Hello, Spongey here.
It’s time. Not just of the first Horrorland review of 2017…but the final one. Not the final Modern Goosebumps Book Review, more on that later, but this is the finale to Arc 2 and the proper Horror Land books in general.
Either Arc 2 didn’t’ do as well or Stine was sick of sticking to an Arc, since it meant he couldn’t do twists. Either way, HorrorLand proper ended but Stine kept on making Goosebumps anyway under other sub series.
So there’s a lot of pressure for this one to be good. The finale to Arc 1 was really good, and was both good as a finale on and it’s own for reasons I’ve gone into a few times by now. I wasn’t quite as hyped for this one, due the build up not being as crazy, but I was still interested in seeing what the heck was gonna happen.
If you want a recap, kids are getting items from a Horror Land gift shop and they go wrong in many ways. When their adventure is over, they are teleported back to his shop to “pay” for their item.
And now we’ll find out what the deal with him is. Why does he want them? Will it make any sense? I think we know the answer to that, but let’s dive in anyway. Let’s not beat around the bush and find out how Horror Land ends after 19 books.
This, is The Horror at Chiller House
The book opens…in 1960. Yes, we’re starting with a flashback. I think you know what the reason for it is but let’s see how this goes. This kid is quite the loner and often plays these games by himself with his imagination.
At the moment, he is watching two crows fight.
‘He liked to see them peck and peck and peck, til their feathers flew and blood splattered all over the grass”
…..I’d say this kid is going to grow up to be a serial killer but …he kind of does, sort of.
He wants to have a normal life and go to school and have friends, but his parents keep him at him to “Nurture” his brain. I see no matter at what point in the Goosebumps timeline we’re on, the parents will always be horrible.
Speaking of which, Mom comes and says he’s wasting his time and should get back to his studies. He goes to his room and we see that he collects puppets and plays with them, The more little details we find out about this good, the scarier he gets, but the more I feel sorry for him because this is all his parents fault.
It turns out it’s mostly Mom who does this, as Dad argues with her over all this. Even his Dad calls out Mom for the crap she does. The kid overhears this and has a freakout. He vents by tearing up one of his puppets, one that he named
“It felt good’
…This is already creepier than most Goosebumps books.
A few days later, he’s knee deep in his fantistes, and Dad is sick of it.
“I’m going to make a man out of him!”
Let’s get down to business..
Dad takes him hunting which the kid doesn’t quite want, but he wants Dad to like him so he says Yes without whining. 14 pages in and the story has way more to it than usual. This won’t last long, will it?
For now, he just wants him learn how to hold a crossbow. He then shoots his own foot by accident. Ouch, I guess that’s why not giving your 10 year old son extra help with a freaking weapon is a bad idea.
After being a bit shocked, Dad laughs over it. Wow, fuck you.
Later, after he is healed, Dad tells Mom that after one accident that he has himself to blame for the outcome of, he’s on Mom’s side. We also find out his name is Jonny. Hearing this makes him go off the deep end.
“I’ll show you, Father! One day, i’ll show you that I can be a man. One day, you’ll be proud that I am your son!”
“I am JONATHAN CHILLER, your king! I am all powerful! You will obey me. You will all obey me!”
That’s right, this was all a backstory for Chiller. I gotta say, I quite like this. It’s a more complex backstory than most Goosebumps villains get, as this makes us see why he’s like this and makes him more sympathetic, but makes him unhinged enough to not be TOO likable.
It all works pretty well. Not a bad start,i must.
We move on to the present day of 2011, we find out our main character is Ray from Slappy New Year. Odd choice but fine. We join him where we left off, with him appearing in Chiller House.
He’s so shaken by this, he reviews the facts about him to himself, as an excuse for lazy exposition. The other kids are there, and I wonder, were they all teleported at the same time? Because no other kids were shown as being there in the last few scenes like this.
The kids explain what happened and thinks he has the craziest story. One of them saw giant hamsters, you loose.
After the kids ponder their situation for a bit, Chiller steps in. He tells them they will all go home…once they play his game. So, was their any point to Meg’s adventure back in Weirdo Halloween? He seems to doing his big game based plan here. He’s hidden 6 little horrors around the park and they must find them and they’ll go home. It’s as simple as that.
