Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Series 2000 #10 Headless Halloween



Series 2000 10 Headless Halloween

Front Tagline: Talk about getting ahead!

Brief Synopsis:
Protagonist Brandon Plush has two mottos: "Make 'em scream" and "Oops-- just joking!" I gotta say, I'm impressed. When I was his age, I probably only had one motto, tops. So, a book about Halloween and a character who loves tormenting others with frights. We're really in uncharted territory here. Oops-- just joking!

Brandon torments his younger sister Maya. He torments his cousin Vinnie. He even torments the two yoots he babysits. He tells the two neighborhood kids about a ghost who lives in their basement. Brandon reveals that the ghost has "a bad habit" of killing people. Is there a patch for that? The kids don't believe that one of the ghost's victims still haunts their house, so Brandon puts on a mask and pretends to be a headless ghost. Let's all think about that for a moment.

Brandon's friend Cal, a six-foot-tall twelve-year-old, appreciates Brandon's work, as it skews idiot. Brandon likes Cal because he shares his fondness for tormenting kids, and also he can pull things down off high shelves. The two reminisce about all the times they've locked kids inside an abandoned house in their neighborhood. This exchange is shortly followed by Cal overreacting to someone scuffing his new Air Jordans. Man, he should shove him in a locker quick two times!

Not wanting to be one-upped by his fellow tormentor, Brandon spies Vinnie in the hall and pretends to splash acid in his cousin's face. Of course it's only water and Brandon has a good laugh. But what if Vinnie had been carrying an envelope with the flap pulled back? My God, the adhesive would have become prematurely active! This is what kids in these books never consider: the consequences of their actions. Thankfully, adults do, and Brandon's least-favorite teacher, Mr. Benson, sees the whole thing and sentences Brandon to a week's detention. Brandon decides to get revenge against the teacher on Halloween night. Well, I probably wouldn't try reusing that "Pretending water is acid" trick, he's already seen it.

After school, Brandon takes out his frustrations on his little sister by jumping out from behind a corner and screaming at her. Wow, that's a pretty compelling preview of the complex terror that awaits Mr. Benson on Halloween. The shock causes the little girl to accidentally break the glass she was holding and start sobbing. Brandon chooses this moment to reveal his excellent plan for getting revenge on Mr. Benson: He and Cal are going to trash his house on Halloween night. Then, to make up for not being able to trick-or-treat, they're going to steal some kid's bag of candy on the way home. Boy, with this build-up for what a jerk he is, anything short of this kid getting knifed in the eyes at the end of the book is going to feel like a letdown.

Halloween night finally arrives, and golly, Brandon just gets more and more appealing. His mother forces him to take both his cousin and his sister plus her two young friends trick-or-treating. Brandon decides that he'll lead them out into the dark night and then abandon them. And he does. First he ditches the three girls on a dark street. Then he leads his cousin to a dilapidated-looking house. Though he can hear Vinnie screaming as he and Cal run away, Brandon doesn't even stop to see if he's okay. I didn't realize that the bar could be set this low.

Now that responsibility has been safely skirted, Cal and Brandon are free to have a "Headless Halloween." This entails them walking around holding a mask above their heads and then removing the mask. Totally worth naming the book after. Once they tire of scaring little kids and stealing their candy (and long after the reader has tired of it), they decide to make their way over to Mr. Benson's house. His home overlooks a steep cliff that drops down onto a ravine. Just like so many other suburban houses.

As soon as Mr. Benson drives away, the two boys sneak inside. In a surprising scene, the two find beer in the teacher's fridge. This is definitely the first time alcohol has appeared in one of these books and I'm pretty sure it was included as a suggestion for how to get through the rest of the novel.

The two continue to loot their teacher's empty house. And because a Series 2000 book without vomiting is like a Mamet film without Rebecca Pidgeon, Brandon quickly feels the ill effects of eating too much candy. That's right, he gets the ultimate revenge on his teacher by puking all over the kitchen table. Cal thinks that's punishment enough, but Brandon wants to turn the teacher's living room couch upside down for good measure. I can just picture Mr. Benson's reaction to seeing his couch upside down: "Oh no, it'll take like fifteen seconds to flip this right-side up! AAAARGH THIS IS TRULY THE ULTIMATE PRANK!"

