Five Goosebumps Books That Deserve Movie Adaptations
Growing up in the 1990s, it was difficult to get past distractions that drew our generation away from more fruitful endeavors, such as school studies or getting outside every once in awhile. In a decade that saw the emergence of popular entities such as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the Super Nintendo, burying one's face in a book that wasn't assigned reading was considered a waste of time, hours that could be better spent flipping Pogs or teaching a Tamagotchi to stop spraying digital shit in the living room. Then along came Goosebumps, a book series that dominated library shelves everywhere from 1992 to 1997, adding the "fun" or the "mental" back to "reading is fundamental," depending on your preference for simplistic yet enjoyable adolescent horror literature.
I owe a debt of gratitude to author R.L. Stine. Not only did his books help me become a better reader in my blossoming years, but they also encouraged me to come up with tales of my own. Mr. Stine's amusing stories always involved characters my age trapped in frightening situations, feeding my insatiable infatuation with the bizarre and the eerie. Evil forces like ghosts, werewolves, mud monsters, giant hamsters and even aliens wearing jack-o'-lanterns on their heads are just some of the creatures serving as antagonists throughout Stine's collection. In most cases, the crafty youngsters come out on top by the end of the book, but oftentimes, Stine delivers a twist ending in the final chapter, including a few that would make M. Night Shyamalan cream in his jeans. I would spend an entire weekend savoring a single book, and the feeling of accomplishment that washed over me afterwards was absolutely gratifying.
It's been twenty years since Goosebumps first debuted, and surprisingly, it just occurred to Hollywood that the franchise is ripe for renewal. The details are sketchy right now -- will the movie adapt a single book from the series, or will it draw from several resulting in a horror anthology a la Creepshow? I'm hoping for the latter, as the basic plots from the books would present a challenge when it comes to filling a 90-minute feature film. Assuming the movie indeed receives the Tales From the Darkside treatment, here are a few that I'd like to see fleshed out on the big screen...
#25: Attack Of the Mutant
The Avengers is the third-highest grossing movie of all time. Along with this summer's The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, it's safe to say that films based on comic books is a trend that will never go out of style, especially since they all do this eventually, generating an endless cycle of revenue.
Attack Of the Mutant would be a hit with modern audiences who can't wait three more years for The Avengers 2. Skipper Matthews is a comic book geek who discovers that his favorite character, the dastardly villain known only as The Masked Mutant, actually exists. He begins receiving comics through the mail that predict future events, like Skipper rescuing The Galloping Gazelle from The Mutant's secret headquarters, as well as Skipper's dramatic showdown against the hulking monster. R.L. Stine himself says that this book has the best surprise ending of the entire original series. Whether or not that's true is debatable, but it's hard to argue that Attack Of the Mutant wouldn't make an exciting 20-30 minute installment of a live-action Goosebumps anthology.
#2: Stay Out Of the Basement
Like Attack Of the Mutant, R.L. Stine has praised this as one of his personal favorites of the series, and one can understand why -- making plants scary seems like an impossible task, but he takes the plot as far as his target audience's tolerance for terror allows.
Stay Out Of the Basement follows Margaret and Casey Brewer, siblings whose botanist father has just lost his job... and perhaps, his mind. The weirdo starts to experiment on plants in the basement, keeping his secret plans locked up from the rest of the family. Before long, Margaret catches Dr. Brewer chowing down on fertilizer. That shows you how gifting of a writer Stine is when he can sneak in a shit-eating scene two books into a children's series. Later it's revealed that, yes, daddy's turning into a plant-man. When the books were adapted for television in 1995, the ending of Stay Out Of the Basement was heavily tweaked and featured a much less violent conclusion. A movie version could right this wrong with a truer outcome -- which involves an ax murder.
#55: The Blob That Ate Everyone
R.L. Stine drew inspiration from movies while coming up with ideas for some of his Goosebumps books, as this one was obviously modeled after the 1958 film The Blob. The Blob That Ate Everyone, though, stands on its own as a faithful tribute to the classic horror movie.
Zackie Beauchamp finds an old typewriter in a burned-down antique store and uses it to rewrite his latest story about a killer blob attacking his neighborhood. Soon, everything his creative little brain concocts appears in reality as soon as he puts it onto the page, and it's only a matter of time before the shapeless behemoth takes over the town. A reoccurring theme in the Goosebumps series is the main characters using their smarts to dominate whatever metaphysical adversary stands in their way, and The Blob That Ate Everyone is no different. The climax is goofy and abrupt but makes sense within the context of the story, and the obligatory twist ending might cause eyes to roll, but there's no denying that seeing this one on the screen (perhaps in 3D?) would be a real treat.
#27: A Night In Terror Tower
Another prevalent staple of the Goosebumps universe is isolation -- characters often find themselves sealed off from the rest of society, whether it be at a summer camp, the Alaskan tundra or a crazy relative's house in the middle of nowhere.
In the case of A Night In Terror Tower, siblings Sue and Eddie go on a tour of a castle in London. Naturally, they lose their group and are pursued through the mansion's corridors and torture chambers by a strange man wearing a cape. This story features time travel, one of few books in the series to tackle the complicated subject, when the kiddies find out that they are actually Prince Edward and Princess Susannah Of York, 1400s royalty slated to be executed by their jealous uncle. A sorcerer named Morgred transported them into the future to escape their unfortunate destiny, filling them with memories from a life hundreds of years ahead. It's crazy stuff, but just look at the cover of the book -- the Executioner demands a proper on-screen representation.
#35: A Shocker On Shock Street
A Shocker On Shock Street is probably my favorite Goosebumps book ever. While it has nothing to do with the notorious sex move, it does combine two of my other favorite things -- horror movie monsters and amusement parks.
Erin's father works at the Shocker Studio Theme Park and allows her and pal Marty free reign inside the attraction before it opens to the public. Erin and Marty are huge horror film buffs, you see, and Shocker Studios has been churning out installments to their favorite franchise A Shocker On Shock Street like it's the next Paranormal Activity. Once through the gate, though, the harmless scares turn into pure terror as Erin and Marty stand toe-to-toe with Ape Face, The Toadinator, Wolf Boy and other assorted monstrosities that made me wish this book was released with pictures back in 1995. Per usual, the end is bat-shit insane. The TV version didn't even show the iconic giant silver mantis from the front cover, something that a movie could easily compensate for.