When I say ‘horror’ it often sounds like I’m saying ‘whore’. This has been a difficult book to discuss as it consistently sounds like I’m reading a book called One Day at WhoreLand, which is a much less child friendly book. Also YAY it’s Goosebumps time!!
One Day at HorrorLand Chapter 1:
The books begins on an incredibly bleak note, even by Goosebumps standards:
As we entered the gates to HorrorLand, we had no idea that, in less than an hour, we would all be lying in our coffins.
You can’t fool me, though, Goosebumps. I have been around the block with you a few times, and ‘lying in our coffins’ doesn’t necessarily mean dead. I bet these people will be alive but in coffins for some spooky reason or other and need to escape.
I’m the calm one in the Morris family. Everyone says, “Lizzy, you’re the calm one.” And I’m trying to tell this story calmly.
That quote was all the evidence I needed of Lizzy’s calm nature.
The Morris family never planned to go to HorrorLand, if you can believe it. They were trying to go to a Zoo, but dad left the map at home! Man, you just can’t write these kinds of gripping stories anymore thanks to smart phones. This day and age, it would have to be some sort of malicious, haunted GPS that lead the family to this terrifying destination.
Mom and dad have a typical fight about who was supposed to pack the map (maps! Ha!), and we get to know Lizzy’s brother Luke and his friend Clay a bit more.
He thinks everything Luke does is a riot. He laughs at all of my brother’s stupid jokes and stunts. I think that’s why Luke likes Clay so much.
This is already one of the most convincing friendships we’ve read about here.
Everyone is clearly getting really stressed out, and they repeatedly emphasize that they’re in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing but desert around. None of us have a good feeling about this, but of course they’ll be so desperate that when they see HorrorLand, they’re like, “We’ll take it! We just can’t be together as a family in this godforsaken car for a minute longer.”
Speaking of which, the chapter ends with Lizzie seeing a large monster looming overhead…
Somehow, despite the fact that they’ve all been desperately searching for billboards/directions/other people they all only just notice this massive billboard with the giant mechanical monster next to it.
I rolled down the window and stuck my head out to read the billboard in front of the mechanical monster. In huge red letters it said: WELCOME TO HORRORLAND WHERE NIGHTMARES COME TO LIFE!
There was a dark red arrow in the upper left-hand corner, with the words: ONE MILE.
“Can we go there?” Luke demanded eagerly. He leaned forward and grabbed the back of Dad’s seat with both hands. “Can we, Dad? How about it?”
See, I told you! Mom tries to protest for a minute, but fucking Luke just keeps pushing the situation. Lizzie chimes in, probably out of desperation:
“Let’s give it a try,” I urged them. “If we hate it, we can always leave.”
BUT WE KNOW IT WON’T BE THAT EASY!
Behind a tall, purple fence, HorrorLand seemed to stretch for miles. Leaning forward in my seat, I could see the tops of rides and strange, colorful buildings. As we drove across the enormous parking lot, eerie chords of organ music invaded the car.
As we rode closer, I got a good look at the front gate. The same monster we had seen behind the billboard rose up behind a big purple-and-green sign over the gate. The sign read: THE HORRORLAND HORRORS WELCOME YOU TO HORRORLAND!
We should all stop to think about this for a moment in detail. Assuming we never get the HorrorLand origin story, someone out there had to build this place. Even if it was a demonic force (and I’m assuming it’s the HorrorLand Horrors who were originally an unsuccessful demonic band), that is a lot of effort to put into trapping the very small number of families that specifically get lost in the wilderness. Like are all the monsters at this place just bored out of their minds all the time just waiting for an opportunity to demonstrate how evil they are? Obviously the goal is not to turn a profit, but this is also not the most efficient way to torment people, so what is the purpose of this place? Who bankrolled this thing! Or was it like a good theme park that the HorrorLand Horrors family purchased after the owner fell on hard times? I have so many questions and theories and opinions, but I better move on from this.
They all get out of their car to check out the theme park, and the car immediately explodes.
Mom has a really unnatural and stilted reaction to all this:
“We’re safe,” Mom murmured. “We’re all safe. What a terrifying explosion. I can’t get the sound of it out of my ears.”
Dad wants to call the police, and since they don’t have cellphones it makes sense they would need to go into the park. Especially since there are only a couple other cars around (presumably they belong to the HorrorLand Horrors, and any other cars exploded).
“Welcome to HorrorLand,” he said in a gruff, low voice. A loud stab of organ music rose up from inside the ticket booth. “I am a HorrorLand Horror. All of the Horrors and I hope you have a scary day.”
