Monday, March 24, 2008

#40 Night of the Living Dummy III

#40 Night of the Living Dummy III

Front Tagline: Every dummy has his day-- and his night!
(What, no He's walking a third time, he's stalking a third time...?)
Back Tagline: When Dummies Speak... Everybody Listens!

Official Book Description:
Trina O'Dell's dad used to have a ventriloquist act. That's why he has all those dummies in the attic. He calls it his Dummy Museum. There's a dummy with freckles. And one with a sneer just like Rocky. Trina and her brother, Dan, think the dummies are pretty cool.
But now there are voices in the attic. And dummies keep showing up in the strangest places.
No way those dummies could be alive! Right?

Brief Synopsis:
There were two dummies each in the first two books, but maybe that wasn't enough dummies for you. Maybe you said, "Well, two dummies, that's good enough for some people, but I'm not Some People! No, I'm a guy or girl who demands thirteen dummies in my childrens' literature!" Good news!

Trina's dad used to be a "famous" (which I'm sure is relative-- so to speak) ventriloquist, but now he's retired and works in a camera shop. However, he still collects and refurbishes old ventriloquist dolls in his spare time. He even calls his attic the Dummy Museum. As the book opens, Trina and her younger brother Dan enter the attic and, showing they too regard the room as a museum, neglect to pay the suggested donation. Trina and Dan begin looking at all the creepy dolls, all of which have names, such as Wilbur and Rocky. Rocky is described as dressing like "a tough guy," due to his red and white striped shirt and jeans. Yes, just like that other street punk:

Dan picks up Miss Lucy, the only female dummy in the collection, and begins to threaten Trina via the doll. Since he's only ten years old, it does not take much effort to make his voice feminine, but his gender-bending antics are interrupted by Rocky, who leans forward in his chair from across the attic and also begins threatening Trina. You at home can also threaten Trina, in case you're feeling left out. Just rock your elbow on your knee and pretend your hand is a naked sock puppet.

If you were curious, Rocky did not really come to life, he was operated by Trina's dad, who had snuck up to the attic and could not resist the urge to threaten his daughter via a doll. Once the hilarity of scaring a child had passed, Dad shows his kids his new doll: our old friend, Slappy. He says he found it in the trash (I wonder if the twist to this book is that their father is a raccoon?) and the only thing wrong with it was that his head was split in half. Because of the doll's big grin and also his affinity for A Thousand Acres, Dad calls the new doll Smiley.

The phone rings and while their dad goes downstairs to answer, Trina finds a yellow sheet of paper in the dummy's pocket. She reads the magic words out loud and the doll reaches up and slaps her. This gives Trina the inspiration for an even better name for the doll: Asshole.

Dad comes back and tells the kids that their uncle Cal and cousin Zane are coming to spend the week with them. Trina and Dan hate Zane because he's a total loser. Glass houses, etc. Dad makes everyone promise to not scare Zane, and while the kids agreed, Slappy didn't, so we can't really hold the evil doll accountable for his actions later in the book.

Trina tells the reader about some of the mean tricks she and her brother had played on Zane in the past: they pretended they were ghosts, they borrowed their mom's pantyhose and made him think that they were ghost-legs, and as if that second example wasn't weird enough, they also hid in his closet and made him think his clothes were dancing.

Zane shows up and he's grown. He looks like he works out and begins taking pictures of everything. He tells Trina's dad that he enjoys taking still-lifes and candids. Poor Zane, since Flickr hadn't been created, he has nowhere to let this obnoxious habit flourish. You might be wondering if with this new photography hobby, whether Zane is still a scaredy-cat. Well, shortly after he takes a picture of the banister, he goes upstairs to unpack and screams like a little girl when a doll falls on him. That's how you know.

So, if you liked the part in the last couple books where the dummy did stuff and then the kids got blamed, there's a good eighty more pages of that here. Rocky the dummy shows up in the pictures Zane snaps, Rocky shows up in the middle of a trashed room, etc. Trina and Dan think Zane must be trying to get them back for all their tomfoolery, and so the siblings devise a plan wherein they wait upstairs in the attic to catch Zane retrieving a dummy. They spend quite a long time up there, but eventually they do meet more success than some other pairs of siblings, as they spy Zane retrieving Rocky. They confront him and tell him that just because they made his clothes dance is no reason to play with dolls. Zane promises to quit the funny business, yet the book mercilessly does not end. Rocky keeps showing up and doing things. The dummy ruins a dinner party and smashes Zane's camera, and Trina's parents think she and her brother are responsible. Trina's dad threatens his kids with the promise that they won't be allowed to go to camp, which based on other Goosebumps books, is probably less of a threat than he intended.

