Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Go Eat Worms"

You know, if you're looking for footage of somebody eating worms (Hey, it's the internet, people have looked for weirder stuff), might I suggest How to Eat Fried Worms? I've never seen it, but I can only assume from the title that it has more worm eating than this episode.

Heck, the DVD menu has more worm-eating than the actual episode.

Badly-composited, computer generated worms, but at least there's more than one of them en route to that kid's mouth.
Plot/Themes
This was... creepy. And not in the usual way Goosebumps is creepy; there wasn't a single creepy adult in sight.

And actually... I kind of liked the change.

The episode makes it very clear that Todd does not have an innocent little obsession with worms; rather, the fact that he decides to "scientifically" mutilate fish instead seems to indicate that worms are just an outlet for... well, evil impulses.

Unfortunately, the episode does not take advantage of this and delivers a lukewarm "Nature's revenge" story. And it's not a very interesting example of one.

The story almost seems incomplete. Sure, it hits all the proper beats, but the final encounter with the giant worm just seems like it's not the end. I almost get the feeling like it should be setting up Todd trying to capture the giant worm for his science project, because, let's face it, there meeds to be some kind of further escalation. The majority of the worms' revenge is simply to be in places they shouldn't. Twice. That's it.

So basically, yes, this episode was just as disappointing as the book.

Honestly, there's little point in discussing the plot and themes because there's so little subtext to any of it beyond what happens, which I already covered in detail in the Recap. I mean, yeah, it's a kids' show based on a kids' book, so I'm not expecting Shakespeare. But Stine has proven his ability to imbue the characters with interesting qualities, or the plot with interesting subtext that you can appreciate as an adult, or something. He usually delivers more than this.

You know what? That's not entirely fair. There is one saving grace to this story.... even though its presence makes me wish the episode had focuses on that instead.

I am, of course, talking about Todd's descent into evil.

Characters
I would just like to point out that nobody has last names in this one, which I think makes it completely unique among Goosebumps episodes.

Todd (Noah Shebib)
The actor gives a very natural performance, and I have to give him props for willingly getting a faceful of worms.

But they say that a willingness to harm animals as a child is a warning sign of sociopathy/psychopathy. And I don't know if it was intentional, but some of his experiments are vaguely reminiscent of real life mad science, like the experiments of Josef Mengele.

This could have been a really interesting episode, with the protagonist as the true villain. After all, a lot of the villainous tendencies are there.

Unfortunately, the villainous focus is put on the worms, who I find myself actually rooting for, since our protagonist tortures them to death. Usually, in Nature's revenge stories, we're supposed to be rooting for the animals, but... I don't know, I just get the feeling that we're supposed to sympathize with this kid.

But I don't. He wants to hurt animals.

I've seen parts of the internet claim that the POV of Todd getting dragged through the water is supposed to represent that he's been turned into a fish? But... I don't know. I don't think that was the intent.

In the book, he took up butterfly collecting, and found a giant butterfly coming at him with a needle in the end. That's the kind of karmic end Todd needs. But I concede that a giant butterfly prop for only ten seconds of screen time would be prohibitively expensive.

And why did he nail that mask to the wall? That's how the Joker would decorate his lair.
Danny (Andre Ottley-Orant)
One of the blander best friends in this show, since 90% of what he does is either agreeing with Todd, giving him a sounding board, or briefly ending his friendship with Todd over a misunderstanding.

I feel kind of bad for this actor, since he's also a Magic School Bus alumnus. And unfortunately, he voiced Tim, the blandest character in that show.

If you don't believe me, I want you to think of two adjectives that describe Tim's personality. "Black" is not allowed.

...


Yeah, that's what I thought.

Reggie (Kristin Fairlie)
A little sister archetype. And a delivery system for the deus ex machina in the form of her parer mâché robin that she has no business lugging through the forest at night.

The Mother (Caroline Yeager)
I don't usually talk about the parents in these episodes because, let's face it, their main purpose is to be oblivious to whatever danger their kids should face... but I have to talk about her performance.

Well, scratch that. I'm not blaming the actress. All things considered, she's got that patented "mom sarcasm" down pat. It's the script that's the problem.

In a few episodes of this show, there's this a rather odd insistence on firmly establishing that these mothers have jobs. I know that sounds like a weird criticism, but hear me out.

In "Night of the Living Dummy 2," for example, there's a scene where the parents have to go to work. The dad just has to get to his generic office job, but it's specifically mentioned that not only is the mom a realtor, but she has to meet with a client.

But you know what? It works. It adds a little specificity to why the mom needs to cut her conversation about her daughter and her new dummy short.

But then we get to this episode, where all of a sudden, Todd makes a point of comparing his mom's treatment of him to her job, which just leads to a bunch of awkward lawyer jokes.

It seems like foreshadowing, or establishment of a plot point for a later scene... but nope. The fact that she's a lawyer never comes up again.

I don't know, it's just weird to me is all. It's especially noticeable when most of the dads in this show are simply said to go to "work" every day. Unless the dads in question are busy making plant clones of themselves or making props for the "Shock Street" films.

Hey, how come the mom never turns out to be an evil scientist?

Visuals
The worms do look good, whether they're real, rubber, or that gigantic monster worm.

The lighting color choices for the giant worm's underground lair is a bit... well, colorful, but I will admit that it's atmospheric.

Monster of the Week: The Giant Worm
On the one hand, the physical prop is phenomenal.

If a bit phallic.
On the other hand... it's a giant worm.

Let's face it, in the pantheon of Goosebumps monsters... this might actually rank at the very bottom. Scratch that, it does rank at the very bottom.

If they should ever make a Goosebumps 2, and if it features the giant worm, I'll bet anything that the mere existence of a giant worm will be treated as a punchline.

Barking Dogs: 0

Child Grabbing: 1
A rare non-humanoid example when the giant worm grasps Todd.

Foliage POV Cam: No
But only because there are no bushes for the worms to creep around in.

Red Paint: Yes
Because it's not a paper mâché robin without a red breast.

X-Files Shout-Out: Yes
Speaking of X-Files reenactments, might I recommend Monster of the Week?

Final Thoughts
Meh. It's a "Nature's revenge" plot with a giant monster thrown in at the last second.

The only thing this episode has going for it is the gross-out aspect, which isn't really even that gross unless you simply don't like worms.

Next time, the phrase that many a kid said regarding the Goosebumps books. See you then!

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