[Ed. note: This post was originally published on Aug. 5, 2016. With Halloween almost here and the return of Stranger Things upon us, we wanted to give you a great binge option before returning to the world of the Upside Down]
Netflix has scored a summertime smash in the form of Stranger Things, an affectionate and addictive homage to ’80s favorites like Explorers, The Goonies, and Poltergeist, where precocious kids cross paths with the supernatural — including a monster lurking in the woods by their small town of Hawkins, Ind.
Based on the social media reaction, Stranger Things is the definition of an audience favorite. Furthermore, it should be a gateway for younger viewers to discover the charm of the vintage ’80s and ’90s films and TV shows that the series so lovingly riffs on. Netflix is home to one such series: Goosebumps, the TV version of R.L. Stine’s popular horror franchise. A Canadian-American co-production, Goosebumps ran from 1995 to 1998 as part of the Friday afternoon Fox Kids lineup. And don’t let the tame “Fox Kids” name fool you — in its best episodes, Goosebumps was legitimately spooky, providing nightmare fuel for elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, and even high schoolers. Here are five of the strangest, creepiest things to appear on that kid-friendly horror series. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Episode(s): “Say Cheese and Die”; “Say Cheese and Die … Again!”
Lesson #1,056 why you shouldn’t bring home the stuff you find in abandoned warehouses: It might be cursed! Greg Banks (a post-Mickey Mouse Club, pre-Young Hercules Ryan Gosling) learns that rule the hard way when he casually “borrows” a camera from one such dilapidated depository, only to discover that whomever it snaps pictures of winds up experiencing a series of unfortunate events.
Episode: “It Came From Beneath the Sink”
Sponges are handy household items, right? Not when a sponge is actually a monster disguised as a handy household item! This creature, known as a Grool, is particularly attracted to kids going through a patch of bad luck, like Kat (Katharine Isabelle, who went on to star in the cult werewolf flick Ginger Snaps), who has moved into the house where the Grool previously dwelled. By the end of the episode, though, the sponge has become part of Kat’s family. The same can’t be said about the fang-baring potato her dog digs up later…
Episode(s): “Monster Blood”; “More Monster Blood”
Not since the Happy Fun Ball has there been a stranger novelty item than Monster Blood, a lump of green slime that gets bigger — and meaner — the more it consumes. (It’s a good thing that Nickelodeon’s slime is Monster Blood-free.) In the slime’s second appearance, it sneaks aboard an airplane to cause havoc in the skies. Forget snakes on a plane … slime on a plane is the real menace.
Episode: “Attack of the Jack O’Lanterns”
Eager trick-or-treaters may wish Halloween lasted forever, but endless amounts of candy sounds less fun when you’re being forced to parade through your neighborhood by a pair of pumpkin-headed monsters. That’s the elaborate prank that young Drew (Erica Luttrell) decides to play on her regular Halloween tormentors Tabitha and Lee, enlisting a pair of unique friends to portray those walking jack-o’-lanterns. Stick around for the twist ending, which gives Drew a good reason to fear for her own safety.
Episode(s): “Night of the Living Dummy II”; “Night of the Living Dummy III, Part I”; “Night of the Living Dummy III, Part II”; “Bride of the Living Dummy”
The wooden face of the Goosebumps series, Slappy the Dummy is a regular presence in Stine’s books, and he appeared on four episodes of the show as well. Utter the words “Karru Marri Odonna Loma Maluno Karrano,” and this red-haired ventriloquist’s dummy comes to life — no puppeteer required. His evil plans grew grander as the series went along; in the two-part “Night of the Living Dummy III,” he plotted to transform a trio of tykes into dummies. And in “Bride of the Living Dummy,” he decided to get hitched to a comely, if psychotic, doll named Mary-Ellen, a relationship that doomed them both. If ventriloquist dummies already give you goosebumps, Slappy may make you break out in hives.
All four seasons of Goosebumps, plus additional specials, are streaming on Netflix.
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