Monday, October 10, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Night of the Living Dummy II"

No, there is no episode based on the original "Night of the Living Dummy." Probably because the now-iconic Slappy wasn't actually the villain in that book, but a different dummy named Mr. Wood.

I can only wonder why R.L. Stine felt the need to give them both needlessly creepy names.

"I think you'll find that the answer's right there in the question."
...Huh. Maybe.

Anyway, creepy ventriloquil figures.

As if there were any other kind.
The episode begins with the Kramer family and their weekly Family Share Night. First up is the older sister, Sara (Caterina Scorsone). In true...

"Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh!"
 Oh, hey, haven't seen you around in a while. What're you freaking out about?

"That's Caterina Scorsone!"
Yes. And?

"Uhhhhh, as in Amelia Shepherd M.D. from Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy?"
Guess who's not familiar with either show?

"You need to binge. Now."
Okay. I guess that means I'll have to put off my eventual Recap of Ant-Man until... I don't know, 2025?

"...Whatever, get back to your kids' show."
With pleasure!

Anyway, in true older sister fashion, Sara's overachieving. Specifically, by having painted a beautiful picture of their house and planning on entering it in an art show.

Dad: "It belongs in a museum."

 Now I just want to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

But the middle child, Amy (Maggie Castle), is less enthusiastic.

Amy: "She showed us the exact same picture last family night."

Hey, paintings can take a long time to finish.

By the time I'm halfway through one, I have an idea for another....
After Amy gets told to wait her turn, her little brother Jed (Andrew Sardella) goes next with a little video he made about his family. Mom's eating ice cream in front of the fridge, Dad's trying on a toupee, and Sara's... putting on makeup?

How... embarrassing?
And finally, a clip of Amy trying on Sara's sweater. Amy gets so mad that she ejects the video then and there.

Dad: "Amy, where's your sense of humor?"

"And I'm sure that saying that will not get flipped around on me ironically."
Jed: "Yeah. I could win a fortune on that Fractured Family Video show."

A TV show where, instead of America sending in their funniest home videos, people send in video evidence of their screwed-up family for money? Must be on TLC.

Just wait a few years, kid. There'll be this thing called "YouTube." Of course, you'll probably be out of college by then, but still.

Sara: "How many times do I have to tell you not to try on my clothes?"

Speaking of which, Jed, Stine wants his shirt back.
"So that's where it went."
Anyway, it's Amy's turn to do her ventriloquist act with her dummy, Dennis.

Amy: "So, Dennis, how was your family picnic? Were you bothered by any ants?"
Dennis: "No, worse. Termites."

Boy, ventriloquism is easy when the sound guy just dubs your voice over the footage.

Dennis: "You've heard of the Terminator. Well, we had to call in the exterminator."

It's funny because... The Terminator was a movie?

Then his head falls off.

Jed: "That's the best part."


Amy takes this opportunity to pout, since her dad promised her a new dummy. Her dad tells her to look behind the couch, and she finds a trunk. As she sets it up, he explains that he found him sitting in the window of the local second-hand shop.

And there's the cause of our nightmares for the next fortnight.
According to the inside of his case, his name is "Slappy." And he's suspiciously similar in size to somebody with dwarfism. And yet, they won't use somebody in a costume to portray Slappy when he comes to life. Well, not in this episode, anyway.

Speaking of life, Amy finds an odd little card in his pocket and decides to read it out loud.

Amy: "Karru Marri Odona Loma Molonu Karrano?"

"Honey, call Dr. Alaniz and tell her that Amy's speaking in tongues again."
You know, that card is the biggest problem I have with the "Night of the Living Dummy" series. That card has magic words written on it that bring Slappy (and occasionally, other dummies) to life. So you'd think these people would tear that card up and throw it away after Slappy gets defeated.

After they all dismiss the odd gibberish, Amy hugs her dummy, unaware of what she has just unleashed into the world....

Later that night, Amy practices in her room with Slappy.

Amy: "It's nice to meet you, Slappy."
"Slappy": "It's nice to meet you too, Amy."
Amy: "It must be great to have a new home."
Slappy: "Ya got that right, kiddo."

