Spongey’s Fright Fest #8: Deadtime Stories

Hello, Spongey here. And Welcome back to Spongey’s Fright Fest!

A while ago, I reviewed an episode of the Bonechillers TV series. In that review, I talked about Goosebumps rip off series. I mean, there were various book series’ in the 90’s that tried what Goosebumps was doing.

Some were good, some were not. One of those series was Deadtime Stories This was a 1996 series that had 17 books, and it was written by Annette Cascone and Gina Cascone writing under the name AG Cascone

I’ve never read any of them, but they seem alright. It was fairly obscure, and not too many people knew about it. But recently, The Haunting Hour has been a huge hit so this year Nickelodeon saw fit to cash in by making a TV show out of this series.

But they actually got the writers of the books to write most of the show’s scripts. So it does go beyond just being a Goosebumps knockoff. So today I’ll discuss the few aired episodes of this series. Maybe when the season is over I’ll do a full blog like I did with haunting hour, but for now, I’ll only discuss the ones that have aired.

This, is Deadtime Stories

Much like Goosebumps, it’s an anthology where kids come across insane stuff. They made an interesting wraparound for the TV show. A kind of goth-ish babysitter is with some kid (the kid changes every episode) and she pulls out a Deadtime story to read to the kid.

That’s right, they show the book that episode is based on, right there. The cover is seen in full view and we even see a page or two and the babysitter reads it right there to start the story. I have to say, this must be pretty faithful if they are willing to do that.

She never gets a name, but she is played by Jennifer Stone so I will just call her Harper. This is a clever wraparound, but how do the stories fair? Well, the preview episode aired a few months ago out of nowhere, and it never aired again, even when Nick started advertising the series proper.

Thankfully, I caught it. It’s called “Grave Secrets” and to be honest, It was a mixed bag. I can’t recall the plot a ton but wikipedia’s breif summary of the book states that this girl, Amanda learns that her old mean neighbor has angered a ghost of a young girl who will not rest until she has her doll returned.

The script itself was well written….but the direction was pretty poor. For one, the pacing sucked. It wasn’t too slow. Just the opposite. It’s TOO fast! It seems like they never gave this story room to breathe. Every line is follow by another line, with no break.

For most of it, it was a bit hard to appropriate the characters or story and stuff like that. But near the end, I started to see this is a really nice script. For one thing, it’s actually kind of dark at points and there’s even a sweet edge.

Let me put it this way: If this was a haunting hour episode, with huge atmosphere and emphasis on everything, and room for the story to breathe…it would be awesome. That’s how good it is.

Yet, it’s ruined thanks to poor direction. It wasn’t painful but they had a great story on their hands and it ended up being rushed. However, they have put in some parts that still felt sweet or spooky. That’s when I knew the script was actually good, and the direction was at falt.

I rarely bash direction or pacing but this was a case where I had to. The fact that the script had potential make it even worse. However, I gave a B at the time as it wasn’t BAD, just disappointing.

Thankfully, the follow up episodes fixed that. Episode 2 is “Invasion of The appleheads”. While on a car trip, Robin and Andy along with their parents pass through a creepy town’s hay ride thingy.

However, their parents vanish during the ride. Suddenly, they learn that an ancient legend about the apple orchird is true, and they must stop an evil witch from turning them into apple headed dolls.

From the title, I thought it would goofy but it mostly wasn’t. Aside from the dolls being called “AppleHeads”, I could take it seriously for the most part. The direction and pacing imrpove so I have no complaints here.

It’s not scary or anything, but it’s mostly just a fun story. It’s sort of simple but the setting makes it unique, and there’s a good sense of urgency going on. This one isn’t attempting to be as complex so the more simple direction works far better here.

The kids are likable and the story moves along well and I was invested. It didn’t hugely impress me that much but I have no real issues here. It’s a pretty solid way to start the series proper.

Episode 3 is “Along Came a spider”. Two boys find a weird, dusty dissection kit in their room. They have fun until they come across a dead spider in there to dissect. Only this is an infamously bad spider that kills pretty easily.

But this one seems dead….or not, as it soon reveals itself to be alive. Npw the kids must deal with an evil zombie spider that seems to be getting more and more dangerous…

Episodes 2 and 3 aired on the same night. Infact, they seem to be doing two episodes per night for awhile. There are only 17 books, so I fear they may have to start making stuff up pretty soon.

Anyway, of those 2 episodes, I prefer this one. Oh sure, Appleheads had a more involved story but this caught my interest more. Early on, the spider is supssodly killed when it first pops up but even after they flush it, it returns.