“My car!” Dad cried frantically. “There was an explosion. I need a phone!”
“I’m sorry, sir. No phones,” the guy in the monster costume replied.
This monster is polite as fuck.
“We’ll take care of you,” the Horror replied, lowering his gruff voice nearly to a whisper.
“You’ll what?” Dad cried. “We need a car. I need to get to a phone! Don’t you understand?”
“No phones,” the monster repeated. “But, please, sir. Allow us to take care of you. I promise we will take care of everything. Don’t let this spoil your visit to HorrorLand.”
I mean, I don’t really know what other option the family has, but it seems weird to me that they’re supposed to be like, “Well, okay, let’s enjoy the rest of our time here.” The strategy of HorrorLand Horrors continues to baffle the mind. Who is on their leadership team making these decisions? What are their success metrics?
The monster promises their transportation will be taken care of and they shouldn’t worry, which actually seems like a pretty good way to get the family into the park. They are also granted free admission, so we can confirm that HorrorLand is not measuring its success with money, but perhaps with tortured souls or some such.
Everyone agrees to enter, and soon they come across Werewolf village where they are warned not to feed the werewolves if they can help it. What an odd warning (?). There are lots of creepy sights here like a Horror basically using a human head as a yoyo, and there are wolves running around. Mom is just like, “This park is so clean!” So I guess the Horrors take pride in their establishment, murky as its purpose may be.
Dad lingered behind. “I — I’ve got to find a phone,” he said fretfully. “I can’t enjoy this until I know we have a way to get home.”
“But, dear — ” Mom started.
“There’s got to be a phone somewhere,” Dad interrupted. “Go on without me.”
“No. I’ll come with you,” Mom said. “You’re in such a frantic state. You’ll need me to make the calls for you. The kids will have a better time without us hanging around anyway.”
Really? He seems worried, but like he is entirely capable of making a phone call on his own. There is no reason to abandon all the children in this highly suspicious theme park.
“Leave them?” Dad cried. “You mean, let them go on their own?”
“Of course,” Mom said, hurrying back to him. “They’ll be perfectly fine. This looks like a very nice place. What could happen?”
Mom, you are an idiot.
Without further ado, the parents leave, and the children are immediately confronted by a wolf. What a nice place indeed!
The wolf slithered out, holding its head low, glaring up at us with wide red eyes, its mouth open hungrily.
The wolf let out a low growl.
Then it slid back behind the cottage wall.
I had no idea a wolf could slither or slide like that, so this must be a crazy HorrorLand specific feature. The Horrors are nothing if not innovative.
For some reason, next the kids encounter a sign that says “NO PINCHING.” This is bananas because earlier in the chapter, Luke was doing a whole lotta pinching in the car. Can you believe this? This was before the personalisation craze. So ahead of the times.
The kids spot a family that looks really upset, establishing they are not the only people in the park. They don’t seem to care, though, and go to find some rides all the while being watched by Horrors. They pass by more signs warning about pinching, which seems like a really strange things for the Horrors to fixate on, but who am I to question their obviously successful methods?
Eventually, the children find the Doom Slide.
In the dim light, I saw two Horrors watching us approach. They stood in front of the sliding boards. Their bulging yellow eyes lit up as we hurried over to them.
“Do you slide all the way down?” Luke asked one of them.
The Horror nodded.
“Do you go really fast?” Clay asked, lingering a few feet behind us.
The Horror nodded again. “It’s a long way down,” he rumbled.
“Be careful which slide you pick,” the other Horror warned. “Don’t pick the Doom Slide.” He gestured to the number painted in black in front of each slide.
“Yes. Don’t pick the Doom Slide,” his partner repeated. “You’ll slide down forever and ever.”
Wow, they are really giving away the game here!
There are apparently a fuck ton of slides to choose from (at least ten confirmed!). I am seriously questioning what the goal is here! If the Horrors want the kids to pick the Doom Slide, why specifically warn them away from it? Is it reverse-psychology that usually has a high success rate? If they don’t want the kids to pick it, why have it in the first place?
Luke and Lizzie are fine, but Clay doesn’t emerge from his slide! DID HE CHOOSE THE DOOM SLIDE??
“He didn’t come out the back,” I told the Horror, “and he didn’t come out the front. So what happened to him?”
The Horror was silent for a long moment. Then she said in a low voice just above a whisper, “Maybe your friend chose the Doom Slide.”
She sound kind of sad about this! If I remember correctly, I actually think the Horrors are people that were trapped at the park and get turned into monsters or something (sorry, spoilers), but this only raises more questions for me about who the fuck is running this place!