Wednesday, October 31, 2007

#48 Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns

#48 Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns

Front Tagline: Put one head in front of the other...
Back Tagline: Pumpkin Power!

Official Book Description:
Nothing beats Halloween. It's Drew Brockman's favorite holiday. And this year will be awesome. Much better than last year. Or the year Lee and Tabby played that joke. A nasty practical joke on Drew and her best friend, Walker.
Yes, this year Drew and Walker have a plan. A plan for revenge. It involves two scary pumpkin heads.
But something's gone wrong. Way wrong. Because the pumpkin heads are a little too scary. A little too real. With strange hissing voices. And flames shooting out of their faces...

Brief Synopsis:
Like all great Halloween-themed stories, Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns begins with an extended segment invoking Christmas. Narrator Drew's father likes to call his daughter "Elf," mainly because she looks like an elf, although it doesn't help her any that she only consumes Sprite and Pixie Stix. Like most elves, Drew overcompensates for her small stature by being needlessly violent and menacing.

The reader is introduced to like five more characters in the first chapter, making it something of a quorum. To ease this rare generosity on Stine's part, here's a list:

Walker Parkes Drew's best friend. I know Blogger Beware sometimes takes the easy route, but I pledge to you here and now that there will probably not be any Chuck Norris jokes in this entry. However, in order to meet Internet Meme requirements, there will be at least thirty percent more Ninja, LOL Cat, and Franklin Pierce jokes to make up the deficit.

Shane and Shana Martin Twins, and also friends of Drew and Walker. They have curly blonde hair and a bit of a weight problem, so Drew's father refers to them as being "roly-poly." Drew's dad is really shaping up to be a Hall of Fame parent here on the Goosebumps Blog.

Tabitha "Tabby" Weiss A stuck-up, pretty girl who, along with Lee, ruins Halloween for Drew and Walker. Arbor Day: safe for now.

Lee Winston Friend of Tabitha Weiss, co-ruiner of Halloween. Guys, I know it's been a while since the last Minority Alert, but this one's worth the wait. I'm going to just let the most racist passage in Goosebumps history speak for itself:

Lee is African-American, and he sort of struts when he walks and acts real cool, like the rappers on MTV videos.

I know, you're thinking "Well, that's pretty racist, but I was looking for something in Really Racist." How about:

The girls at school all think he's terrific. But I can never understand a word he says.

Okay, so Drew regales the reader with a story of how two years prior, Lee had invited Drew and Walker to a Halloween Party at his house. Drew interrogated Lee to make sure it was a "real" Halloween party by asking if there would be cider and bobbing for apples. Was there some sort of faux-Halloween Party crisis in the mid-90s that I've blocked out of my childhood memory?

Walker and Drew showed up to the very-hopping, certified-Halloween party in costume. Tabitha, who dressed as a princess, insulted Drew's Klingon outfit, asking if she was dressed as a mouse. I'm not entirely positive which Star Trek being was a Klingon and I'm not prepared to Google Image Search to find out, but I still feel comfortable assigning this quip an Oh Burn. Lee showed up, dressed as Batman (the Dark Knight-- so racist), and said hello to his guests. He heard a loud thumping in the basement and took off his Batman mask, revealing--I kid you not-- his afro, and asked if anyone else heard the noise. Several more loud crashes and thumps from the basement left little question. Lee began to freak out and tried crying out for his parents but got no response. Walker suggested calling 9-1-1 but Lee found the line D-E-A-D.

Suddenly two figures emerged from the basement, one wearing a ski mask and the other a gorilla mask. Both looming figures wore motorcycle jackets and jeans and proclaimed loudly upon entering the living room: "PARTY TIME!" Rather than diffusing the situation, this left the partygoers even more terrified, as they were all Baptists. Lee begged the masked figures to tell him where his parents went. The pair laughed wildly and reclaimed the party for themselves.

The Two masked intruders ordered everyone down to the floor. The two fat twins came dressed as snowmen and couldn't get down, so the Gorilla-masked figure threatened to push them down. The ski-masked figure ordered all of the children to perform push-ups until he could think of "something better." Oh come now, how are you going to top holding some children hostage and then forcing them to exercise? After having done pushups for several minutes, Drew looked up to see Tabby and Lee standing near the masked men. The masked men pulled off their masks and revealed themselves to be some high school kids. No one was amused but Tabby and Lee, who laughed and laughed.

