Monday, July 28, 2008

Series 2000 #02 Bride of the Living Dummy



Series 2000 #02: Bride of the Living Dummy

Front Tagline: It's a match made in horror.

Brief Synopsis:
As this second shot at 2000 scares opens, Jillian has her hands full with her pet lizard Petey, her little twin sisters Katie and Amanda, their life-size doll Mary-Ellen, and her best friend Harrison. No more proper nouns pls. It goes without saying that the twin sisters are obnoxious and the best friend is complacent, and yet here I've just said it anyways.

In a very strange plot point, Jillian wants to grow up to be a clown, so she volunteers to take her sisters to the Little Theater, a kids' puppet show. The idea is that she'll learn how to entertain kids but a clown has never been entertaining so I hope she brings a book to read. Harrison agrees to accompany them, as he thinks it sounds "cool." It's revealed that five years prior, Jillian made her rather large friend Harrison eat "a bowl of mud," so let's chalk his enthusiasm up to the lingering effects of that thing that never happened and could not ever happen. Mary-Ellen the doll, who resembles Raggedy-Ann not the Bride of Frankenstein (Sorry cover artist), also comes to the show because of course it does.

Entertainer Jimmy O'James comes on stage with his "good pal" Slappy the dummy. Jillian is shocked that the ventriloquist is only a teenage boy. Jimmy tries to do a straight act, but of course Slappy has other plans. The doll brutally compares Jimmy's face to vomit, wrinkled money, and a summer's day.

Katie and Amanda get called on stage to be insulted by Slappy with closer proximity. The girls are called assorted names and Slappy even insults their doll. The twins are so angry at their treatment that they decide to tell Slappy how mean he was after the show. Boy, these two better keep away from a Rickles show. Actually, that's good advice for anyone.

Jillian tries to stop the six year olds from running backstage to confront a doll, but if you've been to a Rolling Stone concert, you know that young girls are the first waved inside, and ventriloquist shows are no different. The two older kids run after them, but the bulky Harrison does his best Eric Campbell impression, and he and Jillian get stuck in a doorway. Oh man, you wouldn't think physical comedy would translate into book form, and you'd totally be right.

Jillian and Harrison split up in the search for her sisters. Jillian beats the twins to the ventriloquist and arrives just in time to see Slappy bloody Jimmy's nose. Wait, but Jimmy's not a woman. Ghostwriter Alert. Jimmy explains that in fact Slappy isn't alive and what Jillian saw was just him practicing his new routine. Jillian believes this because if she didn't, the book would be over.

Jillian finds the twins but loses Harrison, but figures two out of three ain't bad. The twins make her take them to Dairy Queen and she's forced to buy the doll ice cream. When they get home, Slappy's waiting on the couch. Harrison explains that he met some friends he knew working backstage and they let him go out into the alley behind the stage and dig in the trash. Man, lucky! Inside a trash can was Slappy. Harrison figured Jillian would love some trash so he brought the doll along. Almost immediately, Slappy bites Jillian's hand. Oh my God, is this the one where it turns out Slappy is actually a dog or something?

Harrison leaves the broken dummy with Jillian so her dad, an aspiring carpenter, can fix it. At dinner, the twins won't pass the salt and this is simply the last straw for Jillian, who storms away from the dinner table to plot her revenge. She comes up with a plan of revenge that's about as diabolical as a hug: She'll tie the twins' shoelaces together! Evan Ross, meet your new girlfriend.

Before Jillian can execute her Machiavellian scheme, Slappy comes to life and tells her to go to bed. But it's actually the twins making Slappy talk. This further enrages Jillian and she calls off the shoe-tying revenge in favor of an even worse revenge. The next day at school, Harrison helps her brainstorm revenge plans. She contemplates smearing their doll with cheese and letting rats feast on it. I don't think that's a very good revenge, unless she ties the rats' shoelaces together afterwards.