Unfortunately we will never know what his actual reaction would have been, because before the two kids can angrily move furniture, Mr. Benson returns home and lets loose his vicious dogs. Brandon races out an open window, leaving Cal behind. As he runs away, he can hear Mr. Benson's guard dogs eating his friend alive. But he has bigger things to worry about. Things like what to wear to school the next day, and how he just jumped off the steep cliff and into the rocky ravine below.

Poor Ambrose Bierce gets dragged into this mire as Brandon wakes up safe in the ravine. He wanders out and into a street he's never heard of. All the houses are dark and a boy he encounters is wearing a mask identical to his own. The boy asks if he heard about the kid who jumped into the ravine and was killed by the fall. And yet somehow the book is only half over. The kid he encounters is named Norband-- I guess Nodnarb was too on the nose? Norband invites Brandon to a Halloween Party-- or is it really a Lonewhale Atpry?!?!

The atpry is going great until Brandon heads over to the refreshment table and chomps down on a worm-filled donut. The kids pin him to the ground and force him to eat the whole thing. The atpry guests then make Brandon go bobbing for cockroaches. As if that wasn't stupid enough, they then make him play Twister. Oh my God, these kids are evil. This is confirmed when some of the children turn into snakes and wrap their bodies around Brandon. I don't remember that option on the Twister spinning wheel. I assume neither does Brandon, and he makes his feelings about associating with cheaters, especially evil snake-person cheaters, known by trying to leave in protest. Only he's stopped because, you know, the snakes.

Brandon eventually escapes the atpry and runs out of the house, only to be greeted by zombies. Oh good, more things. Brandon dodges the zombies and runs towards the ravine, only to see his own crumpled body resting on the bloody rocks below. This revelation proves surprising only for those readers who thumbed through the novel at a book fair and read this page randomly.

Norband tells Brandon that he's on "the Other Side." This is not to be confused with being on the Far Side, which has far more cows. Since Brandon was always scaring people, now his soul is trapped on the other side of being scared. But luckily there is one way for Brandon to regain his life. He must save three people from being scared in one hour. Norband pushes Brandon back into his corpse and the reanimated Brandon sets out to earn his life.

Too bad the first steps he takes are right into the path of Mr. Benson's angry dogs. After saving the still-struggling Cal from the dogs' grasp, Brandon finds himself under attack. How will he ever escape their clutches? Why, luckily he realizes

And dogs love candy-- right?

So he throws some Halloween candy at the dogs. The dogs eat the candy and leave Brandon alone. Add this to the list of valuable lessons young readers will need to unlearn from these books.

I know, I know-- this book is awful. But it can't get much worse, right? RIGHT? Um, ***RING RING*** Hello? Oh, it's the Wrong Phone, and it's for you.

Brandon runs around the neighborhood looking for someone to not scare. He stands outside the door of the house where he abandoned Vinnie and calls inside for his cousin. Vinnie cries out from behind the closed door for Brandon not to come in. Brandon braces himself for balled-up kleenexes, but what he sees within the house is far worse. Vinnie is curled up in the corner and he begs Brandon to leave while he still can. Suddenly, an actual giant ghostly figure of a decomposing man appears. Brandon decides to trick the ghost by doing his headless routine, and it works. The ghost runs away screaming. Unfortunately

"That wasn't the ghost," Vinnie repeated. "That was the ghost's pet."

Put that quote in a museum, it's art.

Vinnie tells Brandon that the house itself is the ghost, which begs the question: How exactly does a house die? The walls of the house start closing in on Vinnie and Brandon, but Brandon discovers that the one thing ghost houses are afraid of is the small beam of a flashlight. Brilliantly fighting off the ceiling and walls with his circle of light, the two boys make vaguely dog-shaped shadow puppets before finally escaping the evil house.

