Revenge of the Living Dummy

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Revenge of the Living Dummy
Revenge of the Living Dummy.jpg
Book information
Number 1 (HorrorLand)
Released: April 1, 2008
Blog date: June 5, 2012 (~12 years ago.)
Preceded by: More Tales to Give You Goosebumps (blog entry)
Series 2000 retrospective
Followed by: Creep from the Deep (chronologically)

The long-awaited first HorrorLand book! Stine finally enters the 2000's with his cultural references!... but just barely!

Transcript[edit | edit source]

So, as you may have heard, there's another Goosebumps series out there. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. Haha, just like the Godfather Part III, it's a reference! But we mustn't dwell. No, not today. We can't. Not on Blogger Beware Update Day! All HorrorLand books are bisected, with a main storyline running around ninety pages and a second shorter storyline featuring the same characters in a concurrent and continuing storyline involving the world's least-likely theme park this side of Emily's Reasons Why NotLand,[1] HorrorLand. For someone who tries to forget these books as quickly as possible, often during reading, the idea of having to keep up with continuity is the first scary impulse borne of the series.


Let's start with the obvious problem: If the female victims of Slappy's tape loop-esque torments change from book to book, who specifically is he getting revenge on?

RL Stine starts things out in medias grave with gal pals Britney and Molly fending off wild raccoons whilst digging up a plot in a cemetery. Oh Stine, you've been away for a decade, but your perceptive insight into the normal activities of preteens has remained intact. After introducing this ringtailed excitement, Britney drops a To Be Coontinued on us and takes the reader back two weeks to explain how the pair ended up in their graveyard predicament. The book then starts proper with the only thing more exciting than swarming raccoons in a graveyard: Anything.

Alleged dramatic conflict occurs with the revelation that Britney's been bumped up to the sewing room in order to make room for her visiting cousin, Ethan. In the process of exaggerating how lame Ethan is, Britney reveals her and Molly's love of lists. RL Stine: Closet Dave Eggers fan? Or, Dave Eggers: Closet RL Stine Fan?[2]

What is the What.jpg

It's clear we're in Next Generation territory when Britney starts talking on her cell phone and doesn't describe it as being a Zack Morris style device[3] the size of a five pound block of cheese. However, what teen uses their phone as a phone? Swing and a miss, Stine. Britney is whining about the Ethanding living situation[4] to Molly and like a good friend she pretends to care. Britney and Molly are totes LYLAS to the point that everyone thinks they're literally S's, so it's a familial duty.[5]

Unfortunately, despite how much family matters, their phone call is cut short by Britney's clumsy mom dropping something in the background and loudly opining, "Did I do that?"[6] Britney tries to help her mom clean up but she just pinches her cheeks and reminders her daughter to be nice to Ethan, since his parents are pretty much abandoning him. Britney's mom is described as wearing "tight designer jeans," which goes a long way towards distancing this from the faux-Kitchen Sink realism[7] direction all the dour bad family details were heading (Molly's parents have split as well). Britney has had too many run-ins with Ethan to be optimistic, especially since the last time he visited he erased her term paper. In Ethan's defense, how could he delete something that's never ever existed (a twelve-year-old's term paper)?

Right on cue, Ethan shows up with everyone's* favorite dummy, Slappy, or as Ethan calls him, Mr. Badboy. Mr. Badboy.

Mr. Badboy.

Ethan tries to get the doll to perform, but all it can utter are guttural grunts, affirmations, and its name followed by the year.[4] J/K, of course Slappy just smacks Britney in the head. Britney tries to escape Ethan's rough grasp of ventriloquy by fleeing to Molly's house, but her Mollytime is popped by her mother's insistence that Ethan come with.

In a rather convenient turn, Molly's dad "Wild Man" Molloy is revealed to be a globetrotting explorer who has a private doll museum in his attic. What, there was no room in his unmarked, windowless van? Wild Man stops Ethan and slowly fondles Slappy under his doll garments while uttering the word "interesting" no less than four times. In a scene right out of the Peter Finch storyline of Sunday Bloody Sunday,[8] Slappy looks all too familiar to Wild Man, who quickly changes the subject and invites all of the kids up to the attic for more highly questionable adult behavior.

