Judge Paul Pritchard thought he had goosebumps, but it turned out to be shingles. He's currently recovering.
"It's only a comic book."
It's an oft-forgotten fact that kids enjoy a good scare, and the popularity of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series of books is testament to this. Developed into a TV series running from 1995 to 1999, Goosebumps became a staple of children's TV during its original run, and came in for some heavy editing from the BBC when shown in the UK due to its "unsuitable" content.
Headlining this latest volume to hit DVD is the two-parter Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant, which centers on Skipper Matthews (Dan Warry-Smith), a comic book-obsessed school kid. Skipper's favorite comic book character is "The Masked Mutant," a supervillain hell-bent on gaining control of the universe. When Skipper misses his stop on the way home from school, after striking up a conversation with fellow comic book lover Libby (Melissa Bathory), he stumbles across a building that resembles the Mutant's secret lair. Inquisitive to a fault, Skipper investigates the building and discovers unfinished comic book panels showing him as the hero of a new adventure; even more troublingly, The Masked Mutant appears, apparently having escaped the confines of the comic book.
Attack of the Mutant is a plodding story in truth, offering neither the scares nor the excitement one would hope for from a tale of comic book villains coming to life. The entire first episode is all buildup, with only snatches of The Mutant. Most of the running time is taken up with Skipper's Dad (Maurice Godin) warning his son that comic books are no good for him.
"Attack of the Mutant: Part 2" opens in a similarly disappointing way, with Skipper trying to convince people The Mutant is real. As is typical, Skipper finds nobody else believes him about the threat he is faced with; in one scene Skipper desperately tries to get his Dad to look at a mysterious comic book which has Skipper as the protagonist. Of course, good old Dad can't see because he's been cutting up onions and his eyes are watering. It's annoying, cheap, and a problem that has plagued children's programming since day one.
Credit to Adam West (Batman) then, who turns up in the role of The Galloping Gazelle, a member of "The League of Good Guys." West appears to be having a great deal of fun playing up his Batman role, and his enthusiasm is infectious. His presence makes "Attack of the Mutant: Part 2" by far the more entertaining of the two episodes. The final minutes of the episode also sees the story take a more interesting turn, as The Mutant forces Skipper to question whether he is real or not, or whether he has simply lost his grip on reality.
Also included on the disc is "The Phantom of the Auditorium." Now this is much better, though admittedly that isn't really saying much. Brooke (Jessica Moyes) and her friend Zeke (Shawn Putter) investigate the strange goings on when a school production of "The Phantom" begins to cause her to have nightmares. It is rumored that the play is cursed, and that an attempt to stage it seventy-two years ago resulted in the star of the show going missing on opening night.
Once again, this episode is heavily reliant on adults not believing anything the kids in the story tell them. Even when the evidence suggests something out of the ordinary might actually be going down, the adults—in particular Ms. Walker (Kathryn Greenwood)—are either oblivious to, or unwilling to accept the truth. What saves the episode are the strong (for a kids TV show) horror overtones, which see the kids pursued through the school basement by the eponymous phantom. There are several jump scares, and a suitably creepy finale.
Not the best selection of episodes, Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant offers too little to warrant a standalone purchase, and will most likely only appeal to fans looking to complete their Goosebumps DVD collection.
The picture and audio presentation of the episodes is serviceable, with a reasonably sharp image and decent color reproduction. The stereo soundtrack is a little flat, but free of any real faults. The DVD contains no extras.
For fans only.
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