It’s the spookiest time of year again, which means more Goosebumps here at BBGT and me avoiding any situation where I’m required to wear a costume. Now that I’m too old to trick or treat, blogging is the only way I want to celebrate Halloween, damn it. [Matthew says: Although thanks to the archival power of the internet, you can revisit a time where Ariel and I had a really cool group Halloween costume, and where How I Met Your Mother didn’t suck.]
I still have such distinct memories of reading this one as a kid right along with Night of the Living Dummy. This one didn’t scare me the way Night of the Living Dummy did. Instead, it seemed to instil in me this sense of adventure, of going into basements even when people told you not to, and then (somewhat ambiguously) saving the day against the evil lurking in the basement. [Matthew says: I don’t remember this one at all, and now feel absolutely terrible for making my parents buy all these books for five-year-old me when I clearly didn’t read any of them.]
Margaret and her brother Casey feel that something is off with their once loving father who now refuses to throw frisbees or call Margaret “Princess” anymore. Nothing saying sinister like a lack of nicknames and refusing to fall prey to the charms of throwing a frisbee.
Dad hadn’t been the same to her, either. In fact, he spent so much time down in the basement, he barely said a word to her.
I am immediately suspicious about these basement ongoings. Does he have a laptop down there with him? Nothing says stay out of the basement like a porn addiction.
We get witty banter between the siblings, a staple in all Goosebumps stories.
She made a diving latch for a wild toss, rolling over on the manicured lawn and raising the Frisbee above her head triumphantly.
“Show off,” Casey muttered, unimpressed.
“You’re the hot dog in the family,” Margaret called.
“Well, you’re a dork.”
Thus establishing the same characters that show up in each tale. I guess you kind of have to write the same characters over and over if you want us to believe that they do things like bring dumpster dummies home, continue to break into abandoned houses and take photos with a very clearly evil camera, and refuse to heed warnings about staying out of basements.
We learn two equally important facts this chapter:
- Everyone calls Margaret Fatso in her family because she’s so thin. HILARE.
- Ever since dad got fired and started working at home…in the basement…with his plants and “weird machines”, things have been tense in the family. [Matthew says: And remember, this was the 90s, so not even in a “oh god, we’re financially ruined” way.]
The kids head inside the house, and seeing that the door to the basement is slightly ajar, they decide to head down and see what their dad is up to. Too bad he immediately intercepts them and is like, “Stay the fuck out of the basement forever, seriously. No matter what.”
Mom is going away to visit her sick sister in the hospital, conveniently setting up a situation where the children are home alone with their very clearly evil father and basement. What could possibly go wrong!
This line pretty much sums it up:
“I’m not worried about you kids,” Mrs. Brewer said, glancing nervously at her watch. “I’m worried about your father.”
Yes, that’s exactly the kind of reassurance you want from your mother before she’s like, “Kbye, hope your father doesn’t kill you or something. Stay out of the basement xoxo.”
Dad drives Mom to the airport, so the kids are home alone with their friend Diane. Almost immediately, they decide to go into the basement. [Matthew says: You kids had ONE job!]
There’s no harm in taking a peek.
So why was her heart pounding? Why did she have this sudden tingle of fear?
Again, I ask, what could possibly go wrong?
The kids discover that there is a ping pong table in the basement and lots of plants:
The plants, in fact, resembled jungle plants — leafy vines and tall, treelike plants with long, slender tendrils, fragile-looking ferns, plants with gnarled, cream-colored roots poking up like bony knees from the soil.
“It’s like a swamp or something,” Diane said. “Did your father really grow these things in just five or six weeks?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure,” Margaret replied, staring at the enormous red tomatoes on a slender, yellow stalk.
Well, the cover of the book has an evil looking plant!hand, but that plant!hand could easily be playing ping pong, so I’m undecided about the source of evil for now. [Matthew says: That’s okay, Ariel, because as we discover at the halfway-point tomorrow, the book is also undecided about what’s actually evil.]
Casey and Margaret notice that one of the plants appears to be breathing. Instead of getting the hell out of there, they continue to investigate. Casey touches some glass booth that’s connected with wires to another glass booth (this is a children’s book, and I’m struggling to understand what it’s talking about right now), and begins to get electrocuted!
Not! Casey’s just fucking with us. What a goofball. [Matthew says: As you might recall from the last two years, the first scare-cliffhanger in every Goosebumps book is a kid pretending he’s being mortally injured. This is… a really weird recurring theme.]
The girls start to berate Casey when they’re distracted by more weird noises coming from the plants:
The free-for-all was brought to a sudden halt by a low moan from across the room. All three kids raised their heads and stared in the direction of the sound.
The large basement was silent now except for their heavy breathing.
“What was that?” Diane whispered.
Another low moan, a mournful sound, muffled, like air through a saxophone.
Diana, the voice of reason, responds to this by saying, “Plants don’t cry and moan.” Just when you thought someone couldn’t have a dumber reaction, Margaret is like, “These do.”
I hope their entire friendship is exactly like this. “Mushrooms don’t taste good.” “These do.” “Size 5 jeans don’t normally fit me.” “These do.”
Everyone agrees this basement is weird, but they can’t seem to agree on this:
“Your dad is weird,” Diane said, reaching the doorway.
“No, he isn’t,” Casey quickly insisted. “He’s doing important work here.”
I literally cannot think of anything the world needs more than moaning plants. Can you?
Diane leaves and Dad’s car pulls into the driveway. Casey and Margaret discuss whether he’ll figure out they were in the basement or not. Casey realizes that when he got hot down there he took off his shirt…and left it down there! Awwww shit.
Dad gets stuck talking to some annoying neighbour, so Casey runs down to get his shirt quickly. Except he doesn’t come back up, so now Margaret has to go looking for him. I kid you not, that’s all that happens this chapter.
What’s everyone doing for Halloween? Are any of you like massive fans of dressing up for Halloween or do you hate it like I do?