Wild Man shows off his assorted weirdities to the kids, strange remnants of cultures long since gone: shrunken heads, animal skulls, XFL pennants,[9] Zumba pants,[10] Dunk-a-roos,[11] &c. The aforementioned shrunken head is attached to a foot-long wooden body and Wild Man introduces the glass-encased doll as "The Mind Stealer," a forbidden object that promises doom to anyone who touches it. Abstinence-only sex ed has finally found its mascot! Britney is terrified of the mind-stealing doll, but Wild Man assures her that it's safe behind "triple-thick glass." Britney then accidentally hits her head on the case, hears a buzzing in her ears and screams out:

"Oh no! My mind!"

But hold the phone Frank Black,[12] you're holding a phone and the buzz is a text message indicator. It's a rare non-sext warning her that dinner will be ready soon. At least, I think that's not sextual...

Back at home, Ethan puts on a "comedy" act involving Mr. Badboy that could very possibly be lifted verbatim from an earlier Slappy incarnation with only a few updated quips like "You don't look like Mischa Barton, you look like Mischa Fartin'," which sadly still proves the act to be a couple years behind the curve.

Britney attempts to finish taking her belongings out of her room but Ethan stops her when she tries to remove the poster for her favorite band, Skullboy. See, Skullboy is Mr. Badboy's favorite band and he'll be upset if it goes. If Britney having the hots for Skullboy member Buzzy doesn't sound like a keen insight into the current preteen mindset, then maybe this revelation of Molly's hobbies will assuage all fears:

She dreams up scenes on imaginary planets and paints them. Then she downloads photos of movie and music stars off the Internet. And she prints them out and adds them to her paintings.

I think Stine has once again mistaken a twelve-year-old girl with Robert Pollard.[13] Add the subsequent revelation that the girls love to post on the online site FacePlace and you've got a book with its finger on the schmulse of youth. To the surprise of no one, Britney's Skullboy poster is subsequently torn up, presumably by Mr. Badboy. Ethan should have named the doll Mr. Manners and it'd have only made sure the poster was hanging level. Britney tries to get her parents to believe that it was the evil doll's doing, but they don't believe her. In a new twist, however, Mr. Badboy pushes Britney down the stairs and tells her, I kid you not,

"Don't ever snitch on me again!"

Great, Stine's overcompensated in the opposite direction and started writing urban fiction.[14] Kinda gives a new dimension to the antagonist being called a dummy, though.

A few days later, Molly calls Britney in the middle of the night and insists that she come over to help her bury the Mind Stealer doll because a strange doll expert phoned her and told her it was unsafe to keep it anywhere but a graveyard. I've missed being able to write sentences like that, I hope you've missed reading them.

The girls successfully bury the doll and face the raccoons and blah blah blah, time passes and Britney gives a painting lesson to a group of shut-ins at an old folks home. They heckle her. It's great. Then Ethan presents his Mr. Badboy show for the elderly and no points awarded for figuring out what happens next: Mr. Badboy tells a series of mean-spirited jokes aimed at upsetting the geriatrics (Sample bit: "Q: What's the biggest difference between Cocoon and Cocoon 2: the Return?[15] A: YOU'RE GOING TO DIE SOON") before the doll starts chucking paint at the hobbled elders. Haha, take that, age!

After the show, Britney calls Molly and begs for her Dad's number, but she's seen Crazy. Stupid. Love.[16] and besides, Wild Man's away on business near Australia. Desperate to have Molly believe her, Britney sneaks over and the two take a look in Wild Man's private ventriloquism files. He has ventriloquy files. Of course he does. Inside the large file is a picture of Slappy, revealing his true name and origins and the six secret words to both wake him up and put him to sleep. Britney corners the inanimate object and says the secret words, only to find a remote controlling Mr. Badboy's speech and movements. Realizing that Ethan was pranking her the whole time, Britney gets furious and promises revenge. But the good news is that her uttering of the secret words did bring Slappy to life, so at least she followed-through on the promise of the premise. Almost a happy ending when you think about it.