Of course we know it won’t be that simple, but the kids don’t have any other options right now. He has chosen certain park workers to be their Helper and give them some hints about the location of the horrors, and the workers are indeed from the mini adventures at the start of each book.
This gives them a purpose I suppose, but each kid does not get the same one they meet before, so meeting them before we kind of pointless. I guess it was to get us to know them a tiny bi t better before doing a book full of them-
Wait, I just realize with books arcs, Stine basically did the MCU thing. They even both started in 2008. Whoa.
Anyway, Chiller reveals some pals are having a hunting party…and the kids are being hunted. Yeah, knew there was as catch to all this, and this is how he ties that part of his backstory. He even mentions Father here, to make it more obvious.
Knowing his backstory, oddly makes him creepier here. We saw how hinged he was, and why he was, which makes it more clear how deep his problems go. We’ll see if this ends anything bigger in the long run.
Oh, and the workers don’t know about this aspect of the story. Chiller says they won’t believe the kids if they told them. …He knows what they do for a living, right? The kids leave and they overhear Chiller.
“I’m a hunter, Daddy. See? I’m a hunter-just like what you wanted”
Then “Part 3” starts. Okay, I see why the backstory was a separate section but why that bit? It just causes the page number to be confused.
The kids discuss their situation, and Andy says he meet a Zombie Dog. Uh, your book was called When the GHOST dog howls. They try to just leave the park, but of course some magic crap Chiller did prevents them from doing so, so they have to do this.
They kids at first think of splitting up but even they know how dumb that is, so they…still split up, just in pairs. Yeah, sure. Ray got Chef Belcher for his helper, and Sam is his partner, and Sam met him before….Okay, so I was wrong, shut up.
They go to him and he says he can point them in the right direction and they head off. At a certain point, he vanishes. Hey, he did say he would just point you in the right direction, not show you exactly where it is.
And oh hey, they find the chest on their own a few moments later, after dealing with some wasps. But the chest turns out tobe a big joke, so I guess my point is invalid. They think that maybe they are all fake, which actually is a possibility given the situation. Good thinking, They decide to tell some of the others, and they look for one of the helpers in the Haunted Theater. They find him along with some other kids but they say Murder the Clown has been of no helps, telling jokes even the book thinks are bad.
Eventually he decides to help them.
“You can trust a man with an axe buried in his head-right?”
At least he’s self aware.
They follow and he leads them to Quicksand Beach, where they get trapped. Turns out you can’t trust a man with an axe in his head, weird. But of course they don’t fully sink just like the last time we saw this, but no tubes are involved for some reason, like last time.
They find the chest and it’s not a dud this time, meaning some are goof and some are bad. That actually makes a lot of sense, even in an evil sense. So points there. …Then it turns out this one is a dud too, as the Horror is just chocolate.
The hunters show up and now it’s clear they won’t be getting home. They go to some of the other kids that are searching near Madame Doom and tell them about what’s happening. They decide to visit the real Madame Doom they met once for help because why not.
In a rare smart move, they have one kid go in, in case it’s a trap, so they won’t all be totally doomed. Slightly dick-ish to the one guy…but it was their idea, so okay. I
And it ends with Madame Doom turning out to be a hunter and attempting to get him.
“Who says women can’t be good hunters?”
Is Goosebumps really the time and place for that? …The it turns out to be a prank Doom made him do…for reasons. Now that’s a force false scare if I’ve seen one. But Doom is actually a hunter, as she reveals when Andy can’t go through with the prank, as he only did it because Doom promised a way home.
So good on Andy at least. It turns out that their helpers are actually all hunters, which makes sense as the helpers were not there when the hunters were attacking. Slightly predictable but this all checks out.
Having the kids be flat out hunted, makes for a pretty intense situation. Not to the levels of The Menace but it’s cool.
After escaping, the bump into Horror Guards who don’t like that they are here after dark. Yeah, we all know they work for Chiller. I do like that they call what their doing a “dangerous game”. It fits since they are being hunted.
They at least wait to reveal that they are bad guys, as they go through this whole thing about finding their parents. Walking behind Chiller House, leads to them finding that this whole time, the helpers were Chiller in disguise.
Yes, that includes the female Madame Doom. I’m not touching that one. I won’t even ask about how good the disguises were, since this is a series where toys can teleport kids here to begin with.
