Posts Tagged ‘RL Stine’

As promised, Netflix dropped the second entry in their horror film trilogy based on the books by RL Stine (see here for my review of the first movie). And while I’m getting to it later than I did last week (hey, I wanted to see a Marvel movie in the theater for the first time in a year), I’m here to report on the film and what I thought about it.

I’m also here to report that in 1978, my parents were in their teens, and I was influencing this Earth from another world. God, I was busy that year. So much chaos to sow!

Starting off almost immediately after the end of the first film, 1978 finds the survivors of the most recent massacre locating the only survivor of the 1978 Camp Nightwing massacre. We are then sent back to summer 1978, where campers and staff from Shadyside have an uneasy relationship with the campers and counselors from Sunnyvale. And while that would normally be bad enough, the curse of Sarah Fier awakens to wreak more havoc on the camp. But while that happens, terrible secrets will be uncovered. Ones that will affect the course of history up to the (film trilogy’s) present day.

Gotta say, I’m more disturbed by how awful the Sunnyvalers are to the Shadysiders than anything in the film. Seriously, I know these kids are rich and used to having their way, but some of these kids are freaking psychopathic! Also, why are there no adults? Only counselors and staff in their twenties! Except for counselors, most of the staff at my camp were in their thirties or older. And we never had any murders!

That aside though, this was a fun sequel and a fun slasher. It takes a lot of cues from the early Friday the 13th films and Sleepaway Camp. The storytelling is pretty tight, with more emphasis placed on the character development and interplay, as well as developments in the plot, than on gore and horror. Actually, the gore and horror is mostly held back, but that seems to benefit the film. This film knows that its strengths are in the characters, so it uses horror to move their dynamics along.

And speaking of characters, the actors do a good job in their roles. Sadie Sink of Stranger Things fame plays Ziggy with the same great attitude she brings to her character Max, along with a great side of being hurt by life and the people around her. As for the other actors, you really believe that they’re these characters. It helps that a lot of the campers are actually played by teens and preteens, which brings a sense of realism to the story. And when they interact with each other, you really feel the love, animosity, and other emotions/prejudices in these characters.

That being said, it’s not very scary. At least, not for experienced horror fans. Yeah, there’s blood and murder and the undead, but no atmosphere or suspense to really terrify you. Someone who faints at the sight of blood might get scared, but not someone whose seen a lot scarier stuff.

Still, this is a fun horror movie and much better than I thought it would be. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Fear Street Part Two: 1978 an even 4. Same as the first film. If you watched the first film and was worried about the second, I can at least assure you it won’t be time wasted. I’m looking forward to seeing the third film and how they wrap things up. It appears they’re going to do an American Horror Story and use most of the actors from the first two films in new roles. I wonder if that will be significant.


Another reminder, my Followers of Fear: there’s only 18 days left to take part in the ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. Just send me a question with where you’re from by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. If you do, you’ll be entered for a prize. All questions should be sent to my email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I look forward to reading your questions and answering them.

Unless I don’t get enough questions. In which case, forget it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and disco music is dead. Let’s keep it that way.

Netflix has been marketing this as the movie event of the summer, a trilogy of films based on the books by RL Stine (which I have not read, so I can’t tell how faithful it is to the books). While I’m more tempted to call the movie adaptation of In the Heights the movie event of the summer (prove me wrong!), I was willing to dive in and check the first film of the trilogy out.

It also gave me an opportunity to remind you all that in 1994, I was only a year old. Yeah, that’s right. I turned a year old in 1994. Plenty of you reading this blog are old! And you’re welcome for the reminder.

Taking place in 1994, Fear Street Part One takes place in the town of Shadyside, which is famous for its bloody massacres every 10-20 years. After a massacre at the local mall, teenagers from Shadyside get into a dispute with their counterparts from the more prosperous city of Sunnyvale. This has deadly consequences, as the violence ends up waking the spirit of Sarah Fier, a witch who cursed Shadyside over three centuries ago. And if they’re not careful, all of them will end up dead.

For a slasher, it’s not just a lot of fun. It’s well-written! For one thing, the characters are given quite a lot of development, given the film is less than two hours. I honestly forgot these kids were actors and actually believed they were these characters. Thus, I felt their pain and emotions when they went through interpersonal drama, as well as their own terror.