Trina and Dan reason that Zane is still responsible for these mild acts of terror, but it's not until Rocky climbs into her bed one night and begins choking her to death that Trina begins to suspect Zane, who isn't a ventriloquist dummy who just tried to choke her to death. Anyways.
Trina and Dan decide to wait up in the attic again, this time armed with a camera to snap Zane in action. Unlike in the sequels to these books, the sequel to this event yields a new discovery: the party responsible for carrying out Rocky this time is Slappy the dummy. Trina calls him Smiley and he corrects her, then punches her in the head. Humanitas Award for RL Stine.

Trina and her brother wrestle the doll to the ground. They carry Slappy outside and dump him in an abandoned well (?!) in their backyard. Job well done. All's well that ends in a well. Well-come Back Mr. Kotter. Well... let's move on.

That night, Trina dreams about Slappy dancing around with Miss Lucy and the other dolls upstairs. Hey, I like dreaming about dancing as much as the next person, but I think a scarier dream would have involved anything else at all.

For what happens next, I'm going to refer to RL Stine's Diary entry for October 10, 1995, a copy of which was accessed from the archive of his Xanga before he made it friends only:

[Current Mood: ]
Today was totally boo-ring dudes.
10:02 AM: Woke up, thought I heard a horrible monster in my bed.
10:03 AM: Turns out it was only my sheets.
10:08 AM: Sat down to write new 'Dummy' sequel.
10:12 AM: Opened file NOTL2.wpd.
10:30 AM: Nutter Butter break.
10:48 AM: Finished 'Night of the Living Dummy III,' became terrified at reflection of horrible monster in the computer screen.
10:49 AM: Discovered reflection was of self, vowed to spend some portion of millions on plastic surgery.
(The rest of the entry is just pictures of his feet and song lyrics.)

Yes, if the following sounds familiar, that's because this is now the third time this exact scene has occurred in these books. Not a variation thereof, but the exact scene, quite possibly merely C+Ped. Trina comes downstairs the following morning only to discover a filthy Slappy waiting for her on the breakfast table. A sequel should probably provide the reader with an experience they couldn't get from just rereading the original.

That night during a thunderstorm, Trina and Dan confront Slappy. He gives them the tired spiel about how they're his slaves, yet again fails to give any specific details on what that entails. Also, I guess Ken Russell isn't the only one trying to forget the white worm, as there is no reference to it. There is still the sheet of paper with the magic words on them, and Trina figures that if she can say the words again, he'll stop being a living dummy roman numeral three. Dan holds Slappy down and Trina retrieves the paper. She reads the words but they have no effect on Slappy other than amusement, as he laughs and mocks her for thinking it would work. However, the twelve other dummies in the attic suddenly begin encircling Trina, Dan, and Slappy. Trina thinks they're screwed until the dolls race past the humans and begin savagely beating Slappy. Wow, no one likes this guy. Maybe the reason he wants slaves is he's lonely and needs a friend. Aww, it almost makes you feel sorry for the camera-smashing, art-ruining, vomit-spewing, kitchen table-sitting, child-beating, child-choking, worm-filled son-of-a-bitch.

Zane shows up in the attic for no reason and sees Trina and Dan standing in the middle of a pile of now-lifeless dolls. Zane tells them that he knew they were the ones causing all the trouble and goes to tattle. Trina and Dan get grounded for life, and make your own reference to the sitcom.

But the Twist is:
While saying goodbye to Uncle Cal and Zane, Trina's dad tells Zane he'd like to buy him a new camera to replace the smashed one. Zane tries to suck up and tells her dad that he's not interested in photography anymore, and what he'd really like is a ventriloquist dummy. Trina's dad tells his daughter to run up to the attic and fetch Zane a dummy. Trina, still upset with Zane singling her and her brother out for the crimes they didn't commit, brings down Slappy. She sees the dummy wink as Zane happily escorts the doll into the car.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Trina O'Dell and her younger brother Dan, whose cousin Zane will probably disappear forever halfway through that car ride home.

the Violent Doll-Girl Relationship:
Trina O'Dell and her dad's ventriloquist dummy "Smiley," who makes kissing sounds to her at one point.

Questionable Parenting:
Trina's dad tells his kids that he's "disgusted" by them. Man, when an adult who literally plays with dolls is disgusted by you, you have really strayed.

Oh Burn? Alert:
"Trina, you're about as funny as a wet sponge," he said.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 1/2: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 4/5: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 5/6: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 7/8: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 8/9: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 11/12: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 14/15: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 16/17: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 18/19: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 20/21: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror
Ch. 25/26: A character screams or cries out, in shock or horror

Great Prose Alert:
Such a bad-news dummy.

A sequel which originally came only nine months after the previous installment, Night of the Living Dummy III isn't terrible, but that it's more or less the same book as the other two really tried my patience at times.


Anonymous said...

Amazing I love your Blogs great job! and lol @ waldo picture.

Anonymous said...

I used to like this one a lot. The idea of an attic full of dummies was pretty scary. But I hated Zane. The TV ep of this was a lot better; it would be fun to see a blog dedicated to that.

