Hello, Spongey here.
So we’re almost done with Hall of Horrors. Yeah, only one more to go after this. Time sure flies. Anyway, this is one where there is not too much to say.
Except for one thing: This marks the first time a Stine book has touched on the horrors of…technology. Oh yeah, we’re finally going there. I’d go into my thoughts on Tech Horror but Stine always picks silly concepts to turn scary, this is nothing too new.
I recall this one being kinda solid but my memory has been wrong before. We’ll see how it holds. And that’s all I really got for this intro. Can Stine make a phone scary in any way? Stranger things have happened after all.
Let us see.
This, is Don’t Scream!
Take that, title. So how do we open?
…Wow, you made the joke for me.
Jack is doing that because he’s being tortured by a bully. Been a while since we had a cliché Goosebumps bully. Interestingly enough, Jack goes over the reasons they do this and concludes they only do it for “FUN.
That’s kinda realistic to real bullies, not all of them have a special reason I guess. Could just be an excuse for lazy writing though. Apparently Jack told the bus driver but he did nothing for no reason. Okay, that’s realistic.
“No permanent wounds, that meant it was a good day”
Jack sees a phone in the seat next to him and picks it up. It’s the evil phone we’ll be following. Wow, we’re getting started right away. The only thing I know about Jack is that he is bullied which oh so many Goosebumps heroes are.
A voice comes from the phone.
Roll credits! That was fast.
The voice insists she is his new best friend. Yes, it’s a female voice. If this turns into Her, I am out of here.
He tries to get of her but no dice. He tries to leave the phone on the bus but a girl on the bus gives it back to him a sec later We’re already getting into the “Trying to get rid of it” stuff. Pacing, what’s that?
Jack looks the phone and sees photos of him and his family. Well, that got creepy quickly. He gets home and tries to show this to his sister’s babysitter but of course the voice does nothing, making Jack look crazy.
Man, we really are getting all the cliches out fast.
To make this all even better, the phone can shock Jack. Between that and what she’s been saying, this actually is a tad creepy. Rachel, the sister, pops up and starts playing with the phone but Jack gets it back before anything can happen.
As pointless as that was, the threat of her being zapped actually made it a tad intense. Cool.
Jack’s tech savvy friend Eli shows up. Jack tells him and spoilers, he doesn’t believe him. But then the Phone decides to talk to him to blow her cover, because why not. At least we add more to the rushed pacing.
At first they plan to take the phone apart but sense they can be zapped, they instead steal from Yzma and plan to smash it with a hammer. This actually works, and the book ends.
Just kidding, the phone girl actually somehow ends up inside Eli’s game player, and then she zaps them. Okay, so she can move into other electronics to zap people. That’s…actually kinda creepy.
Dad comes in to tell them it’s dinner time so crazy phone lady will have to wait. Okay now you can toss the phone far away or in the trash or something and if she gets out from there….game over, I suppose.
They tell the family and long story short, they bring the game player down and after Dad messes with it the girl makes a scary roar and he just calls it “Defective”. Yeah, that’s a good word for a horrifying roar.
Dad is so mad he wants to go to the store and return. The kids see this as good as they can give to the manager and it can be his problem:
1. Wow, you’re an asshole.
2. We now know she can inside other devices. An electronic store is the WORST place for her.
They get there and suddenly the TV’s all turn off and then the cover happens. Yeah, that weird ass cover is actually accurate to the book. As scary as this one, does this girl think it’s a good idea to pretty much blow her cover in this big way?!
Then she randomly stops and things go back ot normal. Dad pops up and acts like nothing happened. Infact, everyone just goes back to normal like that wasn’t the craziest thing ever. Dad got him a new gamer player and threw the old one away which Jack hopes gets rid of the girl.
Uh, she just appeared on the TV. She’s in other things now, idiot.
Dad also gets Jack a new phone…which the girl is now in. Told ya so. Eventually Jack finally asks her who the she is. Basically, She was an attempt at making an AI but a glitched her to pretty much just a digital brain I guess can somehow jump through devices.
Yeah, it’s another Science driven one and I’m sure a lot of it’s bullshit. But it’s not a bad set up I suppose. Emmy, as she is now called, wants to find others like her, or else. Not sure what was up with the “you’re my best friend” stuff unless she didn’t know there were others until back in the store, or whatever.
