[Paul Counelis checks in with a new installment of Monster Kid Corner.]
My ten-year-old daughter is obsessed with Halloween, which in turn has extended to “kid-friendly” horror TV shows and movies. She doesn’t want anything too terrifying, mind you – just a creepy, well-decorated set and some mildly spooky supernatural hijinks. Because of this, I wasn’t surprised when she and her similarly scare-hungry big sister were soooo excited about an episode of the new R.L. Stine kid-friendly horror show The Haunting Hour: The Series, airing on the Hub Network. The girls insisted that I watch the two-part episode, titled “Scary Mary,” so I did. I was extremely surprised by the content of said episode.
“Scary Mary” is a very dark tale. It consists of a game wherein – you guessed it – kids have to say the title name in front of a mirror three times in order to summon the eponymous spook from whatever bizarre place she hails from. When Mary shows up, she is indeed a fairly scary sight, even for a horror vet such as myself. But the creepiest part of the story is that Mary, jealous of young girls who are as beautiful as she once was, actually PULLS the kids through the mirrors in their rooms into her own, woe-begotten world, where she keeps them as prisoners.
I watched with increased interest as the episode, directed by 21 Jump Street alum Peter DeLuise, continued down a dark, relentless path…well, as relentless as a pair of pre-teen girls would be able to handle without inevitable nightmares. This was a pretty scary show. As I watched giddily, I actually thought, When did R.L. Stine’s stories get to be so scary? I don’t remember Goosebumps being like this.
R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps TV series was a staple of the ’90s: an anthology show based on the book series of the same name with the occasional legitimate fright, largely relying on Stine’s seemingly intuitive flair for situational scares. Even though some of the stories ended on somewhat of a downbeat, they were mostly fairly mild, as I recall.
Then, I remembered an episode that actually haunted me for a short time a couple of decades ago. I don’t want to say how old I was when I saw it, because I was quite a bit older at the time than my girls are now, and they seem to be pretty much unfazed by ol’ Scary Mary.
The episode was “The Haunted Mask II.” In the episode, to my delight, it’s Halloween night (I don’t know where my daughter gets the obsession from). This kid is worried that he’s getting too old to go ‘trick or treating’ (perish the thought), so he wants to have the scariest costume he can find. He winds up getting more than he bargained for, stumbling into an old, abandoned novelty and mask shop (why don’t things like that ever happen in real life?!) and finding an extremely creepy mask, visually kind of a foreshadowing of the amazing-looking monster from Jeepers Creepers.
Of course, the mask is cursed. The boy develops a strange desire for Halloween candy (which he steals from another kid), speaks in a guttural growl and finds that he cannot take the mask off. This leads to a few disturbing developments, one of which is, hair-raisingly, real spiders crawling out of his nose and mouth. The episode climaxes with a trip to the graveyard with his friends for a weird Halloween-night ritual (yay!).
In that spirit, and in order to bring parents and children together and presumably creep out two generations at the same time, the Hub Network is bringing a full nine-hour marathon of spook shows to unsuspecting living rooms everywhere on Friday, April 13th. This marathon consists of episodes of The Haunting Hour and Goosebumps airing alternately one after another literally all night long. To kick it all off, Hub will air the five installments of 2011’s Clue miniseries as a two-and-a-half hour movie.
It’s a welcome development for Monster Kids, also marking the “halfway to Halloween” point that the Disney Channel used to celebrate with their weeklong “Halloween in April” kickoff. Disney hasn’t done this for the past couple of years so, whether knowingly or not, Hub is filling a void for us horror fans of all ages.
You might want to tune in and give it a look, even if you don’t have kids. These are fun shows — gently nostalgic and occasionally a little eerie. I know we’ll be watching, even if I have to DVR them to watch with my pre-teen spook troop.
Paul Counelis is the author of Kendall Kingsley and the Secret of the Scarecrow, which is available for purchase here. He writes about horror for a number of publications and websites, including suite101. His latest book, 25 Underrated Horror Films (and The Exorcist), is available here.