They escape the guards and confront Chiller, but then they appear and it turns out they work for Chiller, what a shock. Then he just sends them away since their job is done. Okay then, they were pointless.
“Of course I’m all alone. I wasn’t allowed to have friends. I had to stay in my room and create my own world. I had to create my own friends. The only way I can have friends is if I play them myself!”
That somehow makes him sadder than he already was. Even without the backstory, this would decently effective.
They notice he actually does have chests with Horrors in them lying around where they can see them (with how unhinged he is, I can buy this. See this is how you use a villains mental state to excuse issues, Fantastic 4orce), and distract him so they can get them.
It works but the chests have no horrors in them.
“”Maybe I like to play games. And maybe you think I’m desperate for friends. But I’m not stupid”
In a last ditch effort to stop him, they threaten to tear up his costume, and do creepy things with them, as he views them as his friends. That’s rather cruel but smart enough. They do this until he promises to take them home.
And he actually does. He tosses them to the kids and boom they actually work in taking them home. Yes, he was so unhinged and was so connected to his own personas that he did that. Yikes.
But thankfully, a cameo from Brandon isn’t the full ending. That would be rushed even for Stine, so we have an Epilogue. ..But it’s just him getting the shop back in order and giving us another little taste of how crazy he is.
“Why don’t you take a little horror home with you?””
The End. Okay, it’s still pretty rushed. With how good most of this is, even the climax was rushed compared to Panic Park. But ah well, the final; note was nice.
I’ll say right now that this wasn’t as good as Panic Park, but it was still pretty good. While most of it is enjoyable with some decent twists and turns, the main reason it’s good is Chiller himself. He must just be the most human, yet most mentally unstable Goosebumps villain here.
Right from his backstory, he’s sympathetic and can’t be blamed for how things turned out, but you do see he has some…problems, which are fully shown in the main book. It’s rare that a Goosebumps Villain get so much backstory, and while it wasn’t totally, it does give us a bigger picture.
I would still have praised him without the backstory, but seeing it makes it more interesting than if they just told us about him. He has those sympathetic aspects, but he’s so far off the deep end, it’s okay he gets the ending he does.
It’s nice balance. His nature makes the situation more intense, as you never know how much you can trust me, or what will happen next. It makes the running around more interesting. Everything else is just okay.
Ray being the hero doesn’t add much and the others just don’t as much as in the Arc 1 finale. Still, there’s not too much wrong here besides the rushed ending. It’s enough to dock a grade, but it’s not a big deal.
Overall, this was a solid finale. It was fun and gave us a really fascinating villain that raised the stakes and made the book a lot more interesting. It doesn’t hit the highs of Panic Park but given what it is, I quite liked it.
Final Thoughts on Arc 2:
Yeah, Arc 2 wasn’t as good. Even taking aside that the Arc gimmick isn’t as strong this time, the books themselves were…eh. None were bad, although one was fairly eh, but none stuck out. Most went through the motions and used ideas we’ve seen before. Aside from the first two and Weirdo Halloween, they all head that in common.
And even with those, there were problems, and the ideas weren’t always used perfectly. When the Dog Howls is the best since despite issues, it uses it’s premise pretty well. Weirdo Halloween almost does, enough to be rated a B, but still isn’t the best.
This Arc was just so average. Very little was bad, but very little stood out. The books themselves had this issue, so it’s not just the Arc thing. I think less books is another reason, less room to explore tons of ideas.
This could be a sign of burnout on Stine’s part, why is why it’s good that he went with Mini Series that are just normal GB books with minor gimmicks after this, instead ones with major gimmicks that don’t matter.
We’ll see how those turns out later. Speaking of, let’s talk about that. I started doing these to just do HorrorLand but doing these has really made want to explore the other modern Goosebumps books. So let’s do that. I’ll be going through the rest once a month like I’ve done here.
You don’t have to pay attention to these reviews as much due to not having to follow an Arc. Oh, and when we start Most Wanted, I’ll do two a month to finish quicker. I know I won’t finish before 2018 so whatever.
So look forward to that. Hopefully it’s better than this…okay stuff.
Arc Grade: B-
Glad to at least be done with HorrorLand proper. I’d directly tease our next book, but the most recent Scene by Scene Review didn’t mention what I may do next. Well, now I know so I shall tease my next Scene by Scene Review for next month. So what’s on my plate?
…2017 is turning out so well so far.