Not to mention, the writing for this movie was above-average. After a certain point in the plot, the film could have done a very simple, by-the-numbers plot, but they managed to include several plot twists and new directions that I wasn’t expecting. Combined with the great actors, the film not shying away from some seriously brutal violence, and a lack of distracting CGI, and the film ends up pretty good.

That being said, it wasn’t anything extraordinary. It was fun, but it won’t become anything classic like other horror films I could name. And some parts of the plot were kinda predictable by their tropiness. Not a bad thing, but still rather predictable.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Fear Street Part One: 1994 an even 4. I would give it a higher score, but I don’t want to make this movie seem bigger than it is. Still, it’s an enjoyable slasher and I look forward to seeing how they continue the story in Part Two: 1978 (yeah, you’d think it’s a prequel, but technically it’s not). I’ll let you all know as soon as I see it what I think of it.


Just a reminder, Followers of Fear: my ten-year blogging anniversary is coming up, so I’m marking the occasion with an AMA! Between now and 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021, I’ll be accepting (almost) any question you send me. And one lucky questioner will be given a special prize for submitting their question! Just send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with your question and where you’re from. I look forward to reading and answering your questions very soon.

I look forward to hearing from you all. Good night, pleasant nightmares, and remember to look up the local fireworks ordinances in your area before setting them off this weekend. For all you know, your patriotic celebration could be illegal because you don’t have a license, like in Ohio. Some of my neighbors are going to learn that the hard way.

Today I ordered an Uber ride from my apartment to the Drexel Theaters in the Bexley neighborhood for a special event. And there I saw something terrifying: the poster for Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. That film is horrible! I’ve seen clips of it, and it’s painful. And apparently the theater shows the film every now and then. And people apparently come to see it. That’s some dark, sadomasochistic stuff right there.

But I was really there because Gramercy Books Bexley was having a big weekend in honor of its opening, and the highlight of this opening weekend celebration was a viewing of the Goosebumps film, followed by a reading and a book signing with RL Stine himself!

Now if you don’t know who RL Stine is, what rock are you living under? Well, he’s the author of the popular Goosebumps children’s books, which are probably the most famous horror series for kids in literature. I’d read them as a kid, well before I knew I wanted to write horror, and was probably an early influence on me. So when I visited Gramercy a couple weeks ago (they’ve been open for a little while now, but they had their celebration this weekend. Kind of like a belated birthday party, I guess) and saw they were hosting RL Stine, I knew I had to buy a ticket to meet him. And I bought a couple of his books too, including some of his adult fiction (did not know the guy wrote adult fiction, but I was happy to purchase a couple books from him).

Sunday came. I enjoyed the movie (see my review of the movie from 2015), and was amazed by the mix of adults who grew up with the series and kids who were reading Goosebumps twenty-five years after the first book came out (yeah, twenty-five years. Time flies, huh?). I always thought Goosebumps was a phenomenon of the 90’s and early 2000’s, but it’s endured beyond when I stopped reading the books. Perhaps kids will be reading the Goosebumps books years and years from now, like how we read Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables over a hundred years after each book came out. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading them to any kids I might have in the future.

rl-stine-reading

Anyway, the film ended. We waited as the staff from Gramercy set up a podium and microphone at the front of the theater. And then Mr. Stine himself ambled down the aisle, a hunched-over over man in a dark red shirt and dark khakis with large glasses and an amiable smile. He told us about how he had used to visit the Drexel Theaters to watch cartoons and old monster movies, the titles of which he said influenced how he titled his own stories. He also told us a story about how he actually might’ve seen a ghost as a kid (and which he hinted very heavily he made up for us), and then read for us some stuff from his upcoming book, Slappy Birthday to You. Hearing him read it brought me back to my childhood, I tell you.

After that, we all got in line in the theater lobby to get our books signed. The line was very long, circling around the lobby, and I managed to get into it around the circle area. After about ten minutes in line or so, I finally got to the table. And the whole time I was thinking to myself, “Don’t embarrass yourself, Rami. Don’t embarrass yourself.” His wife took my copy of Stay Out of the Basement, the book I’d decided to have Mr. Stine sign and which might’ve been the first Goosebumps story I ever read (I can’t remember very well, I think I was six when I started reading them). He asked me my name, and I said it, though I think he heard “Robbie,” given the noise of the lobby. He signed it, and then I told him what I wanted to tell him:

“I just wanted to thank you, Mr. Stine. I read your books as a kid, and now I write horror and science fiction. And I think you were an early influence of mine. I just wanted to thank you for that.”

