Friday, October 21, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Go Eat Worms"

I actually know this story best as the one Goosebumps book we actually had in my house when I was growing up. I think it belonged to my uncle, but I could be wrong.

It always just kind of sat there on the end table. Waiting.

And when I finally read it... it was just about the most boring thing I'd ever read. The plot took forever to get going and it ended quickly and anticlimactically.

So I'm going to look at this episode as a bit of a do-over. The writers aren't afraid to change things about the books for the TV adaptation... so I'm wondering if maybe they might actually improve this story?

Plenty of Tolkien/Harry Potter fans are laughing at me for thinking that an adaptation might be better than the original.
The episode begins with a shot of Worm World magazine, proving that there's a dedicated fandom for just about everything.
I hear it has an in-depth articleon the lanx this month.
And as if that wasn't enough, we cut to a wriggling mass of pulsating worms in some soil, filmed in a jerky frame rate that probably looked like edgy editing in the 1990s, but today looks like Netflix is having issues buffering the stream. Since I'm watching this on DVD, Netflix is off the hook. This time.

Anyway, after a worm montage, we cut to a closeup of a dissected worm.

So much for "No animals were harmed."
Because humans care more about pretty creatures.

Be honest. If I posted a picture of a dead cat with its chest pulled open and its guts showing, you'd probably be all like "What the Hell, Newt?" But Goosebumps gives us the same thing with a worm, and all that'll probably get out of you guys is an "Ewwww"! at best.

Of course, it's very possible that this was done the same way they did the animal torture porn in Ang Lee's Hulk, i.e. by cutting up animals that had already died of natural causes.

Fair enough. But... there are a lot of worms that get thrown around in this episode. And... well, I doubt that there was a worm guy counting to make sure that every worm was accounted for and healthy. There's one part in particular where... well, I'll get to that when I get to that.

Anyway, the sliced-up worm is busy being admired by the kid who sliced it up.

Boy: "Worms are nature's perfect creatures."

"The worms, no matter where they are, they become the best in the world."
Boy: "They aerate the soil recycle waste, and..."
Boy 2: "And they gross out girls when you drop 'em down their backs."

These are Todd (Noah Habib) and Danny (Andre Ottley-Lorant). You might recognize Andre Ottley-Lorant as one of the voices of Tim in The Magic School Bus. I'd make a joke about that role, but Tim was blander than cardboard.

Todd: "Come on, Danny. If we wanna win first prize in the science fair, we've gotta be scientific abeout this."

The last time a kid in Goosebumps was all about being "scientific," he wanted to keep a killer sponge alive to study it. But here, the "science" is all about killing, meaning the experiment is going to be about as "scientific" as the Tuskegee Experiment.

Todd: "We're gonna prove that worms can survive just about anything. Heat, cold, stretching, even cutting them in half."

Oh, don't stop there. Why not whip out the Agent Orange while you're at it, you little sadist?

Danny: "Pretty harsh."
Todd: "Don't be such a baby. Worms can't feel anything."

Which apparently justifies animal cruelty...?

His sister, Reggie (Kristin Fairlie), comes down into the basement despite her brother telling her to keep out.

Todd: "Can't you see we're on the brink of a scientific breakthrough?"

Because a tank filled with worms... is a breakthrough?

Reggie: "If you guys think your stupid worm experiments are gonna beat our project, you can forget it."
Danny: "What are you gonna do, use dolls to act out a story from The X-Files?"

Hey, her remake of "Teso dos Bichos" was better than the original.
But she walks over to work on her science fair project, which isn't so much a "science project" as it is an "art project." A paper mâché robin, to be precise. Allegedly, she's covering the life cycle of a robin, and she claims to have also have a nest with eggshells. And her robin also has a bellyful of worms that it spews on her when she touches it, courtesy of Danny and Todd.

Reggie runs upstairs while declaring that her brother will be sore-y for what he did, only to find even more worms when she puts her hand on the railing.

Even though her hand was also on the same railing when she came down the stairs.
Reggie: "You're as slimy as those worms you torture!"

Clunky, but accurate dialogue.

As the boys congratulate themselves, three worms quietly pop up from the tank of worms as if planning to break out.

Sadly, Worm Run was not as widely-remembered as its more successful sequel, Chicken Run.
A POV shot shows us that the worms are, in fact, staring at the boys.

We then cut to Danny and Todd at school, talking either about the prank on Reggie or a videotape they found in one of their dads' closets.

Danny: "Oh, man, when she let out that squeal, I thought my ears were gonna pop."

Todd states that worms are the best thing to use to gross somebody out, which... whatever. I don't even want to think of anything that could prove him wrong.

