Friday, August 8, 2008

Enter Horrorland

A movie came out in the 1970's called "Magic." I never saw it. I never want to. The creepy commercials featuring a scary ventriloquist's dummy were more than enough for me, thank you very much. In fact, those commercials alone made me really weirded out by the idea of toys, puppets, and playthings coming to life. Obviously, I'm no fan of "Gremlins" or Chuckie. So, it was hard for me several months ago to go along with my nine year old son's purchase of Revenge of the Living Dummy, the first in R.L.Stine's new Goosebumps Horrorland series. The cover depicts a red-eyed demonic looking ventriloquist's dummy beckoning the viewer into a haunted amusement park. When Aaron was reading it back in the spring and would leave it lying around the house, I would flip it over to avoid looking at the illustration. The blurb on the back cover isn't much better: "STARE INTO THE WOODEN FACE OF FEAR!" Interestingly, these books don't scare my son or my eight year old daughter. They haven't inspired any nightmares or phobias (in my kids at least).
Am I a bad mother for allowing my son to read a series of books that a generally brave adult (me) can't face? Well, if I am a bad mother, at least I'm not alone in it. R.L.Stine has cranked out dozens of his horror fiction books for children since the 1990's. They've been selling like scary hotcakes ever since. The Goosebumps series also spawned board games, a television series, and websites (the latest is The books combine science fiction and horror, often with "Twilight Zone" like twist endings. They often make references to those genres of literature and film, especially in the titles. For example, The Night of the Living Dummy puts one in mind of The Night of the Living Dead. The antagonist of that book, Slappy the Dummy, comes back for R.L.Stine's current Horrorland series. Horrorland is a theme park Stine describes as "the scariest place on Earth." Why a reader would want to go there, I cannot fathom, but my son does. Today he bought the fourth book in the series, The Scream of the Haunted Mask. Luckily, possessed masks don't creep me out quite as much as possessed dummies do.

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