schlongbora

Omar Cruz said...

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Bongs, Glass Pipe. Visit us for more info at:

Anonymous said...

Stay in of the Updates.

troy steele said...


Anonymous said...

But that's not soon enough!

Anonymous said...

I remember being somewhat disturbed by the ending of this one when I was a kid. The flower claiming to be her father...just a bit more twisted than my fragile young mind could handle.

This was also one of the few Goosebumps books written in third-person, which gradually got fazed out as the series went on. I think there were only a handful after this point.

Plot ripped off from: The Fly, along with any number of other 50s Z-grade genetic mutation pictures.

Unknown said...

I've come to the conclusion that R L Stein was attempting to show the consequences of bad parenting on impressionable young children.

example: if you fool around with plants more than you spend time with your children, they are apt to become bad seeds.

hahahaha get it?

Anonymous said...

Very usefull. It is actually very strange, but I have to read this story for a dutch class and it is funny to see the differences. The characters have different names: Frank and Sandra being the brother and sister, Rosa being the friend, and Brouwers being the family name. Frank also leaves his keys and not his sweat shirt in the basement. The mum is also away on buisness trip, which is different from the English version.

Anonymous said...

This one always seemed so...weird...

do you think it was one of the better or worse ones,Troy?

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you noticed it, but it's jus ironic and funny that I wanted to add it in...when you wrote about Margaret spying on her father in the kitchen, you wrote, she stays there and "watches him until he leaves", which is kinda funny cuz he really is "leaving" with all the leaves growing out of his head.

BurtonFanatic said...

I miss Sassy! :(
I love this blog! I'm having a great time blowing off work for it.

Anonymous said...

How did they keep getting back into the basement if he "installed a lock on the door"?

Dagorahn and Trunix said...

I love the end of the first paragraph...Be careful what you wish for, AHAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

This was the first Goosebumps I ever read, I got it for Christmas one year. I thought it was terrible and got rid of it again as soon as I possibly could.
I did read a few more though, on the grounds that one bad book does not mean the series as a whole is no good and it's only fair to give it a chance.
I never found one that I really liked.

C.L. Young said...

Can't believe Troy didn't make an Out of Context section for this one. Here's what he missed:

She stuck her tongue out and moaned, demonstrating her dire need... (ch. 1)
"Why do you want to do this?" Margaret asked her friend. "Why are you so eager to go down there?"
Diane shrugged. "It beats doing our math," she replied, grinning. (ch. 2)
"It's so moist," Diane said. "Good for your hair and skin." (ch. 3)
Why did she feel so strange? [...] Doing something he had told them not to do? (ch. 3)
"You were faking it?! I don't believe it!" Diane cried, her face as pale as the white lights above them, her lower lip trembling. (ch. 4)
He was standing at the sink, leaning over it, his chest bare, his shirt tossed behind him on the floor. (ch. 9)
"No problem," Casey said, a mischievous grin spreading across his face. "Go get a paper clip. I'll show you what my friend Kevin taught me last week." (ch. 13)
"Sorry," she said, squeezing his shoulder affectionately. "It's just…well, you remember last time."
"I'll be careful," he said.
Margaret shuddered. (ch. 13)
The banging got louder.
Why wasn't he answering her? (ch. 14)
Margaret's mouth dropped open into a wide O of surprise. (ch. 14)
"Martinez got hot, okay? […] Martinez became uncomfortable. He removed his jacket and tie and put them down on the worktable. Then he forgot them when he left." Dr. Brewer chuckled. "I think he was in a state of shock from everything I showed him down there. It's no wonder he forgot his things. But I called Martinez this morning. I'm going to drive over and return his stuff when I finish at Mr. Henry's." (ch. 16)
"It -- it moved a little," Margaret said, breathing hard. They kept at it. The wet wood began to crack. (ch. 17)
Under the dim ceiling bulb, they bent and writhed, groaning, breathing, sighing. (ch. 18)
Dr. Brewer made his way out of the closet. (ch. 18)
He groaned from the effort of raising the heavy tool, his face reddening, his eyes wide, excited. (ch. 19)
Does this mean that the Dad in the closet is my real dad? (ch. 20)
"One more thing we have to do," their father said, his arms around the two kids. "Let's get Mr. Martinez out of the closet." (ch. 21)

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure I believe "Under the dim ceiling bulb."

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure I believe "Under the dim ceiling bulb."

Reply: Well, the description was sort of like an orgy, but the rest of the out of context lines about being in and out of the closet and being bent over the sink and the table--those are honest to God (or honest to blog, if you speak "Juno") out of context lines.

Anonymous said...

"She also takes a peak in his bedroom and notices that his bed is filled with moist dirt and crawling with worms. So what, a lot of guys revert to their bachelor ways when the wife's out of town."

I laughed my ass off exactly after reading that.

I remember when I first read Goosebumps, I actually believed clever, "scientific" things like this could happen. Wow, if science were really like this, life in general would make no sense.

Groggy Dundee said...

>mouth dropped open into a wide O of surprise.

This along with eye-rolling is extremely common in Goosebumps books. It seems to happen at least once in all of the early books, at least.

Shawn said...

I never was much of a fan of this series, but this blog is hilarious.

"One has an arm. The other has fingers. A third has pride." CLASSIC!

Anonymous said...

This book actually gave me nightmares as a kid. The ONLY Goosebumps book to ever do such a thing. Otherwise they just made me cringe.

Anonymous said...


I always thought these/Point Horrors were almost like comedies because they were that bad.

This book really frightened me as a child; it was the only one to do so. Esp. the eating plant food bit. I still shudder to think of it now.

Anonymous said...

benny here. this is one of my favorites.

Ashes M said...

`Finally they realize that maybe just maybe Mr. Martinez didn't leave their house naked.`

I read this about half of an hour ago and I'm still laughing

Plague #11 said...

"Or has the basement turned into another little shop of horrors."

Okay, I admit it, that's actually kind of clever.

matt said...

damn science you scary!

Unknown said...

I believe the reprint of the book does use cover art by Tim Jacobus. It shows a plant man in a lab coat mixing chemicals in a laboratory.