But Sara comes in to distract Amy from her living dummy by telling Amy to stay out of her room. They have a little argument about this, too.

Sara: "Now go to bed."
Amy: "Don't have to."
Slappy: "Yeah, we don't have to!"
Sara: "Come on. Mom says so."

After Sara leaves, Amy is left alone with only her thoughts and a ventriloquist dummy that actually spoke.

Amy: "That's weird."

So she puts Slappy next to Dennis and prepares to go to sleep. Yeah, it's weird that your dummy spoke of its own free will and said something relevant to the conversation, but whatever. Bedtime.

But when she makes her way back to her bed, Dennis falls on the floor.....

That night, we get a POV shot of a small figure waltzing into Sara's room with a paintbrush. And the next morning, we Sara freaking out over the resulting vandalism.

Because it's not like she could paint over it.
Heck, she could claim that it's some statement on the fragile artificiality of the middle class, or some such.
When Amy comes in, having found a paintbrush, everybody is quick to blame her.

Sara: "You're always jealous of my art."
Amy: "I didn't. Why would I?"
Sara: "So who did, the tooth fairy?"

Wait a minute... Let me check something....


Huh. Did you know that R.L. Stine has never written about an evil tooth fairy? Evil dentists showed up in a sequel to "One Day at Horrorland," but no actual tooth fairies. Come on, man! You've cranked out story after story regarding werewolves, haunted masks, and evil dummies, but nothing about the mysterious supernatural creature that steals teeth?
Jed: "Pretty dumb, Amy. Even I wouldn't try to get away with that."

Their parents try to save this discussion for later, but Amy doesn't appreciate their implications.

Amy: "I'm always blamed for everything around here!"

Don't worry, Amy. I believe that you'd never go inside your sister's room and touch her stuff. ...Except her sweater. But it's not like you'll do anything like that again. Within the next few minutes of screen time.

But after returning to her room and touching Slappy, Amy notices something red on her hands that smells like blue paint.

Amy: "Red paint? What's going on?"

It seems as though Slappy has wet red paint on his hands. Even though it should have dried by now, since he vandalized the art in the middle of the night.

We then cut to... Family Sharing Night. Wait, is it still the same day? Did this family just have two Family Share Nights in a row? Is this a thing normal people do? Am I the weird one?

Um, anyway, Dad Kramer is playing "If you're Happy and You Know it" on his guitar. Looks like those lessons are paying off. In fact, he gets a round of applause.

"Don't patronize me."
Once he finishes up, Amy gets to try out her new routine with Slappy.

"Hey, Slappy, why did the aardvark cross the road?"
"I am an affront to the laws of God and man!"
Amy: "So, Slappy, how do you like being part of the Kramer family so far?"
"Slappy": "It's fantastic, but then my last family was a pine tree."

So I guess that makes Slappy here a real chip off the ol' block, eh?



Amy: "So, what did you think of Dad's song?"
Slappy: "That was your dad? Well, what a relief. I thought the cat got stuck in the dishwasher."


Dad: "Amy, that's not very nice."

Yeah, but it was actually funny.

Come on, have a sense of humor, right?

Slappy: "And how about that mother of yours? She went to a store and asked if the clerk had anything in her size, and he told her to try the freight elevator!"

Ye gods, the dummy's been possessed by the ghost of Don Rickles! Which is odd, since Don Rickles was very much alive in 1996.

But after the dummy starts insulting Jed and Sara, Amy starts trying to get the dummy off her arm to no avail. So her whole family assists her in getting the dummy off her arm, lest her fragile mental state lead her to become a Batman villain.

Sadly, we don't get to see Mrs. Kramer's cheer routine from high school.
Amy and Slappy both get sent to bed, and she crams Slappy back into his trunk to keep him from causing any more mischief.

The next day or whenever, Amy and her friend Margo (Kerry Duff) talk about boys while coloring in a poster for the Save the Rainforest dance. Margo's sister, Alicia, gets into Amy's closet and plays with her dolls, leading Margo and Amy to bond by complaining about their siblings.