Saving Cal was his first scare-avert. Vinnie was number two. Brandon scans the neighborhood looking for number three. Conveniently, his little sister and her friends are being hassled by some punks at that very moment. Yes, of course the novel climaxes with this and not the giant evil ghost house. Brandon tries to scare away the punks, but somehow street toughs don't fall for his "I'll hold up a mask and then I won't" terrorizing. Luckily for Brandon, his hour is up and his body dies and slinks down, leaving his soul still standing. This does terrify the punks, and Brandon is convinces that even though his time was up, Norband will let him have his life back.

But the Twist is:
Brandon rushes to the cliff and jumps back over into the Other Side. He excitedly tells Norband that he did what he was told. But Norband replies to Brandon by saying, "Oops-- just joking!"-- he never had any intent of letting him live. Then Norband takes off his mask and reveals his Brandon mask. Then he takes that mask off and reveals nothing. Brandon immediately recommends that he and his new dead friends go back into the real world and start scaring people. Well, didn't this turn out to be the sunniest story of a kid dying

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Brandon and his little sister Maya, who literally disappears halfway through the novel.

Questionable Teaching:
What exactly did Mr. Benson have in his house that called for the protection of guard dogs? "Boy, these dogs'll sure stop some punk kids from flipping over my couch!" And like, not even then.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 23/24:
As though the book didn't throw enough random trash at the reader, suddenly bats pop up in suburbia.

Great Prose Alert:
The vampire boy suddenly felt lighter.

Conclusions:
If reincarnation exists, I had better be rewarded for somehow making it to the end of this book by coming back as Christina Hendricks' Emmy Dress.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

Damn Troy...you're just loathing these Series 2000 books.

I just want you to know, I enjoy your suffering.

Anonymous said...

Relatively early update, nice. Thanks, Troy.

This book is actually less straightforward than I remember it being. I consider that to be a point in its favour.

And it really is shaping up as though every 2000 book has vomit, isn't it? I knew this series was... well, more gross, but that's edging towards self-parody.

dru-plus-spike said...

I'm just glad that you got through this without making a My Cousin Vinnie joke.

Nihil Novum said...

This sounds worse than Chicken Chicken.

Cerebelle said...

"so Brandon puts on a mask and pretends to be a headless ghost."

This is amazing.

And yes Troy, we do enjoy your suffering. And I mean this in the best way possible.

Anonymous said...

Is Brandon the most absolutely loathsome protagonist ever to appear in one of these books?

troy steele said...

D-P-S: Don't go back and reread the entry, as there is a My Cousin Vinny joke

Novum: This is actually the first book since Chicken Chicken that I've seriously debated not finishing

Anonymous Number Three: Yes

As for my suffering... well, the worse the book, the better the entry, right?

Andy said...

Great entry as usual, Troy. Your suffering never ceases to amuse me.

Schnokk said...

Wow, Troy. Nice entry once again. Keep on that way. Oh! and congrats on your 500 000 readers. Wish you a million more!

Anonymous said...

The cover of this book is almost identical to the one that will follow:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/36/GB2K11_-_Attack_of_the_Graveyard_Ghouls.JPG

Anonymous said...

Has anyone bothered to read the Wikipedia entries for these books? Shit is surreal:

"Return to Ghost Camp" is the nineteenth book in the Goosebumps: Series 2000. It is also a sequel to Ghost Camp (Goosebumps #45). Dustin is off to camp. But someone there is evil. It is either Ari,Davis,Lou,Noah,Wiess,,Jason,Benjy,Nate,Thomas,Kevin,Melvin,Billy,Todd,Johnny,Grant,Logan,Carter,Laura,or Dustin

snarfoogle said...

I live in suburbia and I often see bats in the twilight hours. By the way, this blog is my personal secret, as most of those half million hits were me refreshing the page on Mondays.

Anonymous said...

Funningly enough, despite my complete collection of Goosebumps classics in the past, the only books I have left today are crappy Series 2000 ones I..don't evebn remember buying (Curse of the Black Ring, Earth Geeks Must Go, etc)

Eh..willing to donate them to troy if he needs em. Cuz I have no need for them anymore.

Thomas said...

quick question troy
If you had read every single goosebumps book as a kid.
Which one would have been you fav.

Groggy Dundee said...

Sounds awful. I managed to avoid this one, and it sounds like I made a wise choice. Points for the Ambrose Bierce shout-out, too.

