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Mick and Nikky review Goosebumps, Plot-Twists, and Zombie eating grandma’s cookies! All this and more on the next Byte Sized Horror!

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

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Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

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We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

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All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

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More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

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It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Sound

Dolores Roach, The Greatest Threat to Our Survival

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We have reached the last episode of the podcast, Dolores Roach. No, this really is the end. There are no more episodes unless they’re hidden away on some Patreon page I don’t have access to.

The reason I’m being clear upfront about this is because, after you listen to this episode, the fact that there are no more episodes is going to be both confusing and infuriating.

The story

This episode begins with Dolores in a tunnel, being chased down by a train. She barely manages to escape, jumping onto a subway platform and then boarding the train that almost hit her.

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Dolores is in a state of panic. She just escaped the tunnels. She just saw Mother Cleats killed. Now, she’s on a subway train, surrounded by people she doesn’t know. And she is a mess. She hasn’t showered since going down in the tunnel, after all. She probably doesn’t smell great.

Dolores rides the train to Coney Island and gets off. She walks to the ocean and gets in the water to wash herself. And when she comes out, she’s recognized by an old friend, Georgie.

And it is then that we realize that it’s been Georgie she’s been telling this whole story to.

Seeing the state Dolores is in, Georgie insists that she come home with her. She gets Dolores some clothes and something to eat and makes her tell her everything that happened down in the tunnels.

And then, Georgie’s son comes home. A seventeen-year-old son who looks exactly like Dominic.

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That’s where the story ends.

What worked

I had a hard time finding much to like about this finale. If it hadn’t been the last episode it would have been great, but it was.

However, I did like the shift in perspective that takes place when it’s revealed that Dolores has been telling this whole story to Georgie this season. Because of course, up until now, it’s felt like she was talking to us and only us.

What didn’t work

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This episode had a lot of problems. For one thing, I didn’t trust Georgie from the start. And that distrust just got worse the more we saw of her. She’s a true crime writer who just happens to find Dolores when she comes out of the tunnels after two months. No, Dolores isn’t buying it and neither am I. And inviting a woman you have reason to believe is dangerous into your home is stupid. No one in their right mind would have done that. No parent would have allowed Dolores within the same block as their child. The whole thing was unbelievable.

But that complaint pales to the largest issue I have for this season finale. For this episode that is, as far as I can tell, a series finale.

I say that because I cannot find another episode listed anywhere. If I were to have just listened to this episode without knowing that, I would have assumed this was just a mid-season twist.

Because that’s what this feels like, a mid-season twist. It answers nothing. It wraps up nothing. It gives us no satisfaction at all. And that is more than frustrating. It is infuriating. It ruins any joy we might have gotten from the rest of the season.

The ending of Dolores Roach was, in short, not an ending. It stopped in the middle of the story, there’s just no way around it. And this episode came out in October of 2019, almost five years ago! I know that podcasts are rather notorious for having long periods between seasons. Mine is no exception, season three of AA will likely not see the light of day until 2025 at the earliest. But after five years I think we can all safely assume that we’re not getting any more episodes. And so Dolores is always going to be in limbo. We are never going to know whether or not Georgie was telling her the truth. We’ll never know what happened to Ginger or Ephraim. We’ll never know what Dolores does, standing in her old friend’s house with what appears to be Dominic’s seventeen-year-old son standing in front of her.

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We will never know, because the show is taking an entirely different turn. And so, I’m afraid I have to add Dolores Roach to the same infamous list as Lime Town or The Black Tapes. This podcast was great until they decided to just not end it.

If you’ve waited this long to see if you should listen to Dolores Roach, here’s my advice. Listen to season one, it had a reliable and satisfying ending. But season two should be left in obscurity where all half-finished stories belong.

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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