Cover Line: One picture is worth a thousand screams.
Back Line: Every Picture Tells A Story
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars in alignment
Book Description: Greg thinks there is something wrong with the old camera he and his friends found. The photographs keep turning out wrong. Very wrong. Like the snapshot Greg took of his father’s new car that shows it totalled. And then Greg’s father is in a nasty wreck.
But Greg’s friends don’t believe him. Shari even makes Greg bring the camera to her birthday party and take her picture. Only Shari’s not in the photograph when it develops. Is Shari about to be taken out of the picture permanently? Who is going to take the next fall for… the evil camera?
Autumn is her folks and with the fall season comes the best month of the year, October, which in turn brings two very awesome holidays, Halloween and … my birthday. Ok so my birthday might not mean much to anyone else, but for weirdos like me All Hallows’ Eve is the best holiday year round. Maybe it’s the hoodie weather, scary movies, candy, the creative costumes, or the display of wild yellow and orange trees contrasting with the blue sky. I don’t know. It’s like Christmas, but in October, and I say that mainly because I get presents this month… so it’s basically early Christmas for me. Yah know?
Anyway. You know what October also brings? The long-awaited review of Say Cheese and Die! #4 in R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. I know I mentioned that this was next back in April, after I posted my thoughts on Monster Blood, so after a long summer and few days of procrastination, I’m dusting off the right side of my brain and getting back to work.
The story begins in Pitts Landing, a place with a great motto, Pitts Landing is the pits. We find our main characters, Greg, Shari, Michael, and Doug a.k.a Bird, bored and looking for trouble. Not really, but that is what happens when a group of kids get bored. Eventually someone gets the idea to break into the old Coffman house where supposedly a homeless man named Spidey lives. See I told you, breaking and entering.
While exploring the abandoned home they find themselves in the basement where Greg discovers a secret compartment that is hiding a peculiar camera. He asks one of his friends to strike a pose on the stair case leading upstairs when suddenly the railing breaks and sends Michael plummeting to the basement floor. The loud crash disturbs something upstairs as the gang hears footsteps heading their way. They narrowly escape out a cellar door leads to the back yard. Once away from the house, or after achieving a successful break-in, Michael demands to see the photo. Everyone, at first, is shocked but then decide the camera must be broken because it took a photo of Michael as he was falling from the stairwell.
Everyone splits up for the night and goes home. Broken camera toting Greg is excited to see a brand new Station Wagon and can’t help but try another picture. The polaroid-like camera spits out the developing picture. When finally upstairs Greg is confused to see that in the picture the car looks totaled. He is then nervously gathered with the rest of the family to go for a ride in the new wagon. Thankfully everyone arrive back home safely, barring a close call with a truck, but Greg is just not sure what is up with the camera. To prove one more time to see if it’s broken he asks his brother if he can take his photo. The result is completely different, Terry, his brother is standing outside in the photo and not inside where he took the picture and he has a terrifying expression on his face. This reassures Greg that the camera must be broken, because what kind of camera takes a picture with different backgrounds….
After another weird incident at his friend Bird’s baseball game and Greg’s sees his brothers terrifying expression and finds out his dad actually got into a wreck and totaled the car after all, Shari asks Greg to bring the camera to her birthday party because she thinks it will be fun. Why? I don’t know. But after a couple of shots of Shari standing by a tree, the pictures develop without Shari in them. Everyone brushes it off and decides to play hide and seek, when Shari actually disappears for real. The cops come send Greg home after he tries to explain how his broken camera might be magic because of the things that are happening after he takes photos of people.
Worried about Shari, Greg gets home and finds his room has been destroyed. He quickly figures that Spidey has been looking for the camera. He quickly gathers Bird, and Michael to plan a way to get rid of it, when they are harassed by two bullies who try to take the camera and accidentally take a photo of Greg during the struggle. After escaping and making it back home, Greg goes nuts for a moment after he sees the photo taken of him portrays him and Shari at the baseball diamond cowering under a tall shadow. In a sudden rage he tears up the two photos of the tree sans Sheri, because as if puberty isn’t rough enough the poor kid is dealing with supernatural forces too. Two hours after they are destroyed, Shari calls Greg.