Slappy overheard Britney talking about the Mind Stealer doll and decides an object that would vacate the minds of any chosen subject would be ideal in creating better and more pliant slaves. So, the Slappy series takes one step further into just being misogynist fantasy pornography, neat. When Britney refuses to help, Slappy decides he'll just do it himself and walks to the cemetery. Somehow the dummy knows where to dig-- hey, with dolls I expect ELM not ESP, amirite? And how about long it takes women drivers to get ready in the bathroom,[17] amirite fellas? Just as Slappy's about to uncover the doll from its triple-glassed container, Britney lunges at the dummy and hurls it into the glass case. Slappy breaks through all three layers and knocks noggins with the Mind Stealer doll, which, true to form, steals Slappy's mind. It's a reliable evil object, I'll give it that.

But the Twist Is
Britney hears the buried doll crying out with Slappy's words as she exits the graveyard, the grievous call a little reminder to us all whose sadness wasn't so small.[18]

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship
Seems like someone still hasn't learned to just LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE[19] as she is constantly harangued by her cousin Ethan, whose parents disappear halfway through the book's set-up.

Questionable Parenting
Molly's full name is Molly Molloy-- no wonder her parents got divorced, at least one of them was responsible for that decision.

RL Stine Shows He Is Down With the Kids
Ethan tops-off a brill bit of ventriloquy by aggressively tap dancing at Britney in a moment of realism that makes West Side Story[20] look like the Wire.[21]

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending
Ch. 2 / 3:
What is that horrifying sound!? It's… a plate.

Blogger Beware Alert
Mrs. Berman glared at him. "Your jokes are not acceptable!"

Don Martin[22] Alert
The dummy's wooden hand swung up fast-- then came down hard. And-- CLONNNNK-- slammed me in the forehead.

Great Prose Alert
I pressed my hands against my throbbing temples, trying to push the pain away.



This section is prefaced by a "typed" invitation to HorrorLand, and no expense was incurred to recreate the experience for the reader, as the invite is laid out in one of those free "Lyke Totally Old Typewriter" fonts that comes preloaded to every word processor. The "Guest Relations" worker who sent the invite to Britney and Molly is named "Di Kwickley." It's pretty subtle, but if you say the name out loud it sounds like "My Dixie Wrecked."[23]

Britney and Molly are excited about going to visit HorrorLand: Wait, who are Britney and Molly again? Dammit, I knew having to keep track of all this continuity would be difficult. They should take a page from Fringe and just have the same actors playing different characters every week with absolutely no continuous storyline.[24] To be fair, Molly does briefly question how HorrorLand knew to invite her along with Britney's family, but Britney's dad insists it's normal for theme parks to know a lot about people. And he's right, of course. Like that time Epcot sent me flowers after my root canal, or when Busch Gardens called to wish me a happy half-birthday, or how Five Flags changed their name after consulting my favorite numbers. Dad also praises the buzzards flying over the packed parking lot:

Dad laughed. "They're probably animated robots or something. Very clever."

Well, comparatively. Upon entering the park, the Horror working the ticket booth pretends to eat the girls' invitation. See? The Horror can't admit the family until he makes every member scream so they can log it for identification purposes, which he achieves by burning their luggage with a flamethrower. Still less invasive than any TSA policy.[25] Another Horror pulls up in themed cab and drives the family at quick speed through HorrorLand. They pass many, many badly punned attractions (Vampire State Building, Dancing With the Squids,[26] Gossip Ghoul,[27] &c). The hack mows through a group of Boy Scouts, once more revealing Stine's deep-set social liberalism. The cab driver crashes the taxi and everyone gets out to wander the grounds while looking for their on-site hotel. Britney and Molly check out a mask shop that ominously features masks of their faces! Although creepy, I think the bigger shock for the girls is the realization that so much expense went into producing masks with so little potential for mass popularity. The girls have some graphs and charts representing their mask marketplace studies to present to the Horrors, but to their terror there's no spooky-themed board room.

