Note: Several volumes of Goosebumps DVDs are being reviewed; basic information on the series may be repeated in the reviews.
R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series of books has provided some kid-level scares and thrills for years and Scholastic and FoxKids brought the franchise to American television audiences in a series of generally well-produced shockers that offer above-average special effects and kid-centric storylines that are often quite scary, if never over the line for the average 7-12 year old. This DVD includes:
One Day at Horrorland. This two-part episode is largely enjoyable, with some pretty scary moments, though it has a disturbing subtext and an ending that may leave younger children especially feeling squeamish. This time instead of dunderheaded kids we get a dunderheaded father (should I recuse myself from this review?) who refuses to ask for directions on the way to a place named Zoo Gardens, getting lost of course and ending up at a mysterious theme park called Horrorland. The two kids of the family quickly find themselves ensconced in rides that seem to be a bit too frightening for their own good, and then the entire family realizes they're being held captive at the park. The denouement, while a cute parody on game show loving humans, may be disturbing, especially for younger viewers, as the point of view of the episode changes and our "heroes," the human family, become characters in a literally monster driven finale. The one thing that may make this less outright frightening for younger kids is the silly mask-like makeup of the monsters, which barely moves when they talk and gives a "pretend" quality to an episode that might otherwise prove too unsettling.
Welcome to Camp Nightmare, another two-parter, has a neat little twist that may remind older viewers of the most excellent Twilight Zone episode "Third from the Sun." Young camper Billy finds himself at a brutally military-minded summer camp, where not only is everything and everyone less than hospitable, Billy's fellow campers keep disappearing, one by one. The scary premise has a great payoff that most kids will find very engaging.
This late 1990s television series boasts a pretty average full frame image, with decent if unexceptional color and acceptable (just barely, if you're a real videophile) sharpness. There are no instances of damage or degradation. A completely average television presentation all around.
Similarly, the DD 2.0 soundtrack is typical television fare, though there is some attention paid to good use of sound effects, especially in some of the shock sequences. Fidelity is excellent, separation is adequate. Nothing fantastic, but nothing to complain about. No subtitles are offered.
None are offered.
This particular volume in the Goosebumps series offers two above-average episodes that, in the case of "Horrorland" anyway, may be too disturbing for younger kids. For viewers older than 8 or so, this volume is Recommended.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet