Monday, October 24, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Say Cheese and Die"

In the 19th century, photographers would tell their subjects to say "prunes." Since the whole point of saying "cheese" during a photo is that it forces your face into an approximation of a natural smile, this might seem odd to you. But smiling wasn't what people were expected to do in photos; people were supposed to stay stoic and serious in photos to reinforce how classy and noble they are, an idea held over from when people would pay through the nose to have themselves painted as a symbol of wealth.

So saying "prunes" would keep your mouth small and stoic, and your expression would look more like an actor's professional headshot than a modern portrait.

Of course, it depends on the actor in question.
It's a good thing for R.L. Stine that "cheese" caught on.
Otherwise, people would probably confuse "Say Prunes and Die" with "An Old Story."
The episode begins with...

Holy Moses, it's Ryan Gosling.
No, seriously, that's not a joke. That's Ryan Gosling. He was on Goosebumps. And he was on Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which I actually knew already.

He was not, however, on The Magic School Bus.
 And... I have nothing to say, oddly enough.

Seriously, Ryan Gosling is in an episode of Goosebumps. My brain is not prepared for this. What am I supposed to say to that, apart from the odd joke about his film career?

Ryan Gosling is in a Goosebumps episode. That's almost a punchline in and of itself.

What I will say is that he looks exactly the same as a kid and an adult. In fact, here's my reaction when I saw his face in the thumbnail for this episode.

"Hey, that looks just like hey that's Ryan Gosling."

And here's another bit of personal trivia for you.

See the smiling extra to the right of Ryan? His name is Earl.
During my college days, I performed alongside him several times. He's a nice guy.
My Gosling Number is 2. Which, incidentally, gives me a Bacon Number of 3.
Mr. Gosling is playing a kid named Greg Banks... but that won't stop me from accidentally referring to him as "Ryan Gosling." It's like watching Shaq in Steel all over again.

Anyway, Ryan... crap, I did it already. Fine, I'll actually proofread this one and correct it when I accidentally type "Ryan." I'll even add a counter at the end to let you know how many times I screw up.

So Greg and his friends Bird (Akiva David) and Shari (Renessa Blitz) are spying on a creepy dude named "Spidey" as he exits his lair, which is actually the old brewery that Goosebumps used for most of its creepy abandoned buildings.

The three kids do nothing but watch him leave and accuse him of eating various rhyming animals. Rats, cats, bats. ...Wow, there is literally nothing to do in Canada, huh? Or maybe these three just saw Harriet the Spy in theatres and left with the message of "Keeping strangers under surveillance is fun!"

As Spider leaves the building in a way I can only describe as galloping, the three kids decide to head inside the abandoned building and see exactly what Spidey gets up to before the building is torn down. Once inside, they look around the haphazard mix of workspace and living quarters.

Greg: "Why would somebody live like this?"

Because it's better than living in an alleyway?

Greg accidentally triggers a secret compartment in Spidey's workbench and whips out what appears to be a cheap and inaccurate mockup of a Star Trek shuttlecraft made out of a toaster and the nacelles from a model Enterprise.

Greg: "I think this thing's a camera."

How did you get "camera" from that thing?
Bird tells Greg to take his picture, because everybody knows you're supposed to create photographic evidence when you break into a place. And these days, you upload that to Facebook straight away, making absolutely sure to tag yourself and your accomplices.

...The real sad part is that there are plenty of criminals who did just that.

Bird runs halfway up the stairs and begins juggling a few balls, ready for Greg to create Exhibit A in the eventual court case regarding their trespassing on private property.

Girl: "Say 'cheese!'"

And die.

Bird: "Cheddar!"

The photo pops out the front of the camera and...

What? You kids didn't know about these?
Okay, kids. Back in the day, people would take pictures and hope they turned out well. The pictures were saved on a tube of "film" and then sent away to professionals, who would use chemicals to transfer the film onto an 8x5 or whatever size you requested. But cameras called "Polaroids" were famous for being able to spit out a finished photo in just a few seconds, albeit a smaller one.

You kids don't know how good you have it with your... well, I don't know what year it is when you're reading this, so just pick whichever option most applies to what you kids use instead of Polaroids.
  • iPhones
  • Holograms
  • Memory downloads
  • Stasis slides
Anyway, as the photo pops out of the camera, the staircase gives way, and Bird crashes to the ground. He's unhurt, but he's had enough for today and would just like to get going. As the three try to leave, Spidey arrives to block their way.

Admittedly, these kids broke into his place and are messing with his stuff, so I kind of have to root for him.
He begins to approach the intruders menacingly, but falls through the newly-made hole in the staircase before he can indulge in that trademark Goosebumps child-grabbing.

The kids use this time to flee the building and hide around the corner to catch their breath.

Greg: "I'm never ever doing anything like that again."

Just promise me you'll never ever do anything like The Notebook ever again.

But they can't just walk away from this scot-free, since Greg took the camera with him in his haste. But that doesn't mean they can just waltz back in there and return it. Spidey's probably really mad about falling through that staircase. Or he might have a broken neck.

Speaking of falling through the staircase, though, Greg notices that the picture he took shows it happening. Even though it didn't happen until after he took the picture.

But the kids decide to leave and decide what to do about the camera later. Greg says "wait up," but the next scene shows him walking home alone. So I can only imagine that his friends ditched him just in case Spidey came back.

It's like dealing with a bear. You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friend.

Anyway, Greg returns home to find a new car in the driveway, as well as his brother, Terry (Caley Wilson). Said brother is a homunculus of distilled 1996 given life. Baggy plaid shirt, necklace, long hair, the whole bit.

Add a "Whazzaaaaaaaaaaap?" and he shall be complete.
The car is their dad's, but Terry seems to be more interested in the camera.

Greg: "Somethin' Shari gave me."

And like Bird, Terry wants his picture taken. This will be a running thing in the episode, since cameras were sort of a special deal at the time.

Cameras cost money. Film cost money. Getting the film developed cost money. So if you actually had a camera, odds are you were a photographer or a grown-up. In an age without cameraphones, somebody with a camera was a special thing. Nowadays, we take pictures of food. Food.

Anyway, Greg takes the picture, but seems vaguely alarmed by the result. He even lies in order to keep his brother from seeing it.

Greg: "It's a new process. It doesn't develop right away."

No, pictures that don't develop right away are the old process.

This seems to placate Terry, though, and Greg heads inside as Spidey watches him from behind a tree.

So... the neighbors don't have a problem with Tick-Tock here standing in their yard?
Greg heads up to his room and looks at the camera, trying to figure out its deal as Terry comes in, telling him that it's dinnertime.

Hey, sweet Venom poster.
Terry: "Hey, is that picture ready yet?"
Greg: "It didn't turn out. Look, don't you know how to knock?"
Terry: "Mmmm... nuh-uh. I haven't taken that class yet."

As Terry leaves, Greg looks at the picture...

I'd say that calls for a "dun-dun-dunnnnn."
Dinnertime goes as well as dinners probably do in this house.

Terry: "It's good chicken, mom."
Mom: "It's not chicken, Terry. It's veal!"
Terry: "...It's good veal."

Ah, veal. The eternal battle between cries of "Animal cruelty!" and cries of "It's delicious!" And this lady's terrible cooking has done nothing but anger both sides.

But Greg isn't too hungry. He's still thinking about that picture of his dad's new car. Not helping matters is his dad bringing it up.

Am I crazy, or does this guy actually look a lot like R.L. Stine?
"I don't see the resemblance."
Greg: "I think you should take it back."

"Trade it in for a '73 Chevy Malibu."
Greg: "Uh, just because, um, think how bad you would feel if you got a scratch on it."

Kid, it depreciated by 90% as soon as he drove it off the lot. Taking it back isn't something he can actually do.

Greg: "And besides, it's too shiny. It hurts my eyes."
Terry: "He's been acting really weird ever since he came home."
Dad: "Have you been acting weird?"
Greg: "No weirder than usual."

Case closed, I guess.

But Papa Stine knows what'll cheer him up. A ride in the car!

Everybody but Greg is thrilled to be riding down the highway, and he lets them know it.

Greg: "Dad, don't you think you should slow down?"
Mom: "We're only going 35, Greg."

35... kilometers an hour? That is really slow. And don't pretend that they're going 35 miles an hour, show. You're as Canadian as a goose eating poutine. Watching hockey.

Finally scared enough to admit the truth, Greg shows his mom the picture he took earlier. At least, he tries to. When he reaches out to hand it to her, a sudden gust of wind blows it out the window. And even worse than that, they almost hit a semi roaring by. Luckily, Papa Stine shows us where Ryan inherited the skills he'll show off in Drive, so everyone's safe.

