First: Check out Matthew Reine’s great coverage of Goosebumps then continue reading this one!
Reader/Viewer beware, you’re in for a scare!
Starting in July 1992 with the release of Welcome to Dead House, author R.L. Stine went on a prolific writing spree releasing a series of children’s novellas under the moniker, Goosebumps covering all sorts of random spooky related plots. The series eventually culminated in December of 1997 after 62 books were published.
A lot of nostalgia swirls around the series, such as Blogger Beware, a review site of the Goosebumps books as a lot of kids grew up in the early 1990s reading the series and even current generations are able to go back and re-read the original series along with more recently released fare from Stine. The series itself often relied on endings that were a tad dark but not quite as down ending as other kids series. The plots varied from being filled with pretty gaping plot holes to being surprisingly tight. The biggest traits of Stine’s Goosebumps books were his ability to usually create interesting enough characters that could move the plot along and rely on memorably villains to steal some of the spotlight.
One interesting thing worth noting that has been seen with many book series, more so with juvenile work, is the transitioning of book covers from the 1990’s era to alterations for the modern day and this also relates itself to the Goosebumps series. Take for example one of the more iconic covers in the original series: The Haunted Mask. The original looks legit terrifying and memorably creepy for good reason. The new cover paints a weird red hue for the entire ‘night’ sky and gives the main character a rather generic, lame ‘fanged’ human mask with their arms raised in a supposedly scary, threatening manner. It lacks the punch and memorability of the original.
After the series finished, Stine continued with a variety of spin-offs that ranged from solid efforts such as the 50 books in the Give Yourself Goosebumps series akin to the old classic Choose Your Own Adventures books along with the spin-off series Goosebumps Series 2000, which emulated the original series over 25 books but was aimed at being, “much scarier,” per R.L. Stine himself. Other efforts were (and are) more hit and miss such as the Goosebumps HorrorLand series and Goosebumps Most Wanted series.
The Goosebumps series created several memorable characters and settings, which spawned their own sequels, including the amusement park HorrorLand, the character of Slappy from Night of the Living Dummy, the mask concept from The Haunted Mask, and the oozing goo from Monster Blood. A lot of my own personal favorite books in the series were as much a reflection of the neat cover artwork balanced with the stories themselves inside: #2 – Stay Out of the Basement, #4 – Say Cheese and Die, #9 – Welcome to Camp Nightmare, #20 – The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, and #28 – The Cuckoo Clock of Doom.
Due to the enormous success of the original book series, a television show was spun off to capitalize on the books and even featured R.L. Stine himself as the man carrying the briefcase in the introduction during the memorable theme (complete with catch phrase of course). The television series was started on October 27th of 1995 and ran through November 16th, 1998. While a lot of the animatronics and creature effects were somewhat corny and the acting was usually decent at best, it was still a thrill for me to see my favorite Goosebumps stories coming to life. I vividly remember the excitement of staying up with my sister to watch the 2 part premiere of A Night in Terror Tower on February 25th, 1996.
Director William Fruet would direct most of the episodes while having brief stints on such shows as Animorphs, Poltergeist: The Legacy, and The Zack Files. Director Ron Oliver was a key cog to the hit series, Are You Afraid of the Dark? along with later directing PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal.
Did you like the stories growing up? Did you prefer the television show? Which were your favorite books? Comment below!
Credit to Cinemablend.com for header image.