Amy: "Sometimes I wish I didn't have any brothers or sisters."

And if this were a different episode, that wish would come back to haunt her in an ironic fashion. But this episode already has its supernatural phenomenon causing trouble, and he's currently locked in a big ol' chest that Alicia looks like she wants to open....

But Sara comes in and gets after Amy for going into her room and stealing her markers to make the poster.

Amy: "I didn't steal them. We were just borrowing them."

I take back what I said about believing Amy. No wonder nobody believes her about the dummy.

Sara: "You never even asked. I told you to stay out of my room!"
Amy: "Just stay out of my life!"

I've gotta hand it to this actress.
She's got the "I'm in my friend's house and she's having a disturbingly intense fight with her family" nailed.
But to make matters worse, Alicia has discovered Slappy. She claims that Slappy said he couldn't breathe in the trunk when Amy takes him away, and Slappy starts talking again. She makes fun of Margo's chances with Shane and tightly grabs onto Alicia's hand. And once again, all the blame is placed on the one holding the dummy.

Slappy stops when Mom Kramer enters, but the damage is done.

Amy: "Slappy grabbed Alicia and he wouldn't let go!"
Mom: "What?"
Margo: "You're such a liar... a big, fat liar!"

Oh, you didn't have to bring her weight into this.

"Nah, I think it's warranted."
Margo: "I don't ever want to see you again. Not ever."

Amy gets grounded until her dad gets home, during which time Slappy chuckles with his mouth closed.

When Amy's dad gets home, the family has a meeting in the living room, where they confront Amy about blaming her own behavior on a doll.

Amy: "Slappy's not a doll. He's a dummy. I can't help it if he's haunted or something. Why won't anybody believe me?"

There, happy, Ant-Man? I made a reference.
"I'm pacified."
Nobody believes her, and her dad even tries to try and relate to her a bit by talking about how he knows exactly what it's like to be the middle sibling. But still Amy protests.

You know, judging by how Amy's parents are suddenly more about desperately trying to pinpoint her issues than disciplining her, this seems uncannily like they're discussing putting Amy on meds. Trust me; I grew up during the height of the late-90s Ritalin craze. I know what this discussion looks like.

Mom: "Amy, if you really and truly believe that Slappy is responsible for all this, then maybe we need to get some help."
Amy: "You mean like a doctor or something?"

Yep. Called it. They're itchin' to get Amy hooked up with some pills.

If I may analyze this family for a bit, it's very clear that they're not exactly the Cleavers. They fight all the time at the drop of a hat. And it's evident that the parents are at their wits' end.

Sure, I'm exaggerating when I say that they want to pump Amy full of methylphenidate, but this is a family that has clearly run out of patience and ideas. They fight all the time, and Amy blaming the dummy is making the problem worse than it already was.

Of course, the fact that the dummy is doing all this complicates the issue.

But Amy runs off to her room again, so nothing has been solved.

Jed: "Can I watch TV now?"

That night, as Amy's parents sleep in front of the staticky TV, Amy wakes up to find Slappy's trunk empty. And when she goes downstairs to investigate, she discovers the dummy attempting to smash Dad Kramer's guitar over his head. But before Slappy can deliver the ol' El Kabong, Amy tackles him to the ground, both waking up her parents and breaking the guitar. And, of course, they blame her.

Ironic that Amy could have proven her own innocence by simply staying in bed.
The next day, Jed and Sara get sent away from the breakfast table so that Amy and her parents can have a private chat without them making fun of her.

Dad: "Amy, you mother and I have talked about this, and we want you to tell us what you think we should do."

"Disassemble Slappy piece by piece with a band saw, burn the remains, put the ash in an urn, superglue it shut, put the urn in a cast-iron box, weld the lid shut, put the box in Slappy's trunk, fill it with cement, superglue that shut, lock it, wrap the whole thing in ten rolls of duct tape, drive to the other side of the country, and stick it in a landfill."
"Damn it, Amy, I paid good money for that thing. It may be causing you to act out, but you're damn well keeping it!"
Amy: "You mean like a punishment?"
Mom: "I think we both know that's not the answer."

