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Goosebumps: Return of the Mummy

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
Goosebumps: Return of the Mummy:
Based on R.L. Stine's popular series of YA horror fiction, (young adult, or yelps aplenty) this mid-'90s cable TV series is something like Tales From The Darkside for your kid brother. Modern young'uns may be inured to this chill-level, and adults will seek these 22-minute episodes (three to a DVD) for nostalgia only, yet Goosebumps still represents freaky fun with a capital Boo and a gentle elbow to the ribs.

Return of the Mummy (1995) trades in that old familiar children's chills set-up: a young lad visits relatives abroad (in this case an uncle Egyptologist) only to discover that things away from home are way different. Our hero Gabe, his archaeologist uncle and his cousin flirt with fame when they discover an unknown tomb. Unfortunately it seems like mummy doesn't want the tomb found! Will Gabe escape alive, and - more importantly - will he leave mummy behind for good? Only some really bad acting on the part of a mysterious Cairo-based reporter will settle things this time.

Don't Wake Mummy (1997) follows shifting sands stateside, when a prankster sister and her younger brother find their mommy has a mummy in the basement. Dad sent the mummy home so his wife could 'translate the hieroglyphics' (yeah right) - only sis finds this to be a perfect opportunity to scare her bro. Too bad the mummy has other plans. And if you think walking mummies are bad, watch out for that 'cattie' at the end!

You Can't Scare Me! (1996) is what a know-it-all schoolgirl says, after her amateur investigative reporting reveals local legend the Mud Monster to be nothing but an attempt by the collective unconscious of the town to alleviate everyday fears through a little confabulation. (Yeah, you read that right.) Only two ne'er-do-well boys want to show up miss smarty-pants with their own little muddy booby-trap. As expected, Mr. Mud Monster will have the final say in this atmospheric chiller.

Mummies are lowest on my ladder of stock monsters, while some really stiff acting in Return of the Mummy doesn't help matters, but in-all the first two offerings in this collection have things relatively well wrapped up. The Mud Monster is a different matter, however. Though know-it-all Courtney is impossibly self-possessed, her Pollyanna with attitude character is strongly put forth. Pranksters Hat and Eddie are similarly well acted, making this a standout episode, while the Mud Monster itself is a delightfully gloppy creation. Young, impressionable kids might find this stuff scary to think about late at night, but the emphasis is on fun in fright, which will hopefully give neophytes reason to seek out the strong stuff later in life.

The DVD

Video:
These 4 x 3 fullframe episodes preserve the original 1.33:1 broadcast ratio, but haven't been upgraded for DVD, in fact they may look worse than they did on TV. Grain, aliasing, motion-blur, occasional overuse of digital noise reduction and beyond-grainy digital mosquito noise all pop up to scare ya. Where's the respect?

Sound:
English Dolby Surround Sound stands up to the test, however, balancing dialog, soundtrack and sound effects elements effectively. Stereo imaging is above par for older TV, probably due to the hyped up nature of these stories, but you won't need to rush out and buy a new audio processor to enjoy it.

Extras:
Extras include - and are sadly limited to - Closed Captioning, English and Spanish Subtitles, and Spanish and French Stereo Audio Tracks.

Final Thoughts:
You mummy fetishists out there stand to gain added value from this three-pack of juvenile jolts, but obviously only the youngest should look here for scares. Happily, the fun part of fear is well on display as these kid-centric campfire tales come to life. Nostalgia buffs and people wanting to foist training-wheel terror on their tots (and who wouldn't?) can enjoy checking this release out, 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.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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