Todd: "You should have heard Regina the time I put a handful of night crawlers into the bathtub. You could hear her squeal all the way across town."

The two have arrived in the lunchroom, where we get the standard lunchroom scene where the two kids express disappointment in their lunches and decide to swap. Today, Danny has a sandwich. And Todd has leftover spaghetti.

You know where this is going.

As Danny takes the tupperware lid off, Todd outlines his latest idea to torture worms.

Todd: "It's like a racetrack, only the different tracks have different surfaces. You know, sandpaper, rock, sticky stuff."

Danny raises a forkful of cold, wormy spaghetti to his lips... only to pause to listen to Todd name his project "Worms: Nature's Survivors."

Just to see us shiver with antici...
















You know, I find it ironic that Todd's naming his project that does almost nothing but kill worms "Worms: Nature's Survivors."

















Danny spits his food out and yells at Todd over the stupid prank. Except that this apparently wasn't one of Todd's stupid pranks. Not that Danny believes him, since swapping food was Todd's idea.

Todd: "Why would I? You're my best friend!"
Danny: "Not anymore."

As Todd blames his revenge-vowing sister, we cut to later that day, when Todd's mother dares to enter his son's room, finding a clown mask hanging from the wall. As well as worm posters, worm mobiles, worm models, and dead worms preserved in jars.

But seriously, what's with that mask? Are we not going to address that?
Mother: "No wonder I don't get in here more often. It's gotten worse...."

"It's gotten worse"? Okay, take this little megadrilaceaphile to see a specialist. Every kid needs a hobby, but this... this is creepy.

She jumps about a foot in the air when Todd grabs her from behind yelling "Gotcha" because he thought that his mother was Reggie. Even though they're different heights with different hair colors and lengths.

Mother: "You two still at war?"
Todd: "She tried to poison me."
Mother: "Oh, she did not! If worms were deadly, you'd be long gone by now."

Her mom is content to snark over her son's worm-filled spaghetti, mainly because he filled Reggie's robin full of worms.

Mother: "And you're going to fix it, aren't you?"
Todd: "You've already put me on trial and found me guilty."

Ah, a "subtle" clue that his mom is, in fact, a lawyer. Also, this never becomes important.

Todd: "You wouldn't let a judge treat your client like that, would you?"

Yeah, lawyers never allow their clients to be put on trial.


Todd's mom tells her son that... well, the worm thing is weird and he should get some normal hobbies. Heck, he should get any other hobby. But first, he needs to fix the robin.

Mother: "Or no science fair."

And since it's bedtime, there's really no way to argue.

Mother: "Now hit the sack, worm boy. It's after ten."

Man, I had to be in bed by eight when I was this kid's age.

That night, the worms strike. The camera glides along the ductwork, showing their infiltration of the vents. And eventually, they arrive at their destination.

Okay, generally speaking, child actors aren't exactly Ian McKellen. But it's unfair to blame them for not spending thirty years practicing their craft. I mean, it probably took them about a fifth of their whole life to learn to use a toilet, so it's not like they've had much time to learn Stanislavsky.

But in all honesty... I have got to give props to this kid for being willing to go through all this.

Noah Shebib, wherever you are, I salute you.
"What about me? I ate a worm."
Yeah, a rubber worm.

Anyway, the worms are all through Todd's bed, casing him to jump up screaming. His mom comes in to see what's going on, and he says that Reggie must have broken into his room and filled his bed with worms. But there's one problem.

Mother: "She's not even here. She's on a sleepover at Beth's."

She tells Todd to just clean up the worms and go to sleep, and he does. He scoops them into a jar and sets the jar in a very specific place in front of the camera. And once he does so, the worms wriggle as hard as they can.

So... I have no proof, but based on the fact that the worms don't wriggle until Todd sets them in said very specific spot... I think the jar was placed on some kind of heating element, or something that the worms were trying to get away from. So this might be actual worm torture.

The next day at school, Todd tries to get back in Danny's good graces.

Todd: "Do you wanna sleep over tonight? We could watch videos."

A phrase which today refers to YouTube, as opposed to whatever Todd here has on VHS. Which is probably either Dune or Squirm. Most likely both.

Danny: "No thanks."
Todd: "We could order pizza. Double cheese, pineapple, pepperoni."

Oooh, that sounds really good, actually.

Danny: "And worms?"

If you like, I guess. I'd add green peppers, personally.

But Todd's story about Reggie putting worms in his bed makes his friend soften up a bit, and the friendship is restored as the two of them plot revenge.

Danny: "What're you gonna do?"
Todd: "Let's just say I'll need more worms."

It's like they always say. If you're gonna fight worms, you're gonna need worms.