After school, Harrison and Jillian visit the local magic shoppe to pick up some funny tricks for their clown act. Clowns, magic tricks, ventriloquist dummies-- how did this series fail when Stine included everything children in 1998 loved? As they walk into the store, Jillian spies Jimmy the ventriloquist exiting. He warns her to get rid of Slappy, then disappears. A very appropriate action based on the locale, really.

Jillian's in a pretty good mood because she bought some squirting playing cards, but the squirting playing cards-caused mood quickly transforms into a non-squirting playing cards-caused mood as Jillian discovers to her horror that someone has cracked open her lizard cage and let Petey out. Slappy is precariously perched on the busted case, as if to say, "You're ugly." No reason really, he just always seems to be saying a variation of that. Jillian furiously accuses her sisters of the prank and in a moment more bizarre than anything else in the book, her parents side with Jillian. Ghostwriter Alert. Oh and then the lizard turns up inside the Slappy doll.

Jillian and Harrison perform their clown act for a four-year-old's birthday party. Only it goes horribly wrong and somehow becomes even worse than a clown act normally is. They make the kids cry instead of laugh. For a finale, they shoot soap into a four-year-old boy's eyes, painfully blinding him. Abracalawsuit.

Somehow the two blame their inept clown act on the twins and so once more revenge is contemplated. Before they can follow that train of thought, a newer, dumber car comes on the tracks: Harrison proposes they do a ventriloquist act for the kids using Slappy. This is the fifth Slappy book I've read so far and I've pretty much exhausted my alloted suspension of disbelief. So let me put it bluntly:

Kids do not like ventriloquism. Ever. They do not like performing it. They do not like watching it. They do not even like being familiar with it as a concept. In any scenario where ventriloquism is pitted against something else, something else will always win-- unless the other option is, like, genocide.

When Jillian gets home, her mother asks how her clown party went and she replies, hand to God, "Don't even go there." Harrison wants to get a doll of his own, so he gets the address of Jimmy and the two children race to the house of the boy who plays with dolls. The teenage ventriloquist lives on the wrong side of the tracks. To help visualize this metaphor, RL Stine has Jillian and Harrison cross over a set of train tracks. "Hello, Pulitzer?"

In what is I believe a first, Goosebumps readers are exposed to a trailer park and poor people. It is of course given the ominous airs that such a wretched locale deserves. I'm sure all of Stine's low-income readers appreciated their portrayal, but unfortunately he can't hear their comments from high atop his stack of money.

The kids finally arrive at the ventriloquist's abandoned house. They naturally invite themselves in and start rifling through the belongings he left behind. Jillian finds a diary and thus the reader finally learns the secret origins of Slappy. An evil sorcerer created evil toys to steal the possessions of children while they slept. He made Slappy out of a coffin and the sorcerer then possessed the dummy body. Jimmy goes on about reciting the magic words to bring Slappy alive and how one time a girl at 7-11 smiled at him.

When Jillian gets home, someone has written "Where is my bride?" in lipstick on her mirror. The twins shriek in terror at finding Slappy sitting in a pile of spaghetti in the dining room, and they insist Slappy is responsible for the horror. Jillian assumes the twins read the magic words and brought the dummy to life.

Because of the diary and pasta, Jillian refuses to use Slappy in their ventriloquist act. They instead practice with Mary-Ellen and a spare dummy Harrison found in his uncle's attic. I called my uncles to see if they had a spare dummy in their attic and they all said no. Hollywood

Okay gang, you better take off your shoes because I'm about to blow your socks off. In a stunning finale that encapsulates everything I hate in these books and more, another kid's birthday party arrives. Jillian and Harrison plan to do the above-mentioned ventriloquist act. Due to plot convenience, the party will be taking place in Jillian's basement and without adult supervision. Jillian goes to grab Harrison's doll but finds Slappy has taken his place. Ominous.

The party starts off well, with some humorous battle of the sexes bickering between Slappy and Mary-Ellen. Then Slappy vomits all over a kid. This is met with a similar response by the audience:
I saw two boys bent over, vomiting on the floor.
Great.

