Friday, June 23, 2017

Goosebumps: Episode 4 The Girl Who Cried Monster

Wow, an episode of Goosebumps that I an enjoyed unironically. The cheese is still there. The dialogue has to be condensed to fit this story into a 30-minute time-slot, so characters rapidly spout out exposition. However, this episode seems to have been directed by someone with at least a general understanding of atmosphere, who knew how to use close-ups, camera angles, and the occasional jump scare effective.

The episode follows Lucy (Deborah Scorsone), a girl who loves scaring her little brother Randy (Brandon Bone) with monster stories. However, one day she leaves her backpack in the library and discovers that the librarian, Mr. Mortman (Eugene Lipinski), is a monster who turns green and grows sharp teeth and eye stalks when he eats bugs.

When her family reacts exactly as the title of the episode suggests, Lucy decides to prove it, and Mortman catches her attempting to photograph him. The term “monster” here seems quite generic. Apparently being inhuman is assumed to make Mortman evil, and it's taken for granted that he would eat humans in addition to bugs. But, I’m not here to fight for acceptance for beings that don’t exist.

After a few close calls with Mortman, her parents (Lynn Cormack and Dan Lett) invite him over for dinner. Lucy is of course in absolute panic. Mortman makes his intentions known by saying “It’s been so long since I’ve had a home-cooked meal.”

Scorsone and Lipinski, in addition to the direction, give this episode life. Scorsone appears to be a bit older than the protagonists from the first two episodes, and she plays the role more naturally. Nothing special, but a notch up from the usual child actors.

You might also know Lipinski from the Animorphs television series, where he played the role of Visser Three. Here he's much better, with the episode allowing him to play the role in a less serious manner, hamming it up as both a classic book nerd, and an over-the-top farce of a villain.

I wish the episode could have been in two parts. There are a number of scenes, particularly between the leads, when certain lines felt like they were written to have space, but are crammed together. The lines have weight, but they aren't allowed to sink in.

As for the final twist: Lucy's family are all monsters. Lucy and her brother, being to young to transform, were apparently unaware of this. However, both of her parents are reptilian creatures who invited Mortman over with plans to eat him. The final confrontation happens mostly through close-ups, but it works. We get the idea: Mortman dies screaming.

I'm somewhat surprised that this episode isn't better remembered. It might be that the cheesiest episodes were the most memorable, but I honestly think as an adult horror fan this was worth half an hour of my time. And, honestly, I wish I could see Lipinski in more things.

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