As you grow older and closer to death, it’s natural to feel the pull of the past tugging at your skin and whispering, “Come back, remember Pogs?” But you can’t let nostalgia rule your world, and that’s why it’s time to look at all of the Goosebumps episodes that don't hold up and pick apart everything you thought you loved about them. Was Goosebumps really scary, or was it simply a lesser version of the peak '90s children’s horror that inundated our television sets? Even the theme song, which should set the mood for the show, was pure comedy. The scariest thing about the theme was the synthesized dog bark making up a section of the melody, and honestly it was more sad than spooky.
No matter how big of a wuss you are, you have to admit there aren’t a lot of scary Goosebumps episodes. There may be inspired visuals, strange digressions, and even a jump scare or two, but on the whole the series was DOA. Even though this is a systematic evisceration of the lamest episodes of Goosebumps, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fond memories of the series. Maybe Goosebumps started you on your path towards being a true horror fan, and if so that’s great. But that doesn’t make Goosebumps a watchable television program. Sometimes it’s best to let the things we loved stay in the past, and that goes double for low-budget horror anthology programs adapted from middling YA series.
The Haunted Mask
Why was everything always so haunted in Goosebumps? Couldn't "real life" be the monster or something in one episode? Or what about a contemptuous raven? Anyway, you know this episode like the back of your hand. It's the one where the oddly named Carly Beth's face gets locked in some stank Halloween mask. Out of all the subpar episodes of this show, this one mostly delivers with the creepy stuff. There's a mannequin head that looks like a girl, asshat teenagers wearing jack-o-lantern heads, and the concept of completely losing yourself in a new identity. Two decades later, this episode doesn't work. It actually begins with R.L. Stine telling the audience how good the episode is, and then explaining the entire plot before spoiling the ending.
You know what's great about all films, horror or otherwise? The way the writer appears at the beginning to remind you what you're watching is fiction, then spoiling the plot, and then making sure you know everything is going to be fine. That doesn't suck the tension out of every scene at all. The mannequin head is kind of creepy though. Kudos to the prop designer who made that ungodly thing.
The Girl Who Cried Monster
The inaugural episode of the series features a bug-eating librarian (to be fair, he's legit creepy as a monster), who has this Divine thing going on when he's in human form (but way less inspiring and fabulous). If you were nine when this episode premiered, it's absolutely fine if it scared you away from your local library for a couple of weeks.
Watching now, however, it's very apparent the guy is a creep regardless of whether he's a monster or not. The twist at the end of the episode reveals that the parents are monsters as well, and it's definitely not as exciting (or scary) as you remember.
Welcome To Camp Nightmare
This is a two-parter, so you know you it's supposed to be super scary. But while you're watching Billy navigate the slips and tangles of the hilariously named Camp Nightmoon, you get the feeling that the episode is always about to start. Maybe there's something to the idea that children are inherently afraid of leaving home for an extended period of time, but is that enough to base an episode around?
When you put this episode into the context of other spooky camp episodes from similar regrettable '90s children's shows like Salute Your Shorts or that one episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark where the two girls go to Cramp Grindlestone, this episode can't compete. Sorry, R.L.
Say Cheese And Die!
Listen, Ryan Gosling is in this episode. That doesn't make it good. You don't have to pretend like you like it on the off-chance R-Gos might smile at you on the street. Despite this episode showing a child be responsible for maiming his friends and family (which would be horrifying for anyone, not just children), it never hits as hard as it should.
Everyone (pretty much) makes it out of this episode in one piece and the whole thing ends up feeling like a big morality tale about not stealing haunted items. Honestly, watching this as an adult, the only real take away is "Hey girl, don't use those dumb death cameras."