Slappy grabs the birthday boy by the neck and drags him across the room, threatening to kill everyone unless he's given his bride. Jillian fetches Mary-Ellen and Slappy reacts in disgust, informing her that he meant Jillian. Now it's my turn to react in disgust. Child brides. Add that to the list and then burn it.

Jillian refuses and then Slappy punches her in the head. RL Stine Alert. Slappy justifies this by telling her it was only "a love tap." Holy shit, you guys.

Jillian tries to run away but she slips and falls into the puddle of vomit. Mary-Ellen comes to life and tells Slappy that she didn't bring him to life to marry Jillian, she brought him to life to marry her. Mary-Ellen is thus shocked that he's so resistant to her. She probably figured all she needed to do to keep her marriage successful was keep Sienna Miller away. Unfortunately, Slappy calls Mary-Ellen ugly and punches her out.

Slappy insists that the birthday party is now a wedding party and he wants his bride, Jillian. Mary-Ellen comes to life again and she and Slappy wrestle in his vomit. Boy, is this doll's vomit irresistible or what? Slappy leads the fight into Jillian's dad's workshop, where he swiftly slices Mary-Ellen in half with a table saw. But Mary-Ellen won't let go of Slappy's hand, so he too goes through the table saw. Finally, the end of Slappy. Oh wait

But the Twist is:
Jillian continues reading the ventriloquist's diary and learns that even though the evil doll may die, the soul of the sorcerer can still pass on to other people. Jillian tells Harrison to check out her awesome revenge against the twins. She then vomits on her sisters.

FUCK THIS BOOK

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Jillian and her best friend Harrison, who disappoints an audience with half-hearted clownery halfway through the book.

the Violent Doll-Girl Relationship:
Jillian and Slappy, who does his best Jerry Lee Lewis impression for much of the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
"Well, you did blind a child with your clown act. But I guess your ventriloquism act can't possibly go wrong. You're hired!"

R.L. Stine Shows He's Down With the Kids:
If there's one thing kids love reading about, it's marriage.

Please Don't Praise the Dummy Alert:
"That dummy has a baaad attitude!"

Out of Context Text Alert:
"We'll do an all-squirting act."

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 1/2:
Someone has slit Jillian's throat! Wait, no, it's just the twins getting ready to cut her hair. This is why I scream in terror every time I pass a Supercuts.

Great Prose Alert:
Maybe we'll become RICH birthday party clowns!

Conclusions:
What.

44 comments:

Christopher said...

And then it turns out that they were all aliens.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to make you a big crucifix out of Goosebumps books in order to pay proper tribute for your sacrifices. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

So, like, what was the origin of Mr. Wood? Maybe that requires some degree of continuity.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought the table saw part was awesome. And that book cover really reminds me of Chucky.

"Slappy justifies this by telling her it was only "a love tap." Holy shit, you guys."

LOL WIN i love this review.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, "love tap"? How is Slappy a fan-favourtie?

Great entry as always though; this blog is the only good thing to have come from the Goosebumps franchise.

Anonymous said...

Seconding the wonder about how Slappy became a fan-favorite and deserved so many books. At least the Monster Blood sequels tried to have new tricks up their sleeves. But all the Living Dummy ones are pretty much the same thing repeated: kids get doll, doll does some mean stuff to kids, kids kill the doll. It's a tired idea that barely even deserved one book. Even as a (stupid, easily entertained) kid I thought the Slappy ones were weak and wondered why they kept doing more.

LongWinter said...

It was a complete and total barf-o-rama.

You know what I loved most? Kids not even wanting to be familiar with the concept of ventriloquism. That rant nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Was there a MeatLoaf reference in there?

Awesome.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of these books it'll take before it's revealed that Slappy is actually a werewolf.

Snofferol said...

I love how the rainbow colored "Fuck this book" is obviously a deep and multi-layered reference and homage to the homosexual urges that Slappy has been suffering with for most of his career, as we know from an informative article by the Onion. Keep up the good subliminal work for the for the good men and women of GLAAD!