Let's discuss what just happened. First, and most offensive, a flashback just took up five entire chapters. Second, I had to write in past-tense for four paragraphs. And third, high school children pretended to break-in and hold ten year old children as hostages.

Don't worry though, that was only the first half of the flashback. The next year, which would be one year before the present events of the book-- assuming of course there are any present events in this book--Drew and Walker and Shana and Shane have planned their own Halloween party to get Lee and Tabby back for their cruel prank. Here's some of their ideas:

+ Drop fake cobwebs on the two
+ Wait, why is this even a list, that's the ultimate revenge
+ Cut a trapdoor in the living room and have the two drop down into the basement upon arrival. This is vetoed. Not out of impracticality, but because Drew's parents might object to cutting a hole in the living room floor. Hey, maybe they'd also object to their child being held hostage? In Goosebumps World I guess the cops are still busy looking for Kat's dog.
+ Scare them with spookily-carved jack-o'-lanterns
+ Drip green slime onto the two
+ Drip fake blood onto the two
+ Trap the two in a situation where they have both green slime and fake blood dripped onto them from jack-o'-lanterns and they can't escape
+ Trap the two in a situation where they have both green slime and fake blood dripped onto them from jack-o'-lanterns and they can't escape and also they hide a tape recorder that plays the following:
Come with me.
Come home with me now.
Come home to where you belong.
Come to your grave, Tabby and Lee.
I have come for you and you alone.
Come, Tabby and Lee, come with me now
And then when that sample of the "Kashmir" riff kicks in, that's when Tabby and Lee will really lose it.

Drew and Walker and the fat twins come up with some more ideas on how to make their party scary, like an eight foot tall paper mache monster that will pop out of a closet (Question: When was the last time you saw a closet with a 8ft door frame?) and plastic cockroaches. That Halloween, Drew goes as a Klingon again, the twins are imaginatively dressed as a pair of blobs, and internet memes once more pop up as Walker dresses as a pirate. The four are waiting for Lee and Tabby to arrive when Tabby calls Drew to tell her that they won't be coming to her party. Drew fumes and then the green slime blob that the kids had placed over the couch to fall on Tabby and Lee falls and burns a hole through the couch.

Thus finally in Chapter Nine, the reader is brought back into the present day for the first time since Chapter One. Everyone's dressed for Halloween again. Tabby is now a Space Princess, which means the same princess outfit from two years ago but this time her face is painted green. Lee is Superman, and Drew and Walker are bed-sheet ghosts. The four of them go off trick-or-treating together. Tabby suggests they hit up a neighborhood called the Willows and the four hit all the houses. When they knock on the final house, a small house separate from the others with a jack-o'-lantern in the window, an old woman greets them and is so delighted by their collectively terrible costumes that she insists that the children come inside to show her husband. Once inside they are led to a room filled with other kids in costume, crying and fearful. They try to leave but the old woman bellows that they're never leaving the house.
AND THEN DREW STOPS DAYDREAMING WHEN WALKER AND THE TWINS SHOW UP. Eight straight chapters of flashbacks followed by a dream sequence?!?! Dear RL Stine, get fucked.

So it's actually not quite Halloween and the four are still plotting their revenge. The twins come up with a mysterious plan that is kept secret from the readers but all involved feel that it might be too scary, yet all the same they agree to carry the plan out. Except that there's one problem: Drew's mom doesn't want to let her go trick-or-treating this year. People in town keep disappearing, and Drew's mom shows her the amazing newspaper headline, "LOCAL MYSTERY: 4 HAVE VANISHED." Drew's mom doesn't feel her daughter would be safe out on the streets with a local mystery afoot. Walker grabs the paper and sensitively points out that the three men and one woman who disappeared were all fat. The fat twins sit in silence during all of this.

