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Goosebumps: The Blob That Ate Everyone DVD Review

Goosebumps: The Blob That Ate Everyone DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Goosebumps: The Blob That Ate Everyone
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Randy Bradshaw, William Fruet, David Warry-Smith / Writers: Charles Lazer, Michael Short; R.L. Stine (books) / Producers: Deborah Forte, Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater, Steve Levitan, Patrick Doyle

Cast: Scott Pietrangelo (Zack Beauchamp), Gabrielle Boni (Alex), Bradie Whetham (Adam), Marium Carvell (Mrs. Carter), Robin McCulloch (Dad), George King (Security Guard), Jason Hopley (Blob Monster) / Ben Cook (Jerry Hawkins), Barclay Hope (Mr. Hawkins), Carolyn Scott (Mrs. Hawkins), Aaron Tager (Dr. Shreek), Geza Kovacs (Mr. Toggle), Brenda Devine (The Ghost), Erica Luttrell (Kim) / Aaron Bartkiw (Larry Boyd), Courtney Greig (Lily Turnbull), Ric Reid (Mr. Boyd), Alison Hope (Mrs. Boyd), Chris Bondy (Mr. Turnbull), Suzanne Cyr (Mrs. Turnbull), Dan McDonald (Dr. Murkin), Joshua Wittig (Jared), Mauricio Rodas (Manny), David Talbot (Man in Closet), Demo Cates (Carl Summers)

Running Time: 65 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Surround (English), Dolby Stereo (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 7, 2010 / Episodes Originally Aired December 1995 - July 1997
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

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Goosebumps is one of those things that can make children of the 1990s nostalgic. Introduced in 1992, R.L. Stine's series of children's horror books made a huge splash in the literary world. For three consecutive years, Stine was America's best-selling author.
He cracked Forbes Magazine's list of the 40 highest-paid entertainers in 1996-97 with estimated annual earnings of $41 million.

Alas, like Tamagotchis and pogs, Stine's success didn't extend into the 21st century. By 2000, Stine's spin-off lines Give Yourself Goosebumps and Goosebumps Series 2000 had run their course. In 2008, Stine debuted Goosebumps Horrorland, which continues to this day, with a 17th book published this month and an 18th due in November. But '90s kids have grown up and most are still too young to have kids of their own reading the series, so Stine would appear to be off most of his original fanbase's radars.

That young adult demographic is the one most likely to remember the "Goosebumps" television series that aired Saturday mornings as part of the Fox Kids block from 1995 to 1998. Like Nickelodeon's "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" a few years before it, "Goosebumps" was an anthology series designed to intrigue and frighten children. Most of the 74 episodes were adapted from Stine's books.

The signature Goosebumps series title logo drips down in 1990s bright green. If the Goosebumps TV series opening title sequence is to be believed, R.L. Stine is a creepy litterer.

Displaying a respect that most studios don't carry for '90s kids' television, producer and distributor 20th Century Fox began treating "Goosebumps" to DVDs back in 2004. Though they could have gotten the whole series out there in four complete season sets, Fox instead took the random episode approach commonly employed on shows whose fans might be reluctant to shell out $20 for a 20-episode collection (but would somehow have fewer qualms spending $10 on a disc of two episodes). By this route, the studio is still gradually getting to episodes unreleased on DVD. Earlier this month, we saw two new "Goosebumps" DVDs issued, the first in a whole year. Like their immediate predecessors, these discs each bore three episodes, taking their title from one of them.

This review covers The Blob That Ate Everyone, which I would imagine is quite comparable to any other 3-episode compilation of this Canadian TV series. In each installment, we find a boy (and to a lesser degree, his female friend) threatened by a mysterious disturbance. The kids wear their layers of flannel and denim. The adults are almost all creepy.
And the acting and visual effects are of the modest variety. I don't know that any big name actors emerged from this series, although I did spot Steve Levitan credited as producer. I recognize his name, having recently reviewed the Emmy-winning comedy "Modern Family", which a Steven Levitan created with Christopher Lloyd (no, not the Back to the Future actor). According to IMDb, it's not the same guy, although at least some of the Levitan's credits are divided among the site's three separate Levitan listings, so I'm not convinced. In any event, I don't think this is something that his involvement as producer would inspire you to check out.