Happy his friend is alive he asks to meet with her the next day at the baseball diamonds… for some reason he wants the picture to come true obviously. Once there they try to make a plan to get rid of the camera, but are interrupted by Spidey, the tall shadow in the photo, who chases them down until a neighbor sees them and threatens to call the cops on the creepy guy chasing two children, good job neighborhood watch!
Safe and sound they decide to just meet at the Coffman house the next day to get rid of the trouble for good. Of course this happens while a storm is building in the background. Naturally, to set the mood and give you goose bumps. Inside the house they confront Spidey, who actually explains that he is pretty much a mad scientist named Dr. Fritz Fredrick’s. He makes the classic villain mistake of telling his whole evil life story, down to when he was just an assistant to a dark arts master/scientist who created the cursed camera to take souls… yeah souls. But it gets confusing when Spidey, now Dr. Fritz, explains that he stole to camera for his own prosperity, but after it killed so many people he dedicated his life to hiding it so it could not do its evil anymore. So does that make him kind of a good guy? Maybe, but then he tells the kids that they cannot leave because they know too much, implying he is going to kill them too… so I guess he’s not much of a good guy after all. A déjà vu struggle over the camera occurs which leads Shari to accidentally snap a photo of Dr. Fritz. The kids run away but stop when they see the good Dr. is a senseless heap on the floor. They go back down and review the photo, showing Dr. Fritz lying on the floor, eyes bulged, dead.
From breaking and entering to murder, see how fast kids can progress. As far as I am aware, at least so far, this is the only human bad guy that gets done in by kids… the only human character that gets killed.
The cops come and the kids lie and say that they went into the house to escape the rain and found the Dr. Dead. And the local P.D. buys it, forever assuring these kids to think they can literally get away with murder. The friends are all happy again, and alive. But before the big THE END, after the gang rides off into the sun setting on the town of Pitts Landing, the two bullies from before jump out and have the camera. The book ends with one of them taking a picture of the other. FIN
I remember this book being one of the scarier ones when I was a young hoodlum looking for trouble. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens way down the road in the sequel, Say Cheese And Die–Again!. Either way this one wasn’t as bad as Monster Blood, and in some sense I still kind of liked it.
Below I found the full version of Say Cheese and Die! Featuring a very young Ryan Gosling. Not a whole lot of difference really from the book, except the ending. Enjoy!
Next up on the list is The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
Cover Line: It’s a monster blood drive!
Back Line: BLOOD, BLOOD, EVERYWHERE…
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars Aligned
Book Description: While staying with his weird great-aunt Kathryn, Evan visits a funky old toy store and buys a dusty can of monster blood. It’s fun to play with at first. And Evan’s dog, Trigger, likes it so much, he eats some!
But then Evan notices something weird about the green, slimy, stuff – it seems to be growing. And growing. And growing. And all that growing has giben the monster blood a monstrous appetite….
Another great entry in the long (and I do mean long) series of Goosebumps books. This is the third book in the original series, and I am happy that I did not decide to journey through all the Goosebumps books that follow the original 62 books. The plot is nonsensical, the characters (except one of them) are terrible, and the ending has got to be the worst ending in the Goosebumps repertoire. So… with that in mind here we go.
The story begins with whiney Evan Ross, who is twelve of course, pleading with his mother to make him stay with his aunt Kathryn, who is eighty years old and deaf. Unable to hear, read lips, or sign with her hands Kathryn greets the two at her front door while gripping a bloody butcher knife she’s using to cook. And at this point I thought, at first, was pretty bad parenting, but then I realized that his folks were smart in dumping the whiney brat on the doorstep of someone who can’t listen to his crap.