It’s that kind of story, and it really works. We don’t see other characters too often and it’s mostly these kids trying to stop this spider. It’s not too scary but I can see it spooking younger kids thanks to the whole spider thing.

And really, what’s more awesome than a KILLER ZOMBIE SPIDER?! Anyway, I enjoyed this one a lot. It was fun to see them try to stop the spider but it’s not exactly goofy. It can be taken seriously, and I like the simple plot here.

The pacing is pretty good here too and I have no complaints. Though the acting of the kid can be hit or miss. The reason? One of the kids was previously that boy from Bedtime Stories, and also Kip from Escape from planet earth.

Joy. Thankfully, he has improved but he’s still not perfect. Though that doesn’t hurt the episode at all. It’s another good episode with an interesting, simple plot. Also, unlike Appplehads, it has an awesome twist ending.

It’s a lot of fun, and has an interesting story. Now for the two episodes that aired yesterday. . Episode 4 is “The Witching Game”. Lindsay gets an old mirror for her room, and with it, her friends play Blood Mary. They hear some legend about “Blood mary” granting wishes so they try it out, but the wishes go horribly wrong.

In many ways, this could be the best episode so far. Mostly for the story pans out. There’s plenty going on as we learn about this show’s version of the Bloody Mary legend (Wait, Haunting hour had to use a spoof version but this show go to do it for real?). They even mention how many different versions there are.

I won’t spoil the twists or anything. And things get interesting once the wishes start happening, and it becomes that kind of story. They also tie it in to this minor bit from earlier about Lindsay going out the cheerleading squad.

Though that story bit leads to one party that was dumb. See, she tries out along with the alpha bitch goon Lauren. And Lindsay ends up being co-captain with Lauren as the captain.

This tears her apart and she says it’s worse than not getting on the team at all.. She then pretends to be sick so she can go home and sulk. I am not kidding.

…That was really stupid. Thankfully, we bounce back with some fun stuff. Speaking of tha Alpha bitch, she is Nancy. She is played by Piper Reese, who some of you may know from Piper’s picks over on youtube. Needless to say, it’s hilarious to see playing an Alpha-bitch her, and she’s’ quite good at it.

Anyway, they fit in some nice spooky elements, and like I said, the story works pretty well. There’s even a couple bits in the backstory that are kind of…dark. And unlike Grave Secrets, it works out mostly well. Though the climax is well…anti climatic. But they make up for it for a quick twist ending that…makes little sense, but is still cool..

But., like Grave Secrets, the pacing can be a bit too fast and a result, it’s not as scary as it could have been. The acting is hit or miss at times, which can add to the problem. However, good atmosphere does get in and the story is well told enough that I can forgive all that.

It’s a solid episode even if it has some minor flaws. Finally, episode 5 is called “The Beast of Baskerville”. Two kids are in Baskerville cuz this one reclusive kid lives there and no one visits him cuz he lives on a creepy hill. He’s actually having a birthday party to finally get some friends, and our main characters Mom makes them go up there…to deny his invitation, as the kid will be busy that day.

It turns out that reclusive kid’s Mom is a major bitch and won’t lit him outside or have friends, and when she learns from our heroes about the party, she tells them to fuck off. Needless to say, that kid is pissed that mom knows and yada yada.

Sometime later, our heroes tell their friends, and they decided to it would be fun to test their bavery. By camping up on on that Baskerville. See, there’s a legend about the beast of baskerville and when there is a legend, there are dumb kids to test it out.

And when that kid from the start shows up to join in on the fun, weird things start happening, and they think The Beast of baskerville might be real…

This might actually be my favorite so far. It’s not the scariest, but it really entertained me. First oall, that dude’s mom is AWESOME. She’s incredibly over the top and she pretty much steals the show. She’s not too silly that she ruins the tone, and she can even be seen as scarier. But she’s a lot of fun, and it sucks that she only gets two scenes. However, Jimmy, that kid picks up where she left off as his um, angry personalty makes him pretty cool.

Most of it is the kids having a camp out, and going around as the kids start vanishing. It’s that kid of story, but it works. Like The Witching game, some spooky bits get in and it was pretty cool.

It’s mostly kind of simple during the main scenes, and that works pretty well. There’s this Asian friend guy who is a scaredy cat, but he actually gets some funny lines. There’s not much to bitch about pacing or acting wise, aside from a few moments.