Me with RL Stine himself.

Me with RL Stine himself.

He gave me back my book with a smile. If he said anything, I can’t remember what it was. Maybe “That’s nice,” or “You’re welcome,” or perhaps just “Uh-huh.” I think he’s heard that maybe a few times at this point in his career and that he’s used to it, but I was happy to have told him.  And I was allowed to take a photo with him afterwards, which you can see here.

I left after that, got an Uber home. Overall, I was happy. I said I’d felt like a child earlier, and in a way, I was. My inner kid was there this whole afternoon, from watching the movie to hearing and finally meeting RL Stine himself, feeling wonder and exultation at getting to meet this early influence of mine. That kid is often with me, reminding me why I write scary stories and powering the imagination needed to tell these stories. And I’m glad he came out with me today.

I sadly didn’t get Mr. Stine interested in reading my books, but that’s okay. I was just glad I didn’t embarrass myself by saying something stupid or offensive (I sometimes get a little starstruck in front of famous or powerful people, and that makes my logic circuit misfire sometimes). And it’s something to aim for, you know? I’m working on finding ways to make sure more people want to read my stories, and maybe someday one of those people will be RL Stine, along with all the other authors I look up to. I just have to keep writing and working hard and maybe someday all I dream will come true.

And I have four RL Stine books on my bookshelf in the meantime to keep me occupied. Definitely feel happy about that.

Thanks to the Drexel and Gramercy Books for making my weekend. I hope you can tell what this opportunity meant to me just by reading this post. I look forward to continuing to support you both in the years to come.

I’m telling you, I have been wanting to see this movie since I first heard of it, and it was killing me inside that I couldn’t see it when I was in Germany…or right after I got home. I was a fan of the books when I was a kid, and some of them even scared me so bad that I needed to take breaks from them. They were my King before I got into King. It really hurt me physically not to indulge in my childhood nostalgia and go see this film. But tonight my dad had some free time, and he was like, “Want to go see a movie?” So I said yes. And suffice to say, I was not at all disappointed (and neither was my dad, thankfully).

Based on the beloved series of children’s horror books by R.L. Stine (who by the way is Jewish, from the neighborhood I grew up in, and went to Ohio State. Coincidence? Probably), Goosebumps stars Jack Black as the author himself, living a reclusive lifestyle in the small town of Madison, Delaware with his teenager daughter Hannah. When Zach Cooper moves next door and becomes attracted to Hannah, he starts investigating the mysterious family next door and accidentally causes the monsters from the Goosebumps books–who are very real–to be released from their manuscripts and go on a rampage. Now Zach, Hannah, and R.L. Stine have to get the monsters back in their books before they tear Madison apart.

Let me just say, this was a movie with a lot of love and hard work put into it (unlike some other films taking advantage of people’s childhood nostalgia I could name). The story is very well written, and even has some twists in it that I didn’t see coming, and I pride myself on usually being able to see the twists in scary movies. The humor is also very good, keeping the mood of the movie light without getting too ridiculous or stupid. And the actors are just great. Jack Black plays Stine as a misanthrope who finds some way to steal every scene he’s in, while Dylan Mimette (who I’ve always liked whenever I’ve seen him in other works like Scandal or Agents of SHIELD) as Zach is funny and sarcastic and likeable, the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with.

The only characters I really had problems with are Champ, Zach’s friend, and Hannah, R.L. Stine’s daughter. Champ is comic relief, and while he’s funny as an awkward teen who just inserts himself into Zach’s life because…maybe he’s lonely and hopes the new kid is too slow to learn to avoid him? I don’t know, but the moments where the humor is a little much do come from him mostly, and he doesn’t contribute much to the story otherwise. As for Hannah…she’s just really there to be a love interest. And unlike River Song from Doctor Who, who was created for that very purpose, there’s not much to her beyond that role she plays. Her actress, Israeli Odeya Rush, is fun and gives off a snarky teen vibe, but that only does so much for the character.