After meeting his aunt, Evan is even more convinced that his life sucks and that he and his dog, Trigger, are doomed for the summer. Especially after Kathryn orders Trigger to be tied up outside for the remainder of their stay so that he doesn’t scare her cat, Sarabeth. The cat is an unessential character so just forget about it.
Now left alone with his aunt, Evan takes a tour of the old house and then decides to take Trigger for a walk around the unfamiliar town. Along his tiny journey he meets Andrea, or as her friends call her Andy. Let me just side note that if Stine would have just made Andy the main character, this story would have been 13x more enjoyable. As they get acquainted, calling each other stupid, they head off toward down town so Andy can show Evan around some shops.
In need of a gift for her cousin, Andy leads Evan into one of the two, yes two, local toy stores for a look around. As the two look through the must shelves of Wagner’s Novelties & Sundries the come across something that peaks both their interests. In the back lies a can with the label, ‘MONSTER BLOOD: SURPRISING MIRACLE SUBSTANCE.’ The “substance” intrigues the two so much that they begin to fight over who gets the only one available. At this time the shop owner shows up and sternly tries to dissuade either of them from purchasing the Monster Blood, but breaks down and gives it away to Evan for two dollars.
After leaving the shop, Andy and Evan head back to Kathryn’s house to check out the Monster Blood. Does anyone remember GAK? You know, that stretchy, goopy stuff that Nickelodeon came out with in the 90’s. Well that is monster blood, or at least what it starts off as. As they play around with this stuff they have sort of a Flubber moment and discover it’s extremely bouncy. But it leaves stains on the ceiling and the carpet, so they decide to take it outside, where they begin to toss it back and forth. And of course one of them drops it and the dog Trigger, in a total plot shocker, eats part of the monster blood.
The next morning Evan gets dolled up in his denim cut offs, and a red GAP t-shirt to go see Andy. On the way he comes across the Beymer twins. While being pushed around by the two thugs Andy comes to Evans rescue. Though she seems to not be much help when the two push her in the dirt and steal her bike. To which she calmly replies, “I’ll get it back. They’ve done this before. They’ll leave it somewhere when they’re finished.”
The two take the walk of shame back to their houses, where Evan finds Trigger being strangled by his own collar. It’s clear that the dog has grown as a side effect of devouring the monster blood, but a very concerned Evan kneels down to ask his dog, “What made this collar shrink like that, boy?”
Understanding the dog has grown a little, and may have something wrong with it, Evan does nothing about it. The next morning Evan wakes up and wonders around the town to find Andy trying to let a cat, which had been tortured by the Beymer twins, go. Instead of helping the jerk just stands around and watches, then they head back to Evans room to check out the monster blood.
Upon re-inspection, they see that the blood has grown. It’s no longer gooey, more liquid, and is warm instead of cold. So of course instead of being worried of making a big mess with the stuff they have a monster blood fight. And again we have a couple pages of them playing with it again, which in Goosebumps pages is a chapter sometimes two. When they stop Evan points out the window to show to Andy that Trigger has grown considerably. Suddenly they watch the dog break through the fence and start running down the street. As Evan is running after the dog he sees that it is transforming into a terrifying monster. Then he wakes up. And finds that he himself is way too big for his bed, and has grown like Trigger. Then he wakes up again.
Im not exactly sure where the dream starts. So for my own amusement I decide to do a little dream analysis for everyone. Andy saving the scared cat is actually how Evan sees himself in Andy’s eyes. As a scardy cat!, and when Trigger gets so big and runs away is a simple comparison of the responsibility that comes with taking care of a dog, and how Evan is not very good at taking care of his. Hence the eating of the foreign substance, and being choked in his collar. But what do I know?
*End Side Note*
Anyway after the dream scare, Evan and Andy take Trigger to the vet, who says that the dog is experiencing a late growth spurt and sends the kids on their way. Andy heads off to piano practice, and Evan buys himself an ice cream. Enter Beymer twins. On a mission to make Evan their bitch, the twins make an attempt to ruffle his feathers. Trigger doesn’t agree with the new attention Evan is getting and begins to hound… sorry chase after the twins.
