Tuesday, March 18, 2008

#31 Night of the Living Dummy II

#31 Night of the Living Dummy II

Front Tagline: He's still walking. He's still stalking.
Back Tagline: You Can't Teach An Old Dummy New Tricks!

Official Book Description:
Amy's ventriloquist dummy, Dennis, keeps losing his head...for real. So Amy begs her family for a new dummy. That's when her dad finds Slappy in a local pawnshop. Slappy's kind of ugly, but Amy's having fun practicing her new routine.
Then terrible things start happening. Horrible, nasty things. Just like what happened the first time.
Because there's something odd about Slappy. Something not quite right. Something evil...

Brief Synopsis:
When we last left Kris and Lindy, they had just discovered that Lindy's ventriloquist dummy Slappy was alive. Like Mr. Wood, Slappy had some notion that he was able to keep human preteens slaves and the readers of the first book were left breathless with suspense. Hypothetically.

Well Jean Seberg, take a huff because everything you as a reader (or blog reader) had invested in the first book (or the first entry) has been washed away with no explanation at all. I guess it's easier for a ghostwriter to just start over rather than actually read the first book. So what are we left with? The strong, universal theme of children enjoying ventriloquy.

Amy has NPR Parents, so every Thursday the entire family gathers around for Family Sharing Night. Structured much like a talent show only with fewer dance routines by the school sluts, the weekly event requires every member of the family to "share" something tangible with the group. Amy's older sister Sara is a skilled artist, so every week she shares a new painting with the family. Jed, Amy's red-haired younger brother, is a total jerk, so every week he shares things like notes boys wrote to Amy or belches. Dad shares songs and Mom shares stories, which leaves Amy with her sea shell collection and of course her ventriloquist dummy Dennis.

As the book opens, Amy is giving her family a killer ventriloquist routine. It's such a good routine. Like, you're just sitting there, hoping there'll be a pun about how the dummy is made of wood and POW there it is. And asking if that in turn will be followed by a play on how the word "dummy" has multiple meanings is as rhetorical as asking if hipsters love Zooey Deschanel. Before Amy can get to a killer political riff on water-boarding, the head of her dummy falls off. Oh cool I've seen that episode of the Simpsons too.

Sara follows this tough act by sharing something actually good: her new painting. Only that rascal Jed has painted a big yellow smiley face over it. Since this act contains no puns, the family does not laugh at Jed's vandalism. Jed tries to argue that this act was a form of protest against Wal-Mart, but to no avail.

The following day, Amy's dad brings her home a new present from the pawnshop. No, not porn DVDs: Slappy! Amy reads the words off a yellow sheet of paper in Slappy's pocket and then reaches her hand inside the dummy's head and pulls out something sticky. No, not porn DVDs: a rotting sandwich! What. While her dad investigates the doll for more rotting sandwiches, Slappy punches him in the head.

Amy's friend Margot rushes over to tell her that her dad, who owns a restaurant called The Party House, wants Amy to perform her act for a group of three and four year olds. He'll even pay her $20. That may not seem like much, but accounting for inflation, $20 is like $20. What will Margot's dad be paying for exactly? Well allow me to share some of Amy's new routine with you:
Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Jane who?
Jane jer clothes, You stink!
Amy knows that joke will kill with three year olds because a three year old had to have written it.

At the next Family Sharing Night, Amy's dad, I kid you not, plays "Maggie's Farm" on his guitar. Between Dylan and VU, I look forward to next week's Nico of the Living Dummy. Amy is enjoying herself when she spots her old ventriloquist doll Dennis crawling along the floor of the living room by himself. Amy freaks out and screams "It's the night of the living dummy roman numeral two!" Her family just starts laughing as Jed redeems himself by revealing that he has swiped Dennis's head. Amy's father praises Jed for being so clever by pretending to be a dummy. Amy starts her knock-knock routine with Slappy. But before Amy can break out the hilarious punchline of "Wayne Wayne go away," Slappy begins viciously insulting her parents. He calls her mom fat and her dad bald. Amy tries to explain that Slappy just calls them as he sees them, but her parents become furious. Then Slappy drops the u-bomb: "Did I mention you are all ugly?"

The next day, Amy comes home with a bad report card and is grounded. She sneaks a phone call to Margot, who is also grounded for bad grades, and they briefly discuss the show at the Party House next week. Then Amy starts working on her report for science class. Once it's typed up, she realizes that it needs a nice drawing on the cover and goes into Sara's room to borrow some markers. This is always a good idea no matter what grade you're in, as even professors love marker drawings of Samuel Richardson's Pamela. A little while later, Sara comes home from the Banana Republic and discovers someone has smeared paint all over the white carpet in her room. The family naturally begins to blame Jed but he claims innocence and points the finger at Amy, who he saw go in earlier. No one believes she didn't do it, even when she shows them the paint on Slappy's shoes.