The next day, the family has themselves a nice little cookout. Papa Stine makes kebobs, his wife provides rabbit food salad, Terry eats a cob of corn in each hand, and Greg excitedly prepares to take a picture of them with the evil camera.

But when the picture pops out, it shows Greg a recreation of the cover to the book with really unconvincing skeleton effects.

Hey, it's Curly's family!
To the surprise of no one, it turns out to be a dream.

Wait, where'd his rainbow pillowcase go?
The real next day, Greg and Bird walk down the street while Greg tries to tell him all about the evil camera and the picture of the car, but Bird isn't believing his story about a camera predicting the future.

Bird: "If you're serious, then I'll make a prediction. Tomorrow, men in white coats are gonna come and take you away."

The fact that Greg doesn't actually have the picture in question anymore doesn't help his case. So Greg tries to use the camera's strangeness to make his case.

Greg: "I mean, there's nowhere to put the film, or no way to even open it."

"Maybe it's, like, computerized? Like some kind of... 'digital camera'?"
"That's just stupid."
Bird takes a look and pretends to take Greg's picture, but he's not having it.

Bird: "Reality check. This is a camera, not a weapon."

But if only it were, since the local interchangeable bullies, Joey Ferris and Mickey Ward (Dan Petronijevic and Christian Tessier) arrive to do their thing.

Joey: "Hey, look! They found my camera. Thanks!"

Seriously, how can anyone tell that it's a camera? Especially these meatheads.

Joey and Mickey do their bullying schtick by refusing to give the camera back and claim that it's theirs. And Joey even prepares to take Mickey's picture.
Welcome to Canada, where even the dumb bullies have an interest in artistic endeavors.
Greg: "Don't do it!"
Mickey: "What?"
Bird: "Well, 'cause your face is gonna break the camera!"

As Joey threatens Bird, Greg grabs the camera and runs away from the bullies, who soon lose interest after Bird and Greg hop the fence into Shari's backyard. And since they're all there, she invites Greg to take her picture.

Greg: "Oh, shit, uh, I don't think that's a good idea."

I think the line is supposed to be "Oh, Shar," but that's not what it sounds like at all.

Shari leans against a tree like she was getting her senior photo taken, and Greg reluctantly snaps the picture.

And for some reason, I can't shake this feeling that a spider should be biting Greg's hand right about now.
They all look at the picture, and Shari criticizes Greg's photography skills since she's not actually in the picture. Even though the tree she was leaning against is.

Which is how you know you're a terrible photographer.
Shari: "Then what am I, invisible?"

Not unless you've got an evil mirror in your attic.

Bird: "Or a vampire."

Not unless there's a bottle of Vampire Breath in her basement. I know all your little tricks, Goosebumps!

"Wow. You've read books meant for children. What do you want, a medal?"
Shari forces him to take another picture, but Terry randomly shows up before he can take it.

Terry: "Greg. It's Dad. There's been an accident."
Greg: "What do you mean an accident?"
Terry: "The car, man. It's totaled."

"Not the car!"
They visit Papa Stine in the hospital, who's in good spirits despite the broken leg.

See, it's funny because his bones were painfully shattered.
As the boys worry about their dad, the extra in the background does his best to convince us that he's actually a doctor.

"I simply can't can't tell you how much of a real doctor I am.
Look at my scrubs. Look at my clipboard. Look at the thing I'm wearing on my head."
Later that night, Greg answers a knock on the door, because... I don't know, his mom and brother are out buying a new car?

But the police officers on the other side of the door are there to see Greg.

"Are you the legal guardian of John Connor?"
Oh, that's Scott Speedman, by the way. No, really. And the actress playing the other cop, Karen Robinson, reunited with Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl.

Officer: "Do you know Shari Walker?"
Greg: "Shari? Uh, yeah, she's one of my best friends."

It seems as though Shari's gone missing, and Greg was one of the last people to see her.

Officer: "Do you know where she is now?"
Greg: "At her house, I guess."

"Ooohhhhh. You know, we never actually thought to look there."
Apparently, Shari is missing.

Greg: "I knew it."
Officer 2: "What do you mean, you knew it?"
Greg: "Uh, I mean, uh, I mean that I knew something must have happened to her."
Officer: "Oh, how'd you know that?"
Greg: "Well, um, because you guys are here."