Of course, I can’t forget the monsters. That’s the main attraction, the reason people who grew up with the books came to see the movies, because that’s what they remember most. Now obviously, in a movie that’s an hour and forty-five minutes and has to spend time developing characters and getting to the main conflict of the story, you can only spend so much time on each and every monster, which means a lot of them only appear in big group shots, but even in those you see a lot of work went into them. And for the monsters they focus on, they are great. Yeah, a lot of them are CGI, but even then they’re fun to watch. They make you believe they’re there and that we should be scared of them.  And Slappy the dummy, who leads the monsters, is like a little mini-Joker. He’s not the best villain I’ve seen on film, but as a talking dummy who enjoys causing chaos for chaos’s sake and to get back at Stine, he does the job well.

I could go over some other thoughts I had about the film, but I’ll leave that for the YouTube critics who around next Halloween will be putting out videos going over this movie with a fine-tooth comb. I think instead I’ll just wrap up by saying that this is a fun and wacky horror-comedy, earning a 4.1 out of 5. It may not get kids to read the Goosebumps books if they haven’t read them before, but it’s fun for the whole family and if you know the Goosebumps books already, you’ll enjoy seeing them on screen.

By the way, having the characters from my stories come to life is something of a dream of mine. I always feel like a parent to my stories and the characters within though, so I think if they did come to life I’d have a very different experience than R.L. Stine in the movie did. In fact, if I were to write a story about what that experience would be like, it might start something like this (#ExcerptSunday, anyone?):

The author heard his alarm go off and opened his eyes reluctantly. He wanted to go back to sleep, but today he really couldn’t afford to sleep in, even if he had the day off. So still feeling sleepy, he rolled out of bed, turned off his alarm, and headed to the bathroom. A few minutes later, teeth brushed and freshly shaved, he stepped into the hall, thinking about what he was going to wear and all the errands he was going to run today…when he noticed a tiger in the hallway.

The author froze. Even with his glasses still in his room, he knew what he was seeing. Tawny coat, black stripes, big face with whiskers and yellow eyes. There was no mistaking it. There was a tiger in his house. Am I dreaming? he thought. Am I still in bed?

The tiger padded towards him, its breathing heavy. Before the author could think how best to react, it stood up on its hind legs, placed both paws on either side of his head against the wall, and licked his face. The author, dumbfounded and amazed, could only laugh as the rough tongue scratched gently at his cheek. What is going on? he wondered, pinching himself to see if he was dreaming.

The tiger stepped down and rubbed its head against his stomach. And suddenly the author realized that this wasn’t a tiger, but a tigress. And even stranger, he knew this tigress. He knew her very well. After all, he was her father.

“Lizzy?” he said, hardly daring to believe. The tigress regarded him with intelligent eyes before turning around and padding down the stairs. The author wanted to call after her, but then something black streaked out of his room and past his face. He jumped as the black thing briefly stopped and formed a familiar body in the air before rushing down the stairs. Confused, the author went to his room, and saw someone had laid his clothes out for him.

For a moment, the author did nothing. Then he whispered, “Is this really happening?” Then, “Do I dare believe it?” Quickly the author threw his clothes and glasses on and rushed downstairs, where the biggest surprise of all awaited him:

The black shadow he’d seen earlier and the tigress were there. So was a wolf and a leopard. And scores of children, children he knew to be much more than they appeared. And a masked man dressed all in black, talking to a woman with green skin and pink hair. And a man with a gas mask, and a Grim Reaper, and a raven-like creature, and a hairless cat who sidled up to him and said, “Surprised?”

The author picked up the hairless cat, feeling like he’d ingested some amazing drug without realizing it, and said, “Very. How is this possible?”

The cat didn’t answer, but instead purred loudly and climbed onto the author’s shoulder. Moving through the sea of people and creatures, who all greeted the author with smiles and warm words, he made it to the kitchen, where a teenage girl in a witch’s costume made a plate with a Belgian waffle on it and a mug full of black tea float from the counter to his normal seat at the table. Sitting down, the author thanked the witch and dug in. It was delicious.

“So,” said a man in the doorway, whose face and body were half-transformed into a familiar-looking demon. “Today’s your day off, and we’re all yours till tomorrow morning. How about you blow off the errands and do something fun? Huh?”

The author thought about it as he took a sip of tea. He was aware of so many eyes on him, hopeful and expectant. And then a devilish smile came to his face. He knew just what they were going to do today.