Todd plans on going down to the lake tonight to dig for fresh ones, but Danny has to stay home and shampoo the dog. But he'll ask about sleeping over anyway.

Later that day, Beth and Reggie walk through the woods, talking about their project when they run into Todd. He wants Reggie to 'fess up regarding the worms in his bed, but she denies everything. And as they walk away from him he runs after them and declares that they are, in fact, the one who will be sore-y when all is said and done. This turns into an argument about whose science fair project is better, and that devolves into the girls walking away chanting "Worms on the brai-ain" in the traditional "Ring Around the Rosie" rhythm. And hilariously enough, the soundtrack even gets in on it by playing the tune in the background after they leave.

Todd returns home and packs his worm gear in the basement as the same three worms from earlier poke their heads up to the same tune as the "Worms on the Brain" chant. But when he goes over to investigate... nothing.

"Yep. This is definitely dirt."
He goes out into the blue-tinted darkness to search for worms as thunder reverberates throughout the trees, heralding the oncoming storm. Todd is ecstatic that the rain will probably bring some big ol' worms to the surface, but doesn't count on falling through a hole in the ground covered by dry ice fog.

He ends up falling into a cavern that is somehow being lit by blue and green colored lights, and begins trekking forward into the darkness through a set that wouldn't look out of place in Fraggle Rock.

After some wandering, he comes across a threat carved into the dirt wall by some worms.

Fun Fact: This was how text messages were sent in the 1990s. Why do you think cell phones were so big?
We had to have a place to store the worms.
Todd realizes that the floor beneath his feet is covered in worms, and as he tries to get away, he simply falls on top of them. When he gets to his feet, he gets the shock of his life. Wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.

"I... really hope that's a worm."
"Nope. Not staying to find out."
He tackles with the gigantic thing before running off and somehow ending up above ground.

Either he's too fat to leave Rabbit's house, or he's reenacting the beginning of Raising Arizona.
The worm follows him to the surface and tries to drag him down into the ground, but the sight of a giant robin scares it away.

As it turns out, Beth and Reggie are walking by in the middle of the dark, wet forest at night. For reasons. They make fun of his story about a "giant worm" and continue on the trail, singing another round of "Worms on the brain" while the ground pulsates briefly.

Sometime later, Todd returns home and starts putting all of his worms in a bucket to release outside.

Todd: "This house is now officially worm-free."

And to drive the point home, he gets rid of his worm paraphernalia before fixing Reggie's robin. His mom invites him downstars for a video and tells him that he's in charge of the popcorn. Worms in the popcorn. Calling it now.

We fade from a shot of Todd's face to a shot of wriggling worms... and then cut to Todd and Danny fishing.

Because kids actually go outside in Canada.
...Wait. That's it?

That megaworm encounter is just begging for escalation. You're telling me that this is it!? All that's left is the twist ending.

Todd isn't even willing to use worms as bait at this point. Instead, he's got some live minnows to use. One of them gets away... but hangs around in the lake to listen in on their conversation, where Todd explains how to put a minnow on a hook.

Todd: "Don't worry, it's a stupid little minnow. They don't feel a thing."

...Oh. I see.

It's not that you liked worms, you were just using them as an outlet for your sociopathic tendencies under the justification that "they don't feel a thing." So now you've moved on to fish. And Danny suggesting a fish-related science fair project isn't helping.

Todd: "When you think about it, fish really are nature's perfect creatures."
Danny: 'That's what you said about worms."
Todd: "I know, but fish are way better."

Which is why he wants to kill them.

Todd: "All we need is a few experiments. How long can fish live in hot water or cold water?"

So your first experiment is to ignore the advice of the guy at the pet store?

Todd: "How long can a freshwater fish survive in salt water? Stuff like that."

Which is about the same as doing an experiment to figure out how long a cat can survive in a carbon monoxide atmosphere.

So basically, all of Todd's proposed fish experiments deal with how long it takes fish to die horribly.

Danny: "Isn't that kinda cruel? I mean, making them suffer like that?"
Todd: "Don't be such a baby. We've got to be scientific about this."

Which is exactly how Josef Mengele justified his random experiments.

Todd: "I'm telling you, fish can't feel anything."

Then what's that central nervous system for, smart guy?

Luckily for the animal kingdom, the fish launch a pre-emptive strike by pulling him into the water. They do this by pulling on a string attached to a random sandwich that Todd decided to eat, thinking it was Danny's.

I have no idea how fish made a sandwich without getting it wet.
And so, Todd is caught on the line and reeled in, with all of his promises to give up fishing falling on deaf... um... whatever fish use to hear. They do let him go, but....

Todd: "What? You're gonna make me swim back?"

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