Paige said...

This review is made of awesome.

Also: what's with the puke fetish? Maybe R. L. Stine is into Roman Showers.

Anonymous said...

'Abracalawsuit.'

Completely sweet! Gotta use that some time soon.

Rhomega said...

Wow, is vomit supposed to be cool enough to warrant using it as a prank?

No. No it isn't. This is the worst Living Dummy ever.

Anon e Mouse Jr. said...

"So, like, what was the origin of Mr. Wood? Maybe that requires some degree of continuity."

According to the bonus material in the "Horrorland" rerelease of "Night of the Living Dummy", Slappy and Mr. Wood were carved from the same coffin. (This origin was borrowed from that of the dummy Wally, featured in "Slappy's Nightmare".) Mr. Wood's destruction made Slappy twice as evil, and a thousand times ruder. (Explains a lot.)

And yes, this too is one of my least favorite sagas in the series. At least they got it out of the way first when they were doing the Horrorland series, giving us over a year before we have to see him again.

Until next time...

Anon e Mouse Jr.

dru-plus-spike said...

But the real question is...did you win the cruise with R.L. Stine that was promised on the book cover?

Miro said...

Dude, you rock. I really wish I had this 10 years ago.

Kris Montello said...

Great review, Troy.

But I'm wondering what you mean when you say that this is the fifth Slappy book you've read. Are you counting his appearance in "Screams in the Night?"

troy steele said...

I am.

As for the cruise, I'm sure RL Stine never sat foot on the cruise ship, but rather had his driver buzz the boat with yacht. Your prize was he waved at you from afar.

Anonymous said...

child brides and "love taps" in dark basements? sounds like a polygamist party. SCREW HANNAH MONTANA, GIRLS, FIND YOUR MIDDLE AGED HUSBANDS NOW!

cheers on the review!

Kris Montello said...

I totally forgot to mention that I have a good friend who went on one of those cruises with him. I should definitely ask him about it. I'm pretty sure R.L. Stine was actually there, too, and he got an autograph from him.

Laura said...

"But the Twist is...(that Jillian) then vomits on her sisters."

So, the twist is that they're in 2 Girls 1 Cup?

morbidiculous said...

Hey!

I was in that. :

Anonymous said...

Wow, the book had even more vomit than I remembered. I didn't think that was possible.

Re: Mr. Wood: On EnterHorrorLand.com, you play as Mr. Wood. That's the real WTF.

Marko said...

Great blog. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow...

http://www.scenepointblank.com/reviews/1080

"Calling All Creeps! is the debut EP from The Neon Hookers. Okay, so the band's choice in name isn't the greatest, but 1) most band names suck and 2) haven't you ever heard the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover?" On their debut, this five-piece outfit from the hardcore factory of Massachusetts serves up seven tracks of rock-influenced metallic hardcore.

Things kick off with "Ghost Beach." The song introduces the listener to the fast-paced assault that The Neon Hookers deliver over the eighteen-minute EP. The drums really dominate the music, pushing the pace faster and faster as the songs unfold. The riffs are crisp and pack a punch; the bass is really poppy, though it is rarely heard due to the mix. The vocals of Ian Hickey are semi-high pitched screams that brought to mind The Warriors' Marshall Licthenwaldt.

"Be Careful What You Wish For" has a nice breakdown toward the beginning of the song and also has a catchy melodic guitar line toward the middle before it hits the breakdown for kids to set things off on the dance floor. "Say Cheese or Die!" features an excellent bridge section that builds into an up-tempo break toward the middle of the track - I heard a bit of No Warning in there.

The band's rock-influence is really exhibited on the title track, the riffs are that groove reminiscent of The Suicide File. There is also a little guitar solo flair. I also enjoyed the sing-along "We're calling all the creeps" to round out the song. On "You Can't Scare Me!" the guitar solo returns; again, that rock influence rearing its face. "Deep Trouble" has a nice breakdown partnered with Hickey screaming the song-title over and over. The Neon Hookers wrap things up with "Let's Get Invisible." The song opens with some interesting riffs, which again brought to mind The Warriors.

