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Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant DVD Review

Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant
Show & DVD Details

Directors: William Fruet, John Bell / Writers: Billy Brown, Dan Angel, Bruce Edwards; R.L. Stine (books) / Producers: Deborah Forte, Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater, Steve Levitan, Patrick Doyle

Cast: Dan Warry-Smith (Skipper Mathews), Melissa Bathory (Libby), Maurice Godin (Mr. Mathews), Mag Ruffman (Mrs. Mathews), Adam Shanfield (Wilson), Scott Wickware (The Masked Mutant), Rummy Bishop (Old Man), Bill Lake (Bus Driver), Adam West (The Galloping Gazelle), Jessica Moyes (Brooke Rogers), Shawn Potter (Zeke Mathews), Stuart Stone (Brian Colson), Kathryn Greenwood (Ms. Walker), Julie Annis (Tina Powell), Philip Eddolls (Corey Sklar), Eric Fink (Emile), John Bayliss (Mr. Levy), Boyd Banks (Mr. Johnson)

Running Time: 67 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Stereo (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 13, 2011 / Episodes Originally Aired December 1995 - September 1996
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

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By Aaron Wallace

VH-1 ran a mini-series a while back called "I Love the '90s." I don't remember if they made "Goosebumps" part of it, but they'd have been crazy not to.
The show, and to an even larger extent the books that inspired it, were among the decade's biggest crazes, especially in elementary schools.

Like VH-1, I, too, love the '90s, and don't usually have too hard a time embracing the era's staples. Despite that proclivity, I don't care for "Goosebumps", the TV series. I didn't particularly like it then and, revisiting it as an adult, I especially don't like it now. And if I can't warm to a show from the '90s, something must be terribly wrong.

It's clear that no one involved with "Goosebumps" takes it seriously. My recollection is that the books were no joke to author R.L. Stine. Granted, he wasn't in the business of scarring children for life, but his original Goosebumps novellas were legitimately creepy. That fear factor gets lost in translation to the small screen. Even the book jackets were scarier than the show is.

Skipper (Dan Warry-Smith) can't put down his comic book, though he's probably better off than the kids who keep watching this show! The Mutant here is screaming a lot more than anyone watching the not-so-scary "Goosebumps" will be.

That said, I've been sent both of this fall's newest "Goosebumps" DVDs and it's obvious that some episodes are better than others, even if none are easy to recommend. The three episodes on Attack of Mutant are distinctly more likeable than those found on the Ghost Beach disc (review here).

Deserving the most attention is the eponymous two-parter "Attack of the Mutant." With a longer runtime, a more interesting concept, and better acting than most, the episode stands out as something special relative to the generally unremarkable programming. It is the story of a boy so obsessed with his comic books that he literally becomes a part of them... and can't get out. Unexpected guest stars Adam West (TV's Batman) and Mag Ruffman ("Road to Avonlea") turn up to raise the bar, and West in particular gives the superhero angle just a dash of camp.

The other episode, "Phantom of the Auditorium", feels more like standard "Goosebumps" fare. The source book was always one of my favorites from the series, however, and I still dig its premise, a school-age twist on The Phantom of the Opera.

Holy lowered standards, Batman! That's Adam West as the Galloping Gazelle in a TV show unaccustomed to such legendary cameos. I bet this sneak attack gave Glasses Girl here (Jessica Moyes) goosebumps; you just can't see them under all that awesome plaid.

But while I found more to enjoy on this release than on Ghost Beach, even the better episodes are just too hokey to get a pass. If the show dared to get edgier, or to cast actors at least on par with others in family entertainment, I could probably sign on for some Halloweeny nostalgia, but "Goosebumps" simply falls flat.

Having described the disc's three episodes already, here are their stats:

1. Attack of the Mutant (Part 1) (22:17) (Originally aired September 7, 1996)
2. Attack of the Mutant (Part 2) (22:17) (Originally aired September 7, 1996)
3. Phantom of the Auditorium (22:23) (Originally aired December 1, 1995)

Mag Ruffman, better known as Aunt Olivia to "Avonlea" fans, plays a concerned mother in "Attack of the Mutant." The 16x9 main menu screen for the Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant DVD.

VIDEO and AUDIO

These "Goosebumps" DVDs are aimed at the impulse Halloweentime shopper, not collectors or dedicated fans.
It's maybe not a surprise, then, that the video quality on all three episodes is pretty poor. Soft, grainy, dark, and faded, there's little to praise here, except that the native 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio in unsurprisingly preserved.

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is sufficient and no more than that. The audio is muzzled and bears the sound of compression, but is nevertheless audible.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There aren't any bonus features on the DVD, just a "Goosebumps" preview that plays automatically on startup. The main menu screen is 16x9, but unlike the Ghost Beach menu, it's unaccompanied by music and doesn't vanish quickly.

The disc art replicates the cover art and is housed inside a standard black, eco-friendly keepcase. There are no inserts.

If I was the "Goosebumps" cameraman, I'd probably hide in a trap door too! Skipper's dad is very George McFly here, isn't he?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Three episodes with shoddy picture quality and no bonus features is a tough sell for even the greatest of TV shows. I definitely can't recommend "Goosebumps" in that format. While the two-part "Attack of the Mutant" episode has enough charm to make this a kinder review than I've given the series elsewhere, it's still not enough to make this release worth your while.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed October 2, 2011.



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