Saturday, December 18, 2021

Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1) by R.L. Stine

Title: Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1)
Author: R.L. Stine
Publication Date: July 1992
Length: 123 pages

It's been a long time since I actually wrote a book review! I've always had trouble keeping up with them and at some point it became hard to do them at all. But I've been reading my R.L. Stine collection in order by publishing date (roughly; I'm missing a few), and I've finally reached the start of the Goosebumps books, something I've been looking forward to for ages! So I figured it would be fun to try to review them all! I'm also going to watch the corresponding episodes of the TV series, where applicable, and review them at the same time. So, to start with, the first ever Goosebumps book, Welcome to Dead House!

So, Josh and Amanda, along with their parents and dog, move into an old house in Dark Falls after inheriting it from an unknown relative. Right away, the dog knows something's up and runs away, found sniffing around the cemetery. Meanwhile, Amanda keeps thinking she's seeing people in the windows and in her bedroom. The kids make some friends, but all the other kids act pretty strangely, won't stay out when it's bright out, and more than one of them claims to have lived in Amanda and Josh's house before.

Spoilers ahead! I feel like it's hard to talk about the Goosebumps books and show without revealing twists.

Quite a bit of time is spent on the buildup, relative to the short length of the book. The first half of the book is basically the family unpacking and Amanda seeing ghosts, before they meet anyone else. Ultimately it turns out everyone in town is dead (in kind of a zombie/ghost hybrid sort of way), and every year they trick people into moving into the house so they can get fresh blood. Amanda and Josh manage to escape from one of the kids trying to kill them, by melting his flesh with a flashlight. Then they have to rescue their parents, who've been captured by the other adults and are about to be killed in this sort of amphitheatre thing in the cemetery. The amphitheatre is shaded by a tree, and they manage to knock it down, hitting all the dead people with sunlight, and escape. In a little ending twist (common in the series), as they leave another family is moving into the house. (So are there more dead people around that weren't killed?? Apparently!)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, but I know the series will get even better, because really the dead people in Welcome to Dead House are not as interesting as the average Goosebumps monster. Still, a solid 4 stars! In the last couple years I've read a bunch of the early Fear Street books, Point Horror and some stand alone horror, and Goosebumps is just so much better! While R.L. Stine's teen horror has a lot of unlikable characters, toxic relationships, etc., his Goosebumps books have none of those issues and are just pure fun horror. I love it!

Now, for the episode of the TV show! While I did read some of the books when I was a kid, ultimately a lot of my "big Goosebumps fan" energy comes from the TV series. My dad taped (what we thought was) every episode off of YTV when I was a kid, and I've seen them countless times. I still love the show, cheesiness and all! But, it turns out we missed a couple, and maybe the only time I've seen those ones was when the whole series was on Netflix and I watched it through. Welcome to Dead House, Parts 1 and 2, are among those missing episodes! So when I watched it this week after reading the book, it was barely even familiar to me.

I was surprised how many changes were made in adapting this book, and now I'm curious to see if other episodes are similar! There were little things, like the fact that the family actually bought the house in the show, as opposed to inheriting it, and that they've actually managed to sell their old house, unlike in the book where they still have it to go back to. But there are also big things, like the way the dead people are way more zombified than in the book, and the addition of a magical old wreath that protects the family and scares the dead people. Also, there's no amphitheatre and the big fight takes place at the house.

Not my favourite of the Goosebumps episodes (though how much of that is because it doesn't have the nostalgia of episodes I've watched many times?), but still good. Highlights include some very 90s outfits on Amanda, and the fact that Josh is played by Ben Cook, who is also Jerry in Piano Lessons Can Be Murder (one of my favourites) and Marty in A Shocker on Shock Street. It's always fun to recognize the repeat stars!

Tune in next time for the second Goosebumps book, Stay Out of the Basement!