Eventually Drew's Dad lets her go trick-or-treating. Drew invites Lee and Tabby to go trick-or-treating with them and surprisingly they accept. I'm still not sure what their plan is at this point, but on Halloween night, Walker shows up to Drew's house in blackface, so... okay, he's dressed all in black and when Drew's father asks what he's supposed to be, he squirts Drew with a water-gun and says he's "A Dark and Stormy Night"-- which is actually fairly clever. Drew is wearing blue tights and a red tablecloth cape for her "Super Drew" costume. The two trot off to where they are supposed to meet Lee and Tabby when they are attacked by two creatures. Yawn, it's really those same two high school kids from two years ago in animal costumes and whatever. Tabby and Lee grin and wish Drew and Walker a Happy Halloween. The two high school kids beat it and run off to scare more kids. The fat twins never show and the four kids go off trick-or-treating.

The troupe collects goodies from a handful of houses before coming across a pair of robed figures with flaming jack-o'-lantern heads. Walker and Drew figure this is the twins in disguise, but unfortunately so do Tabby and Lee. They remain unimpressed as flames shoot from the jack-o'-lantern heads. The two robed pumpkin-headed figures invite the four children to come trick-or-treating in their neighborhood. They accept. The pumpkin-head figures walk very fast and pass plenty of good houses without stopping to trick-or-treat, and every time one of the kids suggests stopping, one of the jack-o'-lanterns hisses "Let's try a new neighborhood!" The four kids allow themselves to be led far from the neighborhoods they are familiar with, and Walker and Drew begin to doubt whether or not these two are the twins or not. But they keep with it on the chance that the twins are improvising and this will finally be their chance to get revenge on Lee and Tabby. They still sign off on this when the jack-o'-lantern figures lead the kids into the woods. The neighborhood is just behind the woods, they hiss.

Amazingly enough, there is a neighborhood behind the woods. The pumpkins guide the kids around several blocks of brightly-lit houses and the kids get tons of great candy from every home. But gradually the kids grow tired and finally they try to wrap up their trick-or-treating. Except that the flaming pumpkin-headed figures won't let them go. They insist that the four keep trick-or-treating forever. They try to escape but the two pumpkins rapidly encircle them, leading to this fantastic bit of poetry:

We were prisoners. Prisoners of their fire.

The kids keep trick-or-treating until finally Drew and Walker figure hey maybe these two aren't the twins after all. Lee and Tabby, still not convinced, snatch the pumpkin heads off the shoulders of the figures and drop them in shock upon discovering there was no human head beneath them. The pumpkin heads fall to the ground and then begin to cackle. The creatures pick their heads back up and hold them in front of their chests. They then command the kids to continue trick-or treating.... FOREVER! I can sympathize with this threat because I know what forever feels like, it feels like Chapters 2-8 of this book.

So the kids keep trick-or-treating. Eventually they run out of room to fit candy and also it's like 11 at night, these kids are starting to draw undue attention as trick-or-treaters. Finally the pumpkins agree to let the kids stop trick-or-treating-- and start eating. Oh no, this is really where this story's heading? Really? Sigh.

The pumpkins force the kids to rapidly eat their candy, chanting "Faster! Faster! Eat! Eat!" The kids shove their faces with chocolates, quickly becoming nauseated.
Hey Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns, Faster! Faster! End! End!

The kids collapse from eating too much. Tabby has chewed up chocolate that she vomited up stuck in her hair and the rest of the kids aren't in much better shape. The pumpkins allow the kids to stop eating-- and start trick-or-treating again. They take the kids to a special neighborhood where they can trick-or-treat forever. It's always forever with these guys. When the kids ring on the first doorbell, they're greeted by a woman with a jack-o'-lantern head. The neighborhood is filled with pumpkin people.

The kids have finally had enough. What if they refuse to trick-or-treat? What then? Well, what then is the pumpkins make a special screeching howl to call all the other pumpkins over and the large group of pumpkins encircle them. A member of the jack-o'-lantern headed creatures presents four fresh pumpkin heads and tells the kids that these will be their new heads. Tabby cries as a creature slams a pumpkin over her head. Lee tries to run but a creature catches him and shoves a pumpkin over his head. The two kids run off screaming blindly into the night.