Amy is double-grounded but still allowed to perform at the Party House. Amy's mom drops her off and she starts preparing for the show. Kid n Play arrive and Margot informs them that they've transposed the address. Backstage, a little girl named Alicia comes up to Amy and asks to be introduced to her doll. Amy smiles at Alicia's mom and exchanges some banter with the little girl. Slappy grabs the little girl's hand and won't let go. The little girl starts crying and screaming but the dummy won't loosen its grip. A group of children gather around and start crying as Alicia's mother pleads with Amy to knock it off. Finally Slappy lets go of the kid. Amy gets fired and takes the bus back home.

Amy tells her mother about the show and as soon as she talks her down, Sara bursts into the kitchen to accuse Amy of vandalizing her room again. Inside Sara's room, someone has taken red paint and written "AMY AMY AMY" all over the walls.

Now would be a good time to examine why this might be the only Goosebumps sequel to eclipse the original. Slappy's antics in this book are not designed to just be weird and "scary" as in the first book. Slappy's increasingly disturbing actions only serve to convince Amy's family that she is literally insane. Amy's mother begins suggesting she see a doctor for "help."

Amy decides to stay up late so she can catch Slappy in the act. As soon as the dummy comes to life, she follows it into Sara's room. She watches as Slappy grabs a paintbrush and then tackles him before he can ruin another painting. Sara wakes up and calls her parents into her room to stop Amy. The next morning, Amy is told she has an appointment with a "shrink." Before she can make that appointment however, Slappy decides to break his silence. He informs her that she's his slave and that until she accepts that, he'll keep vandalizing the house until they lock Amy away. Again with this slave business. Given that his targets have thus far been exclusively female, I can only imagine the situation plays out like this in his head:

Amy decides that violence is the solution and begins wrestling with Slappy. Slappy shares her enthusiasm for violence and punches her in the head, knocking her out. Great, more violence against women, at least the important parts of the first book have been carried over. She comes to and locks Slappy in the closet. He begins ramming the door, trying to break it down. Sara comes into Amy's room and admits that she knows Slappy is alive but wanted her parents to think Amy was crazy because she was jealous of her. This leads to a strange but sweet scene of reconciliation between the sisters as they realize that each was jealous of the other. Admittedly this scene seems to have come from another book, but it contains no werewolves so it's alright.

Slappy bursts out of the closet and the girls tie his arms and legs together and throw him away. But the cat came back the very next day, as Slappy shows up on the kitchen table in a scene that is verbatim lifted from the first book, right down to the Frosted Flakes.

That night, Amy hears Slappy once more sneaking into Sara's room. She follows him in but then another shadowy figure lunges out of the dark at Slappy. The girls flip on the lights and see Dennis, Amy's old dummy, pummeling Slappy. Dennis throws Slappy against the iron bedpost. Slappy's head cracks in half and a large white worm crawls out. What. The worm quickly slides through a crack in the wall.

Amy parents burst out of Sara's closet and clumsily admit to believing Amy's story. Sara and Amy had set the entire thing up, with Jed reprising his role as Dennis.

But the Twist is:
Jed walks in the room and apologizes for oversleeping. But if he wasn't pretending to be Dennis, then who was?>?!!?!>>M!>!!M!>!?>!NJKL:!>

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:

Questionable Parenting:
Rather than investigating on their own, Amy's parents are prompted by Sara to just hide in a closet while their kids wrestle with evil dolls. Nick and Nora they ain't.

Multicultrual Alert:
Amy listens to reggae music. Dad's is an expert at making Chinese food in his wok. Slappy loves the films of Miklos Jancso.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 2/3:
Amy sees a horrible face that looks just like her ventriloquist dummy Dennis. Is it a horrible monster? No, it's her ventriloquist dummy Dennis.

Great Prose Alert:
"Slappy is a baaad dude!"

A fairly clever take on a type of family not often seen in these books, Night of the Living Dummy II was pretty good, which is surprising given that I literally did not remember a single thing about it from when I read it as a kid until I got to the weird worm ending. Gotta love that non-threatening cover too.


Anonymous said...

Awesome...my favorite book in the series.
So, are you intending on following through with the rest of the Living Dummy books after #3? Or were you gonna save the Series 2000 books for a later time?

Q & T said...

Slappy should've been less Slappy and more Franklin.

"It ain't easy being white..."

"It ain't easy being brown..."

"All this pressure to be bright..."

"I got children all over town!"

MoxieHart said...

The cover's actually pretty creepy, even though I think the bunny and teddy bear are more scary than Slappy.

Anonymous said...

I had always liked this one more than the others because the kids don't get totally screwed over at the end. But that worm...go figure.

Wyvernlord said...

Excellent review once again. I'm loving these. Even as a kid I always felt this cover had one of the guadiest color schemes. Seriously, pink and green?

This was first dummy book that was adapted into the TV series if I'm correct. It always irked me why they didn't start from the first one. Furthermore Slappy didn't resemble his cover facade from the books, instead looking more like what Mr.Wood was described as. Odd

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy you used a screen shot from The Ten. Are you a Stella fan?

Also could someone explain to me what the deal is with ghostwriters? R.L. Stine didn't write all of the books?


The Awkward Girl said...

I always loved this one...I can't wait for #3.

david hayes said...

I remember that cover. Pretty sure I never read it though.

Christopher said...