So, great blog, loved R.L. Stine's "post" and the "Enchanted" reference!

KellyS123 said...

It's very convenient to have an abandoned well in your backyard.

Anonymous said...

Trina's dad used to be a "famous" (which I'm sure is relative-- so to speak) ventriloquist, but now he's retired and works in a camera shop.
And what's worse is it's the camera shop where the evil scientist who made the evil camera worked in Say Cheese and Die!

Anonymous said...

Great job...even though I shuddered at the Flowers in the Attic reference...:-)

Zak said...

This was one of my favorite episodes on TV as well as one of the first ones I saw. The funny thing is in the show they actually have a well behind their house.

So what's next?

Anonymous said...

You can't really blame Slappy for getting pissy in this book. If I was named Smiley, I'd have beat some children too.

Anonymous said...

A naked sock puppet; that's great.

Loved the Memorable Cliffhanger Ending(s), too :)

troy steele said...

Some dolls named Smiley love kids

Anonymous said...

Troy, how did you know he didn't love children TOO much, though? That was his own way of getting back methinks.

Brodie said...

I still can't believe that Zane was played by Hayden Christensen.

troy steele said...

Couldn't have been more embarrassing than his performance in Factory Girl.

Anonymous said...

Did you see this?

R. L. Stine is back! So I guess there will always be books for Troy to mock.

I liked the detail about "Jovial Bob Stine."

Anonymous said...

R.L. Stine can never be killed. He's like Slappy. He's always coming back. Even when he's not wanted, he always manages to creep through a crack. He's like the T-1000.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered why the Living Dummy series always followed the same formula ad infinitum, when I think the movie Magic showed us that dummies can be pretty cool friends. Or maybe it's just the fact I have a desire to find another piece of fiction where a mannequin says, "Come on, asshole, pick up the phone."

Anonymous said...

Time is running out. Only an hour and twenty minutes left for update. :O

troy steele said...

There are other time zones than yours. Update WILL go up tonight.

Anonymous said...

Curiously, which Timezone are you in?

Anonymous said...

The only timezone that exists is Eastern. All others are an illusion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this blog. It has made me laugh until I literally f-ing cried.

What I can't understand, however, is why all these kids have such a proverbial boner over ventriloquism. I used to think it was creepy as hell when I was a kid.

Also, considering all the times Slappy has been attacked by his own kind, he reminds me of that kid you see in every group of friends who is given the infamous title "kid that fuckin' NO ONE likes."

Jacquie said...

This is one of those where the TV version was probably worse than the book. It entailed Slappy breathing some green fog into Rocky, who then comes to life as well (as a slave of Slappy).
He gets tired of being Slappy's slave and saves the kids from Slappy and then reverts back to unliving dummy.

Groggy Dundee said...

Yeah this one is kind of pointless. I only read it recently and doing so only highlights how dumb the whole premise is - it's just a re-run of NotLD I and II with a few other dummies thrown in.

VNightmare said...


You forgot the deux ex machina in the end where Rocky (the dummy that Slappy brought to life) knocked Slappy out the window and Slappy (after screaming the ever-tempting fate line, "You can't do this to me! I'M INVINCIBLE!") was hit by lightning and exploded---which is actually kind of amusing to watch.

I guess the show writers were just trying to get rid of Slappy. It's very jarring when he comes back for the "Bride of the Living Dummy" episode.

...And then the thing with Zane being able to turn his head all the way around for the "twist." What was up with that? Did Slappy possess him, or was that an after-effect of Slappy turning him into a dummy earlier in the episode? Either way, it was kind of retarded.

The book ending was better. Probably because that little jerk Zane was going to get what was coming to him, and in terms of (some) continuity.

Unknown said...

I definitely appreciate the A Thousand Acres reference. xp

These are hilarious. Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

He says he found it in the trash (I wonder if the twist to this book is that their father is a raccoon?)

If I had been drinking milk, it would have been out of my nose at this point.

Anonymous said...

benny here. this one is so pointless. 5/10 unwanted.

Anonymous said...

I believe you forgot to include the part where Dan references buying NBA Jams and saving for a 32-bit system. But, anyways, terrific blog! Can't wait for you to review the HorrorLand Series!:)

Plague #11 said...

Is Uncle Cal also a puppet?

Anonymous said...

only nine months?
that might explain some of the rehashing, but damn, how did he and his team of captive 12 year old scientist werewolf ghost writers manage to crank this and the other books out and to the presses so quickly?

allysharman1989 said...

I love your blog - particularly the ongoing references to Amy Adams :P

Geddy said...

"Camera-smashing, art-ruining, vomit-spewing, kitchen table-sitting, child-beating, child-choking, worm-filled son-of-a-bitch..." That horrific sounding, spot-on description of him just made me even happier that Slappy is one of my most beloved and iconic characters from childhood.