But the Twist is:
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to present you with this Hall of Fame entry of the Worst Twist Ending In Goosebumps History. Yes, even worse than the one where they all turned out to be dogs.
Walker and Drew scream in fear as the pumpkin creatures hold pumpkins over their heads. And then they begin to laugh. Shana and Shane laugh too, their pumpkin heads morphing back into their human heads. The four of them finally got Lee and Tabby back for their prank. Of course, as Drew explains, it's easy when your best friends are from outer space. Shane and Shana explain that they weren't supposed to use their special alien powers around humans but they were just so desperate to get revenge! The alien twins thank their brethren for aiding in scaring two twelve year olds and the other pumpkin-headed creatures float into the sky. Drew mentions that the best part of all is that since the twins are aliens, they don't eat candy. The twins give their trick-or-treat sacks to Walker and Drew. It then dawns on Drew that she's never seen the alien twins eat and asks what they eat. One of the twins assures Drew that she's too bony and has nothing to worry about, their race likes their humans with a little meat on their bones.
It's like two of the worst endings ever for the price of one of the worst endings ever.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Drew and her pal Walker, who dons black and disappears into the night halfway thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Drew's mom doesn't want her daughter going out trick-or-treating because four people have recently disappeared in the neighborhood. I'm sorry, I think this rare display of actual parenting in the novel has thrown me a bit.

Minority Alert:
Shane and Shana are illegal aliens.

Pepsi Generation Alert:
Pepsi is mentioned in this novel several times, though curiously only the jerks drink it (clearly an attempt by Stine to retain street cred with the Coke Crew). I haven't read #49 yet, but #50 also prominently featured a Pepsi plug. This is not coincidental, as around the time of this book being published, there was a Doritos-Goosebumps promotion, Doritos being a part of Frito-Lay which in turn is sister company to Pepsi-Cola and-- well, before this turns into the back-cover of Yanqui UXO, let's just say that all younger readers of the book would have been well-advised to write a strongly-worded letter to AdBusters For Kids.

Hershey Starburst and the Sponsors From Mars Alert:
It's not just Pepsi that gets plugged in the novel, as the name brand candy of Snickers, Milky Ways, M&Ms, Three Musketeers, Crunch, Hershey Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, and Kit Kats also get name-dropped.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Silver Surfer, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Star Trek, Klingons, the delicious crisp taste of Pepsi

He Sits Around the House Alert:
"All four people were very overweight. The first one, a bald man in a bulging turtleneck sweater, had at least six chins!"

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 11/12
Halloween was ruined. Well, Halloween wasn't ruined.

Great Prose Alert I:
But then Dad thought maybe trick-or-treating would be okay.

Great Prose Alert II:
"Hurry up," a pumpkin urged Walker.

If you're a parent, Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns is the perfect Goosebumps book to give your child if you hate them.


Sad Mammal said...

A Godspeed You! Black Emperor quote in a goosebumps review!? I'll pleasure whatever gender's genitals you possess sir/madam. Also, I could possibly have a cache of goosebumps books, and might be able to supply you with any books you're unable to find (from the original set only). Contact me at if you're in need.

Laura said...

True story:

When I saw the cover of the book you were reviewing, my first thought was, "Wait! This is the one with the FAT PEOPLE!"

I will admit, I find it pretty disturbing that the two sweet, "roly-poly" kids are partially responsible for kidnapping, murdering, and cannibalizing four innocent people. And all because the victims were obese. This, combined with the WTF-treatment of the black kid, makes "Attack of the Jack o"Lanterns" the most intolerant book in the Goosebumps series.

Great review as always. Also, nice Puff Daddy reference.

Anonymous said...


This one of my favorites growing up, it's kind of disappointing that this book actually sucked...

Dan Luffey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"This one of my favorites growing up, it's kind of disappointing that this book actually sucked..."

Quoted for truth.

But deep down, that horribly intolerant racist in me loves it.

...I'm not actually a racist D:

Anonymous said...

wtf is with their shitty names in this one. i thought the twist was going to be that 'drew brockman' was actually a boy.

Brodie said...

Is this the only Goosebumps ending featuring cannibalising aliens? 'Cause I thought I never read this book, but I remember that ending very well.


I guess I did.

And it was shit.

Anonymous said...

Haha, this was a really great one. Well done!

Sad Mammal said...

Not to shit all over everyone's parade, but I believe aliens eating people doesn't constitute cannibalism.

eric said...

I remember this one and thinking, "What an odd way to try and scare people." I suppose, given the limits of children's books, Stine had to come up with ways to threaten kids without really putting them in danger.

But then, you end this book with the bizarre and disturbing implication that the twins are serial I guess that theory gets shot to hell.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps to rectify the racist passages in this novel regarding Lee, in the television show of this book (which I caught last night in the gym; the remote had stopped working), he is changed to a chunky white kid, and Drew is herself played by a black girl.

Anonymous said...

wait what. wheres the godspeed quote?

Shaun said...

If I could get a Bowie reference in every post, that would make my life

Groggy Dundee said...

>Both looming figures wore motorcycle jackets and jeans and proclaimed loudly upon entering the living room: "PARTY TIME!" Rather than diffusing the situation, this left the partygoers even more terrified, as they were all Baptists.

Okay, this is perhaps the best thing you've ever wrote. Cool move, ace!

troy steele said...

You know, if I had to pick, this is probably my favorite entry

Layna said...

LMAO!!! the was DEFINETLY one of your best reviews,
this book AND TV episode reminded me of The Haunted Mask-
in a way...

lol, the racism.
havent we noticed it a little bit in all RL Stine`s books?
this book was okay though.

Anonymous said...

Klingons were the ones who just started out as being black people in the '60s, then suddenly developed forehead ridges. They're 99% Image Search safe, if you're feeling particularly curious and/or are simply noodling around. But I have to say that because I'm a high-grade geek.

Anonymous said...

"...and the other pumpkin-headed creatures float into the sky."

what the


You know, when I read this book I actually figured out the twist ending before finishing the book.

I have no idea how my thought process could've been so generally f'ed up as a kid to expect such a thing, I blame reading most of the previous titles in the series beforehand.

Anonymous said...

I used to to love reading this book, but I don't get it how this was the worst twist ending. It was bad, but didn't you say that the twist endings cheating the reader was what goosebumps was all about?

Anonymous said...

benny here. This one I liked but it was a little corny to me and thats a bad thing coming from me. So this one is 6/10,good but bad at the same time.

Skip Towne said...

When the two high-schoolers burst into the room from the basement, I truly expected the music video for "Fight For Your Right" to begin. How disappointing.

John A. Deering said...

Nice to think that there could come a Halloween story at some point in Goosebumps - a story taking place on Halloween night itself, and working the holiday into the very story. Oh, what am I thinking, the Haunted Mask 1 and 2 both already did that. Well, still.

Now a Thanksgiving story would make it more complete. Hmm. The zombie virus strikes turkeys, ruining Thanksgiving. An "annoying family get-together" that annoys the 12-year-old girl main character soon becomes a catastrophe involving smashing the table onto its side to keep shut the house's door, which is being torn apart by the Killer Evil Turkeys, who want to make THEM the Thanksgiving feast!!!

But then my mind opened up "too much" to picture the horrible idea of Slappy ruining Christmas, as a Christmas story. The image came into my head, when I closed my eyes . . . Slappy, mouth wide open, wearing a Santa hat . . .

Did I see that artwork somewhere? As a kid in the 90's? Is there fan art somewhere of Slappy at Christmas time?

If anybody knows, please tell me. The amazing Goosebumps artist, Tim Jacobus, made all kinds of extended artwork, and there might have really been such a Christmas Slappy image.

Any such Christmas story would have to end up being happy and merry, with proper morals.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a book you CAN judge by its cover.

Anonymous said...

having cornrows like many blacks do is... racist? in what way?

that is actually quite racist of you to say, to imply there is something wrong with the way many members of a certain race choose to wear their hair.

Your snarks would be more humorous if they didn't reek of ignorant political correctness, anti-religious bigotry (if you so much as made a sarcastic remark about atheists or Muslims the blog would likely just get closed down with the blogger under fire), and say "what." every third sentence, which kind of stopped being funny the first few times, let alone in every post.

You can definitely be truly funny, just quit with the leftist agenda shoved in our faces and be a bit more original, all right?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to perpetuate a tedious theme, but I just thought it was hilarious how transparent Comment #25 is. There's no mystery about where they're coming from.