"Then... a reward?"
Her parents just want to know why she keeps blaming Slappy, and they aren't taking "It's the truth" for an answer. But for now, the issue is put on the back burner so the adults can go to work.

Later that day, Amy walks down the road to find Margo and her new token white friend hanging up posters for the dance. They ignore Amy, but she's on a mission. She's brought Slappy to the side of the road, and... she abandons him in a storm drain...

Holy crap, I remember this.
Even though I said in my Recap of "The Haunted Mask" that I never watched this as a kid, that is to say I never intentionally watched it. I have unintentionally seen fragments of both this episode and "Bad Hare Day."  Back in my day, when the only channels were 6, 10, 23, 47, and 53, there wasn't much on. So I'd turn on the TV, see what was happening, and decide whether or not to keep watching. And one day, I found Amy tossing a dummy down a storm drain... and that's all I remember seeing as a kid. I don't know if I turned away because I was bored, or if I got scared, or if I was looking for Power Rangers, or what.

Later that night, Sara mops the floor while asking Amy why she really wrecked their dad's guitar.

Amy: "There's no point in telling you the truth, 'cause you think I'm crazy anyways."

As Amy walks away, the camera pans down to show the tiny footprints Sara's been mopping up. Which go all the way into Amy's room, where Slappy awaits. And he's given up on the whole "stealth" thing, since he's walking and talking.

Slappy: "Wasn't very nice of you to dump me in the sewer like that."

He also goes on to explain the central idea of the "Night of the Living Dummy" series: Whoever brings Slappy to life with the magic words becomes his.

Slappy: "You are my slave."

Slappy, do I need to teach you about the 18th Amendment?

"No, I know that Prohibition was repealed."

"The 18th Amendment."
Wait, which one deals with slavery?

"Number thirteen."

"Do I need to teach you about the 18th Amendment?"
Shut up.

Amy protests, but Slappy insists that he can get her to do anything he wants, since he's convinced her family that she's nuts.
"Which is why I won't be keeping up the charade that's been working so far!"
Slappy: "Amy, I can hurt you and your family in a hundred ways."


Sara comes in to see what Amy's yelling about, only to find Amy and Slappy. And unlike the last few times, Slappy is finally willing to make his sentience known.

Slappy: "Hey, Sara. Wanna play?"

"Hey, get your own damn catchphrase."
The two girls run downstairs as Slappy gets even creepier.

As if that were possible.
Look, there's no getting around it. Slappy has an obsession with young girls, and nearly everything he says can be taken out of context in that respect. Let's save that for the Review.

Anyway, the girls hide in the bathroom, and Sara tells Amy how sore-y she is for not believing her. But int the end, the two realize that Jed is still out there in the rest of the house. So it's up to them to save their brother from the evil dummy. They search the darkened house for their brother, finding only Slappy in the living room chandelier. They grab a broom, but they can't manage to hit him.

Slappy: "I've seen better swings on playgrounds."

I hope not. Slappy shouldn't be allowed within 500 yards of a school.

But in the end, even though Slappy drops down and manages to get on top of Amy, a small figure manages to knock him down and break his head open, causing green smoke to spill out.

Badly composited green smoke.
Of course, I imagine they could only film Slappy's smashed head a limited number of times.
Slappy is dead. Until any and all sequels.

And it's only now that the adults decide to come in. The girls quickly explain that Slappy was alive, but Jed stopped him.

Jed: "What's going on? What'd I do?"

And the twist ending comes along as everybody slowly turns to see Dennis standing on the table.
"So... you're a good ventriloquist dummy, then?"
"That of which you speak does not exist, flesh creature."
Dennis: "A-hyuh. It's good to be back in the family again."

...Dennis sounds like a Goofy impression.

The subtitles even identify it as one.
And so, as I wonder whether or not Disney sent Scholastic a little message, the episode ends. So let's review and see exactly why Slappy caught on.

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