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Goosebumps: Ghost Beach DVD Review

Goosebumps: Ghost Beach DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Goosebumps: Ghost Beach
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Steve DiMarco, William Fruet, Rene Bonniere / Writers: Jeffrey Cohen, Charles Lazer; R.L. Stine (books) / Producers: Deborah Forte, Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater, Steve Levitan, Patrick Doyle

Cast: Sheldon Smith (Jerry), Jessica Hogeveen (Terri), Billy Turnbull (Sam), Anna Majewski (Louisa), Jack Jessop (Brad), Dorothy Gordon (Agatha), Hardee T. Lineham (Harrison), Blair Slater (Cooper Holmes), Peter Costigan (Mickey Holmes), Jennifer Martini (Fergie), Rena Polley (Mom), Paul Miller (Dad), Conrad Dunn (Grimm), Sam Malkin (Scratch), Melody Johnson (Samantha), Ellen-Ray Hennessy (Clarissa), Susan Cooke (Judith), Robin Weekes (Cory), Simone Rosenberg (Anna Frost), Catherine Fitch (Coach)

Running Time: 64 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 May 1996 - October 1997
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

Buy Goosebumps: Ghost Beach from Amazon.com

By Aaron Wallace

Don't tell any child of the 1990s that you don't know about Goosebumps. The series, which began in print in 1992 and made its way to television by 1995,
sold hundreds of millions of books and wove one of the thicker threads in the fabric of '90s culture, at least for kids.

Each book found a youthful protagonist facing off against the strange or supernatural, all flowing from the imagination of filthy rich author R.L. Stine. The softcore horror format managed to create a legitimately scary tone, though the dollars in profit gained surely far exceeded the hours of sleep lost. The TV series later adapted the books for half-hour mini-adventures, the latter never impressing me nearly as much as Stine's novellas did.

The original book line ended in 1997, followed by the show in 1998, and yet somehow their popularity persists. While the similar-but-better "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" stays hidden in its eponymous shadows, 20th Century Fox keeps finding a market for new "Goosebumps" DVDs every single year.

The "Goosebumps" title sequence establishes that R.L. Stine's prose is so powerful, it makes briefcases pop open, smiling billboard models frown, and dogs' eyes turn momentarily yellow. Watch out for this guy! Oh no! Samantha gets attacked by cheesy visual effects!

The two latest are Attack of the Mutant and Ghost Beach, the latter of which is the much weaker one and the subject of this review. For the low but not rock-bottom retail price of $14.98, consumers are offered three episodes and not a single frill.

Clunky, poorly acted, and entirely void of atmosphere, "Goosebumps" is an embarrassingly abysmal show. The books might not be as entertaining as I remember them either, but they're surely better than this... and from what I know of the TV series, this particular disc's offerings are some of the worst.

Let's look at the episodes now:

What's scarier than old people? Diagonal old people! Everyone gives Cooper (Blair Slater) such a hard time for being paranoid. I wonder if they'll all be sorry?

1. Ghost Beach (21:56) (Originally aired October 19, 1996)
A brother and sister meet two other kids on the beach. When they mention this encounter to their grandparents, the usually cheery geezers become ominously outraged. Clearly, there's something worrisome about these kids, and if you've read the episode title, I'll bet you can guess what it is.

2. The Barking Ghost (21:25) (Originally aired October 11, 1997)
Cooper's scared to death of the barking dogs outside on Halloween. His family mocks him, but there's real reason to be spooked by these canines. At what point is a title just a spoiler?

3. Be Careful What You Wish For (21:56) (Originally aired May 11, 1996)
In an astoundingly original premise (sarcasm), a young girl is given three wishes but they all go horribly wrong. It reminded me of when I asked if I could review "Goosebumps" and then had to sit through ninety minutes of awfulness. To be fair, this episode is the best of the three. It's also the least "scary." As Clarissa the wish wielder, Ellen-Ray Hennessy is more memorable than anyone else on the disc.

What could be wrong with muddy kids who appear out of nowhere, playing in a graveyard? Don't blink or you'll miss the Goosebumps: Ghost Beach DVD's main menu.


The nicest thing I can say about the picture is that it's presented in its native 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio. Soft, grainy, washed out, and blurry, this certainly isn't the worst shape I've seen '90s television in, but it's clear that Fox hasn't done a thing to spruce it up.
Not that we should expect much for a low-key release like this, but the faded transfer is just one more reason to avoid the DVD.

The packaging labels the audio as "Dolby Surround," which is really just Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. There's nothing remarkable about the track, which sounds slightly muted and compressed, but ultimately does what it needs to do.


There are no bonus features, no real previews, and not much of a menu. There is one very short promo for "Goosebumps" on DVD, which plays when you first put the disc in. The 16x9 selection screen stays up just long enough for one loop of the theme song, then automatically launches into the first episode. The menu recycles the cover art, which also appears on the disc itself. When you're done with it, put it back inside its standard black eco-friendly keepcase or just snap it in half.

Neither bird lady nor witch, Ellen-Ray Hennessy is just some sort of strangely creepy genie in "Be Careful What You Wish For." Shaggy here tripped on the beach, so clearly the sand is haunted.


The idea behind Goosebumps: Ghost Beach is for you to make an impulse buy in the Halloween section of your local Target. Don't succumb. These episodes aren't eerie or festive or even fun. They're downright uncomfortable to sit through and won't do the least to get you in the full-moon-and-pumpkins spirit.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed September 23, 2011.

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