I have seen the next two. I don't remember Graveyard Ghouls too well, but Brain Juice was pretty fun.

Rhomega said...

So all that Halloween stuff and no werewolves? This is madness! And what the heck is it with this series and vomiting? I mean, come ON!

Oh, and the book sucks too. Congrats on your 500,000 hits.

Groggy Dundee said...

I think the vomiting was just Stine anticipating Troy's reaction.

Toodles the Clown said...

Anonymous #4 - Not really. I can see what you're getting at but....no.

Anonymous #5 - Yeah, I've noticed that too.
Unfortunately, the only thing that sucks about being in your twenties AND being a fan of a children's book series is that the only other group of fans are 10 year old kids.
I swear, if you go to Wiki's list of Goosebumps TV episodes, there's a list of "unaired episodes" that seriously gets longer every time I read it. As if they're randomly discovering lost episodes a decade after the show was cancelled.

I didn't understand it at the time, but now I know why parents should monitor their kids online.

Anonymous said...

This blog is my private secret. And it's everyone else's private secret as well.

troy steele said...

If you guys would only share the secret, I'd have had a million hits yesterday

Reepicheep-chan said...

Well, somebody spilled the beans, I came here on a rec.

Lindsey Mills said...

how the fuck is that a real ending?
jesus christ.

Anonymous said...

you know, I really don't want to nitpick such awesome work, but shouldn't that line be "Put that quote in a gallery, it's art."?

Wyvernlord said...

Jesus, what an awful story. Stine should look into hiring some better ghostwriters.

Great entry as usual!

yasmin said...

I keep reading the tagline as "talk about getting head!"

Anonymous said...

For your list, Troy, it seems the titles of the last two HorrorLand books have changed. The most recent Classic reprint names #11 as "Escape from HorrorLand," and #12 as "Streets of Panic Park" (the original #11 title). (The original titles were leaked on an obscure part of Scholastic's website, and the plotlines they mentioned also sometimes ended up different.)

morbidiculous said...

The million viewer march failed spectacularly.

We didn't organise it properly. :(

Anonymous said...

(in best Christopher Cross tone)

Hurryyyyyyy!

Groggy Dundee said...

Really looking forward to this week's entry, as I've actually READ Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls! Get cracking Troy.

Zak said...

I am going to need someone to tell me the last line in that book...

Anonymous said...

Well, it's Wednesday. Have the updates been pushed back another day?

Zak said...

Okay, it's 4:AM here, so that should mean it'ss officially Wednesday in every part of the states now.

I want my update!

Brodie said...

No update, this week?

Anonymous said...

Where Is the Stinking update?!

Groggy Dundee said...

What happened last night? It seemed like the site crapped out.

Anonymous said...

WHERE IS MY UPDATE?

I AM CAPSLOCK ANGRY, SIR.

morbidiculous said...

Did you hear about those pirates screwing privateering up in Somalia? Glub glub glub :(

No real reason for asking, it's just much easier on than eyes than another whinge about a belated update.

Brodie said...

You don't suppose Series 2000 finally got the better of him, do you?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason for your high view count is all the people like me who frantically visit on Tuesdays looking for the update :p

Anon e Mouse Jr. said...

In response to that last anonymous poster: or maybe it's because of people like me, who check in multiple times every day just to read the comments that other people have added.

Until next time...

Anon e Mouse Jr.

Anonymous said...

Is Graveyard Ghouls really that bad?

If so, dread the Give Yourself Goosebumps graveyard treatment. The Curse Of The Creeping Coffin apparently has such a ridiculous plot that one Wikipedia editor refused to believe it was real and removed it from its article.

Also: I too check back frequently for comments. Could the Internet think I'm multiple people?

troy steele said...

Guys, I haven't even started reading the book

And tracking allows me to see how many individual visitors the site draws, not just the total number of hits. So no, none of you are fooling the internet

Brodie said...

That's cool Troy. I'm just glad Series 200 didn't finally do you in. I would have had to mourn instead of get drunk.

...

The two tend to go hand in though...

Anonymous said...

