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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
Fox // Unrated // March 31, 2009
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted April 27, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight:

Scholastic DVD collects three 22-minute episodes from this mid-nineteen-nineties cable TV series based on R.L. Stine's popular juvenile horror fiction books. Horror fiction, juvenile or otherwise, was a staple of my early reading library, I'm all for it and for television and cinematic efforts as well. Yes, from an adult perspective, these stories are corny, and scares are non-existent. In fact most of today's kids have seen stronger stuff during primetime network TV, but for your budding horror aficionado, (or Generation Y nostalgia buffs) these DVDs can provide a fun jumping off point.


The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight (1996) follows the Goosebumps pattern to a tee, as weirdness and menace intrudes within the first three minutes of the episode. A brother/ sister pair of city-slicker kids visit their grandma, grandpa and cousins at the country farm for some fun and chocolate chip pancakes. Except their uncle (who's a bit touched-in-the-head) is acting strange, grandma and grandpa are all nervous, and the scarecrows keep hopping off their perches - at midnight of course.


Don't Go To Sleep (1997) finds a young lad swamped with increasingly perilous, over-his-head situations, while evading sinister Matrix-like 'Reality Police.' As the boy attempts to figure things out, viewers marvel at prescient plot-points that eerily foreshadow Guantanamo Bay.


Calling All Creeps (1996) takes into account a revenge scheme gone awry for a kid bullied at school. When, through an ad in the school newspaper, he invites creeps to call his nemesis after midnight, the tables are turned and the creeps call him. A sympathetic newcomer must help him make a decision; beat the creeps, or join them!


All three stories represent sprightly-paced, shivery fun treats, with the level of acting you'd expect from kids' TV (broad and adequate) and very little to get really frightened over, though you can never tell what's going to repeat on a kid late at night. The real pleasure of kids' horror fiction - an attribute on display in all three episodes - is a complete lack of moralizing. No chastising tone, no hypocritical punishment for sex-and-drugs sins (like in any slasher movie) and never a happy ending. I'll go out on a limb and say this stuff has a faint Lovecraftian edge; random evil happens for no particular reason, and by story's end it's clear that evil's going to keep on chugging along. Of course the evil circumstances are all pretty corny, masks are rubbery and little snippets of CGI employed are crude - all of which places these experiences in a category of campy fun. However kids who dig this stuff know there's a much more sinister world of evil ahead.





The DVD


Video:

These 1.33:1 ratio, fullscreen episodes preserve the original broadcast format while likely representing a step down in appearance. Grain, aliasing, motion-blur, occasional overuse of digital noise reduction and sometimes-severe mosquito noise all show up to say howdy. One brief scene in The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight is so digitally grainy it's like a joke. It's an authoring job that's truly scary.



Sound:

English Dolby Surround Sound fares better, with a fine balance between dialog, soundtrack and sound effects elements, and good stereo separation, though this isn't the most active or exciting example of sound-design out there.



Extras:

Extras are limited to things that should be standard, such as Closed Captioning and English and Spanish Subtitles. Also available are Spanish and French Stereo Audio Tracks.



Final Thoughts:

For your nascent horror buff in short-pants, or for those of you who grew up enjoying the Goosebumps franchise, these new-on-DVD three episode sets will be a nice little jolt. Acting is pretty corny and the fear factor is safe and low, but that x-factor - having fun being scared - is well represented ('scared' should be in quotes, of course). But unless you've got money to burn, you should consider that a scanty three episodes per DVD, with no extras and poor DVD authoring, make this a Rent It proposition only.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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