So, by now you've got to be asking yourself, "What's up with those song titles?" Well they're all titles to different books in the Goosebumps series. Which to me means these guys are having fun while they're playing. Which is good, because sometimes you need an escape from all the seriousness that is involved with hardcore/punk music.

All in all, this is a good debut effort from a fairly new band. Calling All Creeps! is a bit repetitive and unoriginal at times, but over time I feel the band will continue to write and record songs that'll give them a more diversified and unique sound."

Ryan said...

There's a band called Dr. Acula who also use Goosebumps books for their song names.

They are horrible. If you listen to them you will wish you did not have ear drums. You have been warned.

Zak said...

Since I can't comment on the latest update, I'll say what I wanted to here:

If that's the case, do a different book! Surprise us... like my suggestion before.

Such is life indeed...

Link Man said...

Ryan: Dr. Acula

So they're stealing from Scrubs as well as Goosebumps? Nice.

Jacquie said...

Man, I wish I could have won that Disney Cruise with R.L.Stein!

HT said...

Actually, Link, I think Dr. Acula is a Ed Wood reference from one of his later movies, but yeah. :P

Anonymous said...

Although I've never read Bride of the Living Dummy, I tell you, I am not going to like it much! I don't know why R. L. Stine thought that it would be great to write a book that, although featuring Slappy, dealed with marriage and dolls.

VNightmare said...

I admit that I like the Night of the Living Dummy books the best out of all the Goosebumps books [/shameless Slappy fan]. However, this one was DEFINITELY the weakest out of all of them, and my least favorite. I liked it for what it was.

Actually, scratch that. I mostly bought this one for the back story and for the fight between Slappy and Mary-Ellen (both of which are, in my opinion, the better parts of the book).

I read the review before I read the book. After reading the book, the re-read of the review is suddenly a lot more hilarious. ("Wait, but Jimmy's not a woman. Ghostwriter Alert" will continually make my day over and over again, as will the "R.L. Stine Alert!" and the pretty colored text at the bottom).

I know ventriloquism is stretching it as it is. That, I will willingly suspend disbelief for.

The party clown thing is part of what pushed the limit for me. That just seemed to be grasping at straws for an excuse to include ventriloquism in this book, most notably when Jillian's mother made her take her sisters to the show to get ideas for her clown act.

That seemed counter-intuitive, as the most she would likely get from that are jokes she could simply read in a joke book (well...before Slappy started to insult Jimmy, anyway). Ventriloquism and clowns are two different mediums and verbal jokes are about the only common link.

The vomiting, at least to me, was not as overbearing as the review made it, but it was still a bit much, and further pushed my level of tolerance.

But what REALLY put me over the edge was how the parents are just STUPID in this book, and I mean beyond the normal apathy you generally get with Goosebumps parents. In the other ones, usually plot convenience allowed the parents to not notice the real culprit. Fine, whatever, that happens in every other non-NotLD book too; it is a common Goosebumps staple.

But letting the kids run a birthday party by themselves? In a basement with power tools? With a ton of (almost uncontrollable) little kids running around? What were they smoking?

I could not have been the only one to see the dangers of adding vomit to this mix. Can we say slipping and sliding into sharp/hard/blunt objects? Electrical shortages? a ton of kids slipping and tripping all over themselves in the panic and increasing the chances of impalement/electrocution? Plus, the parents never bothered to check and make sure things were all right until the very end. I will agree with you that parental absence was simply plot convenience.

I was actually okay with the marriage thing. One, I like the unfortunate implications, two, it helps establish Slappy as a selfish, inconsiderate bastard, and three, Slappy was kind of given a motive for wanting slaves as opposed to none given in previous books (and the re-release says he eventually wants to take over the world. Well...even I will admit that his method of control will wear thin long before he gets that far. The "no one will believe you" method works best when fewer people actually know the truth).