When Evan finally catches up to Trigger, the twins are gone. Back home he finds he has a bigger problem and calls Andy immediately to meet up at her place. As he shows up Andy is surprised to see how full the bucket is with the monster blood, the stuff is growing. Realizing that the stuff is alive, they figure out, finally, that this must be what’s behind Triggers “growth spurt”. Andy agrees to help and take some. Satisfied Evan leaves only to once again run into the Beymer twins.
Not very happy, and ready to officially execute that bitch owning idea, the Beymer twins actually, in detail, beat up Evan. Now I know no one should be excited when the protagonist gets his ass whooped, but I was clapping at this point. Once again Andy comes to rescue Evan, and the twins run away, further proving that Evan is a pussy cat.
Andy helps Evan scoop the spilled monster blood back into the bucket and comes up with the most amazing plan so far; to go back to the toy shop and inquire about the monster blood. Genius. When Evan gets home he realizes he needs to find something bigger to hold the monster blood. After a little looking he finds a bathtub just sitting in the garage. While filling the tub Sarabeth, the cat, jumps on his back and knocks him into the makeshift vat of monster blood. After a really tense struggle, Evan frees himself from the grasp of the green ooze.
The next morning he tries to tell his aunt about the problem but she just scoffs at him, as would anyone else. Following through with their plan, him and Andy head off to Wagner’s Novelties & Sundries, dragging along two trash bags worth of monster blood. I had to pause at this point again and wonder how many hours have these two spent scooping and placing this stuff in different containers, and how come no one has noticed. In my city that would look pretty suspicious. Bad news though, the store is closed. My guess, one toy store bought out the other. Fail.
Upon their return back at Kathryn’s, Evan sees his mom has sent him a telegram telling him she’s on her way! Evan freaks out and rushes to go tell his dog. When they see Trigger, they see that he is actually doubled in size, and of course he runs away. As he runs away Evan and Andy give chase, and on the way knock over the can that held the monster blood bags. The spilled monster blood begins to chase after Evan and Andy, and while it does the Beymer twins show up again only to be inhaled by the blood. Not slowing down while eating the twins the blood follows the kids, but stops when Kathryn pokes her head out to see what’s up, causing the monster blood to change course toward her.
*Warning This Ending Might Go Fast*
So the kids rush in the house to save Kathryn, and find her backed into a corner. Suddenly she screams that she is responsible for the monster blood, and that it won’t stop till she’s dead. Just to get one last word in, as usual with him, Evan begins to accuse Kathryn of almost killing him and potentially destroying Trigger. Then Kathryn pulls a reverse and says it wasn’t her and points to Sarabeth, the friggin cat. Sigh
And then just like that the damn cat turns into a pretty woman who admits to spell casting the monster blood, and begins to threaten the kids and Kathryn that she will kill them all. Trigger, the still doubled in size, jumps through the door and pushes Sarabeth into the undulating mass of monster blood. Then POOF! and the monster blood shrinks to a puddle and the twins fall out, run away and Trigger turns back to his normal size.
There I got through it, wow the pain.
The twist: As Evan and Andy are saying their good byes, Andy asks to keep some of the monster blood as a souvenir. Evan agrees to it, probably hoping she will use it as a token of remembrance of him, and when they go to collect, they see the monster blood vanished.
So there you have it, that’s Monster Blood. Really. I know when I was a kid I really like this one, as I am sure a lot of other young readers did. Once again, as it will probably be for them all, im sure looking at it from an older perspective changes the way I read these things. I may have been harsh by saying it’s the worst book, or even the worst ending. Even if it IS the worst ending, I’ve still got a long way to go.
Next up on the list is Say Cheese and Die
Found the T.V. episode of this book and thought you might like to see some differences.