The family eventually finds the hotel, which of course is called the Stagger Inn. Oh my sides ache! From resting the book on my hips and punching it repeatedly. While waiting for their rooms, a renegade Horror whispers to the family, "Molly Britney Dad Mom, you in danger girl girl boy girl." The helpful Horror begs them to escape while they still can and find the "other park." Ominous Foreshadowing Alert!

The hotel's guide (Even in the current economy there is apparently no shortage of jobs available for hideous monsters), Druella, is dressed like an emaciated waif with 5000+ Tumblr notes,[28] her purple tights and a green skirt complementing her long blonde hair. And horns. She leads Britney's parents to their room on the second floor, then takes the girls up to their private suite on the thirteenth floor, which, in keeping with the spooky titles for everything at the park, has been renamed the 666th Floor. The girls are delighted to see a pretty normal and decked-out room, with a flat-screen TV, plenty of clothes in their size, and, in one of the book's rare puns, free "shock-a-lot bars." The girls are so excited to tell Britney's parents about their swag that it's a drag when the Horror working the counter informs the pair that the 'rents checked out. All that's left in Britney's parents' room is a digital camera with a picture of Slappy on it. At least, let's hope that's what that is.

Oh yeah, good work book, I definitely care enough about that thing that just happened to read more things like it.

The book closes with a "Fear File," a dopey collection of still more puns, this time in the guise of actual items like menus from HorrorLand cafes (which serve "Mice Crispies" and "Yucky Charms"-- is the fearsome part someone ordering cereal at a restaurant?) and a hand-drawn map of the Stagger Inn that looks like rejected Eric Chase Anderson[29] art. These pages feature pictures of paper clips in the corner so you know they're like totally life-like. The book concludes with an invitation to spend time at I don't know, an online site devoted to Goosebumps-- how popular could that be?[30]

*For the purposes of this entry, "Everyone" is played by the Scholastic Publishing Marketing Department

Comments[edit | edit source]