Plus, the conflict with him and Mary-Ellen amuses me. The whole one-sided-ness of it was what made their fight enjoyable. They are too perfect for each other (which is probably why Slappy hates her). At least the book has that going for it in the few pages they had together.

The TV episode was better, though. At least then, the kids had a more logical excuse to be home alone (the mom had errands to run or something, and the kids were watching a movie). Oh, and no vomiting. Definitely a plus.

shar said...

Out of Context Text Alert:
"We'll do an all-squirting act."

o_o

Anonymous said...

I have never laughed so hard, out loud, as something in my life. The rainbow FUCK THIS BOOK sealed it for me.

HeatMa said...

hahahahahahahahahaha

love this blog.

Conclusions: What.

My thoughts exactly.

Anonymous said...

God, this blog is amazing. Just started reading the 2000 entries, hope you stick with the ghostwriter alerts, they were hilarious.

JM said...

I read all of these as a child and loved them and I am seriously dying laughing reading this blog. This one in particular. It's become a meme with me and my roommate..."What."

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely superb.I actually read your blog when I am depressed for getting some good laughs.The way you summarize the stories with humor and irony is simply superb.Amazing!!!!

Anonymous said...

HOly Crap, I was wondering if I should read this book and trying to find it online but instead found this. After reading your review, thank GOODNESS I did!!!

Though I'm not sure if you come to this blog more often now but, thanks for this review! I'm going to read the other ones now! ^^

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who seems to know that there really was going to be a Night of The Living Dummy IV? No, I am not making this s*** up either...that book was REALLY going to be considered!

used-to-be-goosebumps-fan said...

so the "bride" is apparently jillian. well, if that was the case, why was Slappy bitching about finding or getting his bride when his so called bride is RIGHT FREAKING IN FRONT OF HIM!!!! this isn't a goosebumps book featuring the ray charles dummy, it's a magical one, you'd think maybe that would spike your intelligence just a tad.

Geddy said...

"Jillian beats the twins to the ventriloquist and arrives just in time to see Slappy bloody Jimmy's nose. Wait, but Jimmy's not a woman." You really just made my week with that quote.

Anonymous said...

While I like your recaps, can you do any kind of Pop culture reference outside of insults? The Rickles one nearly broke me.

Anonymous said...

I actually consider this my favorite Living Dummy episode because it really creeped me out (especially the part where Jillian is alone in the house with the twins as Slappy crashes the dining room) and I also like how they change roles (in the previous books it's always the protagonist who gets shit for the dummy's actions while the little sisters are the real victims here) I don't get everyone's complaints about the vomit part, it's a nod to the very first Living Dummy book where Mr. Wood pukes all over the audience while the protagonist was trying to perform during a school act. But whatever...
I also like the twist about Slappy's spirit surviving, it was the first time the books did that, in all previous entries the endings were different (First book: Slappy comes alive after Mr. Wood dies / Second book: It seems that Dennis the dummy was actually alive and he killed Slappy / Third book: Slappy leaves with the protagonist's cousin... While she and her brother are supposedly left with their basement full of living dummies now XP Worst ending in my opinion, the cousing wanting to be a ventriloquist after all that happened was too ridiculos)

If I could make movies, though, I'd adapt this book into a film (mostly because it contains Slappy's backstory) but I'd change a few things to make the book more solid (I'll not pretend it's perfect) for example, I'd make the two protagonists alot older, about 18-19, the disastrous clown act would still have toddlers (since adults WERE supervising the party) but the climax will have older kids, about 7-8 years old, you know, not dumb enough to get close to a table with a saw... I'll eventually make that there was a safety catch for the table, but then Slappy broke that open to activate the saw.

That's what I have to say. I don't think this review was wrong, but I just wanted to respond to a few things, this story CAN work with a few parts and establishments fixed.
I wish I can make a good horror film. I wish I could show people how a movie can be scary as shit without cursing or brainless characters who only think about doing sex. Again, by fixing its flaws and with a good execution, I'm convinced the story of this book CAN work for a good horror film.