Series: Goosebumps #2
Published by Scholastic
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Dr. Brewer is doing a little plant-testing in his basement. Nothing to worry about. Harmless, he says. But Margaret and Casey Brewer are worried about their father. Especially when they... meet... some of the plants he is growing down there. Then they notice that their father is developing plant like tendencies.
The nostalgia fest continues… And sadly this one was a chore to read.
Stay out of the Basement is the the second of the originally published series and it’s honestly, really rather weak.
Early 90’s suburban California, could you pick a better setting for a tale of terror? Suburbia remains one of the single most terrifying places for me personally after dark, the streets are just a little too wide, the light just a little bit too artificial. But for our two protagonists, Margaret and Casey, they don’t care, they just want to play Frisbee (omg could this be any more 90’s if it tried?) with their dad Dr Brewer. But Dr Brewer is a botanist, again I love that Stine writes about subjects most authors wouldn’t touch for this age range, who has recently been laid off from the institution that he works at.
It’s never explicitly identified why he was laid off exactly, but it’s hinted that he was working on something radical and possibly dangerous. He continues his experiments in the basement of the house and Margaret and Casey get more and more concerned when he becomes more and more reclusive. Heaven forbid he should try and get his job back I guess? But then things get funky when the kids break into the basement and find, for all intents and purposes, a jungle. There are a myriad strange plants, and some of them seem to be breathing and moving. One of them even attacks Casey, and at this point I was reminded of a whole heap of early sci-fi tropes. I was reminded of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Pod People, but mostly The Day of The Triffids.
These are all classics for a reason, but somehow when you take inspiration from them, which I think R.L Stine did here, and water it down for children something goes amiss. The plant creatures prove to be an almost perfect clone of the human counterparts, aside from the leaves that sprout from the tops of their heads, the green blood, and an insatiable craving to munch on fertiliser… There’s a joke in there about a s**t eating grin but I don’t know if this is the place for it…
*Archer looks toward his captors. Taneika smiles and waves, all bouncy happiness and nice things, but Nemo narrows her eyes and Archer know’s he’d do better than be as vulgar as he usually is*
Gulp… anyway… If I can pick up these vibes then any sci-fi fan will. Even kids who are fans of the genre invariably know the notes of these classics, they have been done to death since the 60’s when they entered the mainstream. The whole story felt derivative of this with elements of Frankenstein. It’s not bad, the writing remains as strong as it did in the opener to the series. But the story didn’t flow as smoothly, it seemed somewhat disjointed.
The characters were perfectly likeable and the setting was as innocuous as can be but then again, in a tale of terror that has become cliché. And the twist was obvious, it wasn’t a surprise the same way as the previous. It just felt forced. I know that not all of the tales in the series are going to be good, in fact some of them may not even live up to my memories of them, but this was always one of the weaker entries in my opinion.
And one final thought, when you were a kid looking for the monster under your bed… What were you going to do if you found it?
Sleep well kiddies.
Happy Reading everyone.