What would inspire you to check out "Goosebumps"? Probably fond memories. The DVD is marketed for kids, bearing the Scholastic name that young readers know well. I'm not sure the show will enthrall them with its distinctly mid-'90s sensibilities. For that matter, it won't necessarily hold up well for those who recall watching and enjoying it. If there's a certain episode that's emblazoned in your mind, you definitely ought to try to track it down and revisit it. Otherwise, the happy memory may be better than the cheap, crude show itself. That's not to say it isn't entertaining, just that it wasn't made or meant for grown-ups or for kids in 2010 and that is evident.

The truth is out there, but the blob that ate everyone is inside this video store. Piano teacher Dr. Shreek (Aron Tager) is what's known as a hand man and there's nothing weird about that.

1. (2.23) The Blob That Ate Everyone (21:45) (Originally aired July 19, 1997)
Aspiring scary story writer Zack acquires a typewriter from a storm-damaged shop and soon discovers that everything he types on it comes true. Rather than typing himself fame, fortune, or even gumball rain, he makes trouble by writing about a hungry video store-terrorizing blob.

2. (1.08) Piano Lessons Can Be Murder (21:54) (Originally aired December 8, 1995)
Loner boy Jerry moves to a new town, where he finds a piano that can apparently play itself (with help from a ghost). His concerned parents sign him up for piano lessons at The Shreek School, whose name is less troubling than its hand fetishist staff.

3. (1.11) My Hairiest Adventure (21:20) (Originally aired January 19, 1996)
Allergic dog hater Larry can't seem to get away from bothersome dogs, but he's got an even bigger problems when he starts growing hair in new places, like his legs, forearms, and backs of hands. And it's not a side effect of that long-expired tanning lotion he and his band used.

Ah, look at him there with his hairy hands! The briefly-seen blob and his tongue dominate this DVD's title and artwork, down to this Episode Selection menu.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture and sound quality are about as good as can be expected of frugal mid-'90s Saturday morning television, which is a far cry from most of today's programming (but a lot more pleasing than garish Disney Channel sitcoms circa 2005). The video remains clean, but it's not too sharp or detailed. That may prevent the few special effects from looking even more hokey than they do. The Dolby Surround soundtrack is also basic, but fine.
In a pleasant surprise, a Spanish stereo dub is provided along with English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The disc opens with a promo for the Goosebumps Horrorland video game and that is the extent of its bonus features. But no "Goosebumps" DVD has ever had a bonus feature, so that's nothing new.

The main menu zooms in on and mildly updates the cover art. After the theme song (sans opening narration) plays through, playback begins.

Rather than the commonplace slipcover, The Blob That Ate Everyone opts for a single sheet cardboard reproduction of the front cover affixed to the shrinkwrap with adhesive. Once the package is opened, any conceivable function the sheet is gone and it doesn't even fit inside the black Eco-Box keepcase.

Zack (Scott Pietrangelo) and Alex (Gabrielle Boni) are disturbed by a knock at the door, caused by him typing about a knock at the door. What's better than a boy playing piano with a colander on his head? A boy playing piano with a colander on his head and a ghost lurking over his shoulder.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As a fan of most '90s things, a DVD like Goosebumps: The Blob That Ate Everyone should be right up my alley. And to some degree it is, for I enjoyed experiencing a series I never paid much attention to in print or television (I was more of an "Eerie Indiana" guy). But I can't really recommend it for anything more than some nostalgic twentysomething laughs. Perhaps a young reader getting into Stine's books might find it involving, but I suspect it's too flaky, dated, and crude for most youths to enjoy. And, as is true of any TV series released in small random compilations, the method favors the studio much more than the customer, who would have to be pretty crazy for "Goosebumps" to try collecting these discs, even at their semi-reasonable prices.

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Reviewed September 25, 2010.



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