Though like The Witching game, it could have been plenty scarier but I think it has it’s moments. Also, Nancy shows up in this episode too, which is awesome. Plus., now we know all these stories take place in the same world.

…But the twist kind of ruins that though I won’t spoil it. Speaking of, the last 5 minutes or so are awesome. The twist about exactly who the beast is well done, and it adds an extra layer to the thing. Same goes for the reason why Jimmy’s mom is so bitchy.

It all works pretty well, and it even takes a comedic turn for a bit. Only here, it really works and it gets really funny. Plus, they actually have a curse so convoluted that they LAMPSHADE it. It’s awesome.

It’s just a lot of fun and the ending twist is really cool. Also, I dig the beast costume. It’s not TOO cheesy, though obviously not too real looking. It’s just a decent costume.

It’s not the most complex or scary episode so far, but it’s entertaining, clever, and funny. My only problem? At one point, this one bad guy is stopped (no spoilers) and she…he…the villain person, gets turned to stone by magic and the villain breaks apart right there.

The effect…is TERRIBLE. Like, wow, is it BAD. I expect weak effect from this type of show, but this is….really bad. The episode is on Nick.com, as are all the ones past Grave Secrets. Watch and see how BAD it truly is.

But that’s my only huge compliant. It works well as a horror story and the comedic tone at the end doesn’t feel forced. The episode worked for how much fun it is. It’s a solid episode, and I can’t wait for me.

Next weeks episodes include “The Terror or tiny town” which is kind of like the Goosebumps episode Chillogy only not. The book it was based on actually had a sequel, so I assume the episode will have one down the line.

By the way, the wraparounds themselves are entertaining It’s weird to see Harper acting very…un harper. Most of the segments so far have been fun and they set up the story well. Though the acting of the kids can range at times, Stone is excellent as the babysitter.

So far, this show is decent. It sadly isn’t all that scary due to the fact that it’s not trying to be as scary. And given the stories, it should be scarier. However, for younger audiences this is a great gateway drug before they can watch the heavier Haunting hour episodes.

The stories so far was decently written, with likable characters and the I certainty never got bored. This is probably the “Fun” version of the haunting that isn’t as scary, but can be just as enjoyable when it wants to be.

The acting sadly isn’t as consistent as Haunting hour, but I can’t call it BAD at all. These 5 episodes all have something that keeps me wanting more in a good way. I’d say most of the episodes are about as good as the “normal” good Goosebumps episodes.

By the way, I saw an interview with Jennifer Stone about DS and she flat out says it’s like Goosebumps and Are you afraid of the dark. So any doubts that the series was one of the goosebumps ripoffs are gone.

Also, during an ad for this show that aired with eps 4 and 5, they say this:

You better beware, when you’re in for the night .you’re in for a scare”

…How much more blatant can you get?

Well anyway, this show has proven to be fairly solid so far, even if it’s not perfect. To be honest, watching today’s Haunting hour premiere made me realize how much it truly is…but really, at this point they aren’t comparable.

While episode 1 is a normal B, my grade will reflect every episode so far as one. So..

Grade: B+

Christ, another B+. Will I ever go higher or lower? I did go lower for Jessie, but that’s about it. Anyway, these do deserve that grade.

I’m going slower on these, but at least they will tide you over until the Spooky buddies review. I’ll explain why it took so long there, but for now enjoy whatever comes before than.

See ya.


About Spongey444

I'm 20 and I'm a slightly below average man who can barely spell. I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why i ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things.
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2 Responses to Spongey’s Fright Fest #8: Deadtime Stories

  1. A.j. Mercado says:

    I am a huge fan of horror anthology series so when I heard this show was Teennick’s answer to “The Haunting Hour”, I decided to give it a chance. I have yet to see “The Witching Game” and “The Beast of Baskerville” but I agree with most of the problems you mentioned for the other episodes. “Grave Secrets” had some major pacing issues and would have fit better as a 2 part episode to give a more suspenseful atmosphere and build up. The acting is also pretty hit and miss. The show is clearly aimed more at kids as it doesn’t try to be as dark as “The Haunting Hour”. Even the “cruel” twist endings are just cheesy and over the top. But the show can stand out on it’s own. It’s faithful to its source material from what I can tell. The episodes can have some pretty good writing and the fact that they try to connect the stories together is kind of interesting too. This show is based on a ”Goosebumps” knock-off like you said and it really shows. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially considering I am a huge fan of “Goosebumps”. It’s no “Haunting Hour” but it’s certainly something else on its own. Kids will like it.

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