To Brian:

It has been confirmed that some of the Fear Street books were ghostwritten, but not Goosebumps.

Ryan said...

One of my faves from my childhood.

That said I'm a bit confused why you disliked the presence of violence in this book against the main characters. I'm obviously not saying that violence against women is a GOOD THING, but since the author wants to establish Slappy as an EVIL creature, doesn't it make sense for him to behave in a way that arouses negative feelings in the readers? While the book would have been fine without it I'm sure, the recurring presence of violence by Slappy makes him unique (IMO) as a Goosebumps villain in the sense that after reading you come away thinking he is a legitimately threatening villain, which for what is supposed to be a horror series (albeit for kids) seems like the proper way to portray the antagonist.

Just my two cents.

troy steele said...

I choose to believe that RL Stine simultaneously wrote none of and all of the Goosebumps books, wrap your head around that.

Anonymous said...

The "spirit" of R.L. Stine was responsible for all the Goosebumps books, but the actual person named R.L. Stine physically wrote only a few, and those didn't live up to the R.L. Stine persona. The ghostwritten ones sometimes achieved the essence of R.L. Stine and Goosebumps but weren't literally written by him, and sometimes the only connection was in the name on the cover. Is that the sort of thing you're thinking of?

While we're on Night Of The Living Dummy, I'm disturbed to see that the player avatar on EnterHorrorLand.com is, as revealed in a select few challenges, Mr. Wood from the first book. (And yes, I did sign up for the site. Someone had to.) I wonder if that's explained by the actual books.

Ryan Ferneau said...

"Sara comes into Amy's room and admits that she knows Slappy is alive but wanted her parents to think Amy was crazy because she was jealous of her."

Ah, that makes more sense now, I guess. I just rewatched the TV version, and it confused me when after Slappy finished explaining how he had power over Amy by never acting alive in front of anyone else, he then went ahead and came to life in front of Sara.

Groggy Dundee said...

Almost as good as the original. Almost.

Creep said...

I love your blog its really funny and insightful

Steamfan123 said...

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VNightmare said...

This was my favorite book as a kid (and the first of the Living Dummy series that I read. Some kid at the local library -always- had the first one checked out when I wanted it).

That said, coming to back it when I am older and wiser (and after laughing so hard at this review that I had a hard time breathing for a few minutes...while it does truthfully steal from the first book, the mind-screwing is what I think set it apart), I think I appreciate some of the themes more, despite the obvious flaws.

I also agree with Ryan. The antagonist is supposed to be threatening and leave an imprint on the reader, and in my opinion, that is why Slappy is such a good villain: he is devious, creepy, and makes it clear that he WILL hurt you if he does not get his way. And the fact that he always seems to go after girls...to me, that just added a LOT more creepiness that went over my head as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I think Slappy is a pedophile. He wanted Amy who was still 12 years old to be his slave. CMIIW but once he said to her : you and me will have fun life all together... or something. Don't really remember....

Georgie said...

What Ryan said about Slappy's violence being evil is true, at least in this story. Doing "Rubber Robos evil" wouldn't have the same result in the story.

Anonymous said...

benny here. this one was a little better 6/10.

John Deering said...

Night of the Living Dummy II is Book 31 of Goosebumps, and has gone down as arguably the most iconic and defining Goosebumps story.

Basically, Slappy comes into a happy house and does THIS following list of horrible things to Amy:

- slaps her Dad; Dad thinks she did it. (Not there in the TV version.)

- calls her Mom a fatso, makes fun of Dad's singing, and calls the whole family ugly. (More brutal than the TV version.)

- splashes red, yellow, and blue paint all across Sara's floor.

- costs the family a lot of money for the repairs.

- probably causes resentment against Amy about the loss of money.

- squeezes a 3-year-old girl's hand, on her birthday, and won't let go. In the TV version, people think Amy did it, costing her all her friends. In the book version, at least people believe it was an accident, that the girl got her hand stuck.

- writes AMY AMY AMY all over the walls of Sara's room in red paint, costing more damage.


Combine it with all the things Mr. Wood did in the first book, then it's actually an even BIGGER list of horrible things done by the dummy.

John A. Deering said...

"Jed kept complaining about how he wrecked his knee Rollerblading."

This is why I love Goosebumps. R. L. Stine actually DOES get what it's like to be cool-instead-of-lame.

And they have Amy's friend Margot being a "huge fan of the Beatles", with posters in her room, and she "just got the new CD collection". WHAT??!! They DID just make a new Beatles CD collection! But they said that back THEN . . .? They even identify the name of one Beatles song, "Love Me Do". Ohhhh, Stine.

Anonymous said...

benny here. what does NPR stand for?

Groggy Dundee said...

Hey Troy, a belated thanks for tipping me off to Miklos Jancso. Just watched The Red and the White - what an excellent film. To think I never would have found it if not for a Goosebumps review!

Patty said...

I remember slappy from the goosebumps series! Ugh it brings back so much memories! I fell in love with his character

I actually loved slappy so much that I ordered on from here: http://www.ventriloquistworld.com/product/slappy-the-dummy/

Thanks so much for this post! Triggered such great feelings!