After the unwarranted two-part episode of Welcome to Camp Nightmare, I’m kind of glad I’m back to two episodes. This week, we’ve got The Cuckoo Clock of Doom and Phantom of the Auditorium. It’s a nice mix of the horrors of being hurled back in time and a good old-fashioned ghost story.
In Goosebumps-related news, Netflix just added a bunch of episodes that were missing, including the original episode, The Haunted Mask. I’m thinking of giving that one (it’s an hour long episode) a review during Halloween week.
The Cuckoo Clock of Doom
This is an episode that exemplifies exactly what made Goosebumps so great. It took a kid with an ordinary problem, put them into a situation where they were way over their head, and ended with a little twist and humor. This is easily the best episode I’ve watched during this project.
The Cuckoo Clock of Doom starts with a storyline that is pretty relatable. The main character Michael has a bratty younger sister named Tara that won’t leave him alone. She even made a fool of him at his own birthday party. When their dad gets a hold of an old cuckoo clock, things go crazy as the little sister messes with the cuckoo and sends back into the past. That may not sound too terrible, but soon realizes that he can’t control this trip back in time and every time he goes to sleep, he wakes up even younger. Soon, he’s on the precipice of being unborn and must try to reverse the effects before his mom gets unbanged. And he must do this as a 12-year old inside an infant’s body.
The little sister, Tara, is hilarious; she’s sort of a sociopath and shows a lot of disdain for her older brother, which isn’t really explained. Some people just want to watch the world burn, I guess. Michael has to put up with a lot when it comes to his sister, but I’d be lying if I said I felt bad for him. He’s only twelve, but he’s about as impotent as a geriatric pensioner. This kid kind of deserves the crap that his sister puts him through. She’s six, for fuck’s sake, and she completely runs his life. She’s right: he is a krej. That’s jerk spelled backwards, you krej!
It’s a pretty clever twist on the whole time travel story. Having the character reluctantly moving backwards is cause for some fun drama. The fact that he’s supposed to have the intelligence of a 12-year old when he’s six leads to some rather humorous scenes, including not being impressed by the birthday clown at his own party. I also like the idea that Michael accidentally undoes his sister’s whole existence; it’s a silly little circumstance of the time travel, and done in a funny way.
Phantom of the Auditorium
When you’re a kid, you happen upon a few legends about your town or school. Sometimes it was from your older siblings, sometimes it was other kids in your class, and sometimes you were just making it up without even realizing it. I remember in elementary school, we used to say there was a crazy killer in the woods behind the playground. We were basically full of bullshit.
In Phantom of the Auditorium, all those fanciful stories are at center stage, pun intended. The school with the auditorium in question is set to put on the famous play The Phantom. The episode is very careful to make the distinction between the name of this play and that famous one, The Phantom of the Opera, probably because no one wants to get sued by Queen of Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Weber. But I digress.
Art imitates life, as a ghost haunts the stage play, terrorizing the lead actress. Rumor has it that it’s the ghost of a kid that was supposed to be the Phantom in the same play decades ago, but never got to perform, which is odd, because on a list of regrets worth coming back to haunt over, missing out on your middle school play is probably pretty low on the list. The episode has some decent moments, most of which involve the warnings from the Phantom and the flat out witch-hunt directed at the kid that is supposed to play the Phantom in the play. That is very much how I remember school playing out: guilty until proven innocent.
To be honest, while this story isn’t bad, it’s not particularly interesting. It’s a rather generic Goosebumps episode. It’s decently acted and has a pretty nice mood and all, but it’s sort of forgettable. I think it’s the fact I don’t find The Phantom of the Opera particularly compelling and the retellings more so. Although, if you want to see something truly batshit crazy, take a look at Phantom of the Paradise. It’s quite ridiculous.