The next day at school Emmy tells him she thinks there’s one of her at school but she wants him to go NOW and pretty much disrupt class. There’s good tension here since she can and will burn him (literally) if he disobeys.
Jack stands his ground but is punished plenty for it and does some silly stuff for Emmy for…reasons. This embarrasses him and makes the bullies be extra bully-ish on the bus. It gets pretty annoying but at least it’s cut short.
After all that, Jack decides to steal this laptop that Emmy thinks one of her kind might be in. So the next day she butts in to ask him to do this, after school so that he misses the bus. You couldn’t make him do it before school or during Lunch?
The plan fails as Jack gets caught and he has to come with bullcrap excuse which they buy and he leaves. The next she finds another signal coming from one of the bully’s camera. Because of course.
Jack manages to take it without him noticing and things seem to be going fine. But he ends up losing it on the bus as the bully’s take. They don’t know it’s there’s, Jack says he got his own that happened to look like Mick’s. Whatever.
These failed attempts do raise the tension as Jack just wants to find Emmy a friend but all this stuff goes wrong. Although at this point Jack should really find a way to toss the phone into a lake or something.
Especially since their next attempt involves breaking into someone’s house. They get the Clock Radio she thinks a signal is in but she scans it and no one’s home. Before I call this pointless, Jack tries to put the clock back and gets caught. Whoops.
I guess he couldn’t find a good bad excuse as he gets in trouble. He does lie and say it was a dare from Mick so they call his Mom but Mick’s Mom says Mick figured out that Jack took his camera.
He figured this out but looking at the pictures. Wow, common sense.
“Stealing a camera is serious”
So yeah, he’s in big trouble so tells Emmy they are through. Jack leaves Emmy at home the next while he goes to school which works out well but when he gets home, Rachael is messing with it.
He smashes the phone but Emmy just jumps from device to device while Jack is an awesome blind rage. Oh and they happen to have a Sledge Hammer lying around. Emmy seems to vanish after Jack has pretty much smashed everything but spoilers, we’re not done, this is only a fake out.
Later, Jack ends up with a Child Physiologist due to his big rage which only a short bit instead of something expanded upon. Of course, Emma pops up, this time in his digital watch. Why she didn’t speak up before, I don’t know.
Jack gives the watch to Mick as a going away present, presumably to just put Emmy on someone else. I bashed the idea earlier but maybe she can make him do illegal shit. Plus, he’s moving so she’ll be far away before she could do anything.
Jack goes home, finally. His parents even get him a new phone. He gets a call…from Mick.
“You’ve got to help me, Jack. She trapped me in here. Get me out of this phone, Jack. You’ve got to help me. I can hurt you. I can really hurt you.”
The End. Of course we end before this gets really interesting. That’s actually a really cool shock ending…even if it brings out too many questions. Even if it’s abrupt and creates problems with the book.
But whatever, the end.
This one was good. Yeah, finally, right? The biggest plus is the tension. Stine uses a silly idea to create some good tension. We know Emmy can mess him up so there’s a lot of scenes that play off of that surprisingly well.
Emmy is a good enough villain for what they are going for. The book relies a lot on the tension of all this so it’s good that it does that well. It’s not really focused on story at all. Jack is as 1 dimensional as they come but you at least feel sorry for him due to all this.
As far as the problems, I am mixed on if some are problems. By the end, you don’t know much about Emmy or even if she’s telling the truth. She clearly is some AI but does she have friends? What’s her motivation? The ending only adds more.
The thing is, that could have been the point. The horror comes from how you don’t know anything about her. Sometimes it comes across as just lazy writing. I can complain about the pacing.
It starts too quickly leading to some filler., Plus, the story can be aimless at times. The tension holds it up at least. Even the lack of logic works for what they are going for. Overall, it’s not exactly the tightest story but as a piece of tension that uses a silly set up, it works.
It’s one of the bigger surprises from recent Goosebumps. Nothing too special but it’s decently enjoyable for what it is. After some disappointing ones, this was a fun one for me.
Well, next time we already finish up the Hall of Horrors. Will it end with a bang? We’ll find out soon enough.