An annotated list of blog comments that received official replies can be found here.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Emily's Reasons Why Not was an ABC sitcom that got cancelled after a single episode in 2006. It involved a self-help author trying to find romance, and setting up a system where she can only break up with a guy if she can list five reasons why.
  2. The cover below is What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers. Here's some theories on why Troy references him:
    • Eggers loves using irony. Talking about being cool while geeking about lists could be seen as ironic.
      • However, What is the What is described as one of Eggers's least ironic works. Is this just a poor example? Is Troy being ironic? Maybe Troy is referencing his "What." running joke.
    • Maybe Eggers likes using lists. (Citation needed.)
  3. Zack Morris was the main character of 90's sitcom Saved by the Bell, who carried an old-fashioned 80's cell phone. Someone made an entire blog devoted to that phone.
  5. "LYLAS" stands for "Love You Like A Sister".
  6. This refers to Steve Urkel, the breakout star of Family Matters, whose catchphrase was a nasal "Did I do that?"
  7. This is a genre of story usually grounded in reality, concerned with the domestic troubles of working-class people (originally Britons).
  8. This film has Peter Finch playing a Jewish doctor in love with a bisexual man who's also dating a female recruitment consultant - both are aware of the situation. Troy is likely referencing a scene where Finch's character encounters an ex-lover in public, and the two awkwardly pretend not to know each other.
  9. The XFL was a football league that ran for a single season in 2001.
  10. Zumba is a dance program also founded in 2001, though it's still around today.
  11. A snack cake manufactured by Betty Crocker, featuring cookies and icing; the intent was to dip the former in the latter. They were popular in the 90's, but have since been discontinued in the US.
  12. Black Francis was the stage name for the frontman of the Pixies. After they broke up in 1993, he pursued a solo career under the name "Frank Black". While he was still with the band, they produced the song "Where Is My Mind?" in 1988, hence the reference.
  13. The founder of the indie rock group Guided by Voices, whose work is kind of... out there.
  14. A much darker kind of realistic fiction, often taking place in grimy neighborhoods. It became more prominent in the 90's as the market expanded.
  15. Both of these were 80's science fiction films about aliens coming to Earth and hiding themselves in cocoons.
  16. This 2011 film had a fairly complicated love plot: for most of the film, a girl named Hannah hooks up with a womanizer named Jacob. Late in the film, it's revealed that she was actually the first daughter of another main character, the middle-aged man Cal. This might be Troy misremembering the twist, but whatever.
  17. This is a mixture of various tired, vaguely misogynistic standup comedy topics - women driving badly, taking a while to get ready, and possibly how long it takes them to use the restroom.
  18. These are lyrics to "The Lonely Doll" by Cass McCombs.
  19. The vlogger Chris Crocker became famous in 2007 when he posted a video where he tearfully demanded that people stop harassing Britney Spears, most famously shouting "LEAVE BRITNEY ALOOOONE!"
  20. A famous musical concerning two lovers from opposing street gangs - the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, and the Jets, who are all caucasians.
  21. A crime drama that ran from 2002 to 2008 on HBO. It got some flak for being unrealistic.
  22. A famous artist for MAD Magazine, known for using inventive sound effects. (He owned a vanity license plate reading "SHTOINK", for one.)
  23. An easy joke amongst the less mature of us: when said out loud, it sounds like "My dick's erect."
  24. A bait-and-switch - Fringe is a science-fiction series (akin to The X-Files) that, while still relying on "mystery of the week" plots, only grew beloved after it became heavily serialized, exactly the opposite of what is suggested here.
  25. For non-American readers, the Transportation Security Administration is a section of the US government dedicated to helping travellers stay safe - they've become infamous in recent years for being excessively strict and violating.
  26. A "pun" (if you can call it that) on the dance competition show Dancing with the Stars.
  27. A pun on the CW teen drama Gossip Girl.
  28. The microblogging site Tumblr has become rather infamous for housing pro-anorexic views, though this has died down in recent times.
  29. An illustrator whose artwork tends to be a little loose.
  30. In case it wasn't obvious, Troy is poking fun at the unexpected popularity of his blog.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

As the adage holds, good things don't last forever. And so it goes, this would be the final review posted to Blogger Beware. Based on Troy's comments, it'll likely remain the final review indefinitely. However, it's only natural to R-E-T-R-O-S-P-E-C-T every so often. Yes, even for silly little blogs about kids' books.

When discussing the scope of Blogger Beware, it's necessary to establish timeframes. Goosebumps began in 1992, and Blogger Beware began in 2006, a difference of 13 ½ years... The difference between 2006 and 2024 is 18 years. Excluding two ephemeral posts, Blogger Beware was only active from 2006-2012, but Troy Steele reviewed and lampooned almost 100 books over the course of those 6 years, 4 months, and 17 days. Furthermore, when he created the blog, Mr. Steele was really the only person online describing the Goosebumps books in depth and genuinely inspecting their literary merits.

♪♬ HorrorLand was a cash cow. ♬♪
♪♬ The comments section drew a crowd. ♬♪
♪♬ Juno was still IN THEATERS NOW! ♬♪
♪♬ Those were the days. ♬♪

In many ways, the blog is a time-capsule of a different era. One post from 2006 contains a joke about the United States housing bubble. Another post from 2011 sees Troy poking fun at that cartoony television host Donald Trump... So sure, there will be things that age poorly. The world changes.

Over the years, internet content has evolved, and the Golden Age of Blogging has passed. Links are swallowed up by rot and memories are swallowed up by time. Yet, there's nothing wrong with looking back and praising the quaint corners of the internet that shined above the rest, celebrating the cleverness and enthusiasm that fueled the internet's Wild West phase. Hence this wiki, which tries to document and provide context for every entry and image from Bloggie B. With any luck, they shall not grow mold.