I've been making up for lost time with some Goosebumps reading of my own - Monster Blood, The Haunted Mask, and Dr. Maniac Vs. Robby Schwartz. The latter is terrible, until you realise it's completely satirical and Stine knows exactly what he's doing, at which point it becomes enjoyable. It's probably a joke on himself as much as anything else; Robby is fairly obviously a younger R.L. Stine. The name alone is enough.

Groggy Dundee said...

That's cool Troy. I was just curious because I was trying to access the site on Tuesday night and it kept redirecting me to Google.

Anonymous said...

Goosebumps the TV series, back on Cartoon Network again! awright!

Anonymous said...

Sup troy?
So,What you gonna do today.
I'm guessing Stine's Biography "It Came from Ohio" Since its his b-day tomorrow. Yep you read me right

Ryan Ferneau said...

The cover of this book is almost identical to the one that will follow

"What do you mean I already drew a hand clutching the foreground?"

Groggy Dundee said...

The TV show is quite surreal to watch as a 19 year old. I loved it as a kid but most episodes are extremely cheesy now. There are still some episodes which hold up pretty well - The Haunted Masks in particular, and How I Got My Shrunken Head is rather good too.

Anonymous said...

I should be honest. I can see the flaws you point out in the book, but the part with the cockroaches made my stomach turn. I just can't stand them, and the thought of actually sticking my head inside a barrel of them and eating them... like anyone here could bring themselves to the same thing, as juvenile as it is.

Besides, this is one of the few Goosebumps I've read where a kid actually died, and it's not like "The Haunted House Game". I did like this book, but I must survive on these books by relying on whatever good aspects I can find. Could Stine have honestly lacked a better anagram? Why not Don, for god's sake. And that's my rant for the day.

Groggy Dundee said...

I'm pretty sure Night of the Living Dummy III features wine served at the family dinner, so I don't think this is the only Goosebumps book involving alcohol.

Sterling said...

I choked on my water reading this. I LOVE THIS BLOG :D

Millie said...

I have to agree with anyone that said this was one of the very worst books published under the Goosebumps title. I swear I haven't been able to eat a doughnut since reading this book (when I was 14/15 ... I am now 20!)

Author and Filmmaker said...

You are correct Groggy, as I distinctly remember a description along the lines of deep red pools of wine spilled on the tablecloth after "Rocky"/Zane supposedly wrecks it.

HeatMa said...

Ambrose Bierce reference. Amazing.

This blog pretty much makes my life.

Anonymous said...

this book is really nice

Anonymous said...

Good ol troy never fails

Marcel in Canada said...

Wow. Stine spent the first 40 pages of this book going out of his way to make the main character as unlikable as possible. It was about as subtle as a tsunami, and it made reading the book about as pleasant as scratching fingernails across a chalkboard

I don't see how forcing the kid to eat bug infested donuts is scary. It's just gross.

The scene with the haunted house itself being a ghost had great potential. There are many different ways that scene could have gone, and nearly all of them would have been more effective than defeating the house with a dim flashlight bulb.

Stine could have at least had Eddie Dean pull Brandon and his cousin through a sideways door through a speaking ring into Midworld. He wouldn't last long there. Roland doesn't have a good sense of humour.

The ending was good, with Brandon getting fed a healthy dose of his own words by his anagram self. Well at least his words don't contain cockroaches and worms.

I've read about a dozen of the books in the series 2000, and some of them are actually pretty good. This book, however, is tragic, not because the main character died, but because of all the better things the paper used to make this book could have been used for.

Harry Manback said...

"yoots", haha. Awesome. Too bad for the one guy that was so excited about the lack of My Cousin Vinny jokes, though.

Anonymous said...

So...after death, he simply opts to keep scaring kids now that he's a ghost? Gee. It's kind of surreal that Stine would create such a wholly unlikable character from the jump, and then go out of his way for the character to not learn any kind of lessons or change in any way at the end.

In retrospect, Goosebumps has always kind of hinged on the audience being young enough to just take things at face value. Ooh, a monster. Ooh, a living dummy. Now, for the sake of fiction, I'll readily believe the fantastic (a monster is living in our grandparents' house and we must kill it!), but not something that comes off like a freaking robot in how badly it fundamentally screws up what makes a narrative compelling. Foul ball.