"Who said we were here, kid?"
"Well, you rang the doorbell, so I assumed someone was here. And here you are."
"And where were you while this was going on?"
"Um... here."
"Doing what?"
"Answering the door."
"Really. And who, might I ask, was at the door?"
"You were."
"And how did you know we would be here?"
"Because you rang the doorbell...?"
"And how would you know that?"
"Because I was home when you rang the doorbell."
"Hm. Convenient."
"Too convenient, if you ask me."
Officer 2: "You telling us the truth?"
"Can you verify that we are, in fact, here?"
Greg: "Honestly, the last time I saw her was at her house. I took a picture of her."
Officer: "Oh, I'd like to see that. It might be helpful."

Congrats, Greg, you took a last known photo.

Greg happens to have the picture on him, and the officers gently demand it.

Greg: "Okay, but first you gotta know that..."
Officer 2: "Just give her the picture."

So Greg hands over the picture of... a tree.

Officer: "What is this, some kind of joke?"
Greg: "No...."
Officer: "This is a picture of a tree."
"She's... uh... a dryad?"
The officers leave with a final warning that Greg better not be lying to them while, across the street, Spidey returns to the story. Yeah, you forgot he was following Greg, didn't you?

But that doesn't matter now, because we cut to the next day, where Greg meets up with Bird while he practices his juggling. Bird doesn't want to listen to Greg harp on about that camera, but Greg has an ever-growing pile of evidence.

Greg: "It predicts the future! And it makes it bad."

Aw, don't make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better.

Bird: "Why didn't you tell the police?"
Greg: "Because they'd think I was nuts. And now Shari's disappeared. It's all my fault."

Yes. Yes it is. You were the one who snapped all that picture against your better judgement. Heck, you were the one who stole the darn camera.

Greg rips the pictures up in frustration and tosses the camera onto the sidewalk, which survives the encounter with the pavement without a scratch. A trick which today's cameraphones sorely need to learn.

The two want to get rid of the camera, but Greg doesn't want to risk anybody stumbling across it and taking pictures.

"No sequels, Bird. I'm serious. I am not showing up for any sequels."
Greg says that they have to return the camera to Spidey, but Bird wants nothing to do with it.

Bird: "'We' did not take the camera. You did."

Bird then makes up a lame excuse about having to do "a whole buncha stuff" for his dad and gets going.

Later that night, Greg returns to Spidey's abandoned building, only to run into Shari outside. Apparently, she just suddenly reappeared in her backyard after some time in limbo.

Anyway, the timing of her return just so happens to coincide with the ripping-up of the photographs, which would suggest that the camera has the lamest weakness.

Imagine if Princess Ariel could have just ripped up her contract with Ursula.
Or if the videotape from The Ring could have simply been recorded over.
So Greg vows once and for to return the camera, which is why Shari actually happened to show up. Moral support and all.

After breaking and entering once again, they head back into the workshop to return their il-gotten booty. Unfortunately, Spidey's waiting for them.

Spidey: "Primitive tribes fear the camera. They believe that if it takes their picture, it will steal their soul. This camera is far worse, far worse, far worse."

Well, hello to you too.

Greg: "We were just gonna bring it back."
Spidey: "I figured you might. Once you discovered the kind of pictures it takes."

Which is why you stalked him and watched his house for a few days...?
Seriously, did they just forget about this plot point?
Greg hands it to the creeper, who begins to think back to creating the machine in the first place.

Spidey: "A camera that predicts the future. It should have made me my fortune."
Greg: "You invented it?"
Spidey: "What!?"

Whoa, dude, it was a simple question.

Spidey: "Do you think I've always been a wretched creature slinking about at night? Yes! Yes."

You've always been a wretched creature? Or the invention thing?

"Both. That's why I said 'yes' twice."
Spidey: "I soon discovered it not only predicted the future, it made it happen. And it was always disastrous. It can't be destroyed. That's why I've kept it hidden all these years."

Guy built the thing Tonka-tough. Although if he were really smart, he'd have attached it to a spy drone and sold it to the military for a fortune.

Greg and Shari try to leave, but Spidey blocks their path.

Spidey: "You know too much. I can't let you leave."

Maybe if you weren't a blabbermouth, they wouldn't know too much.

Shari and Greg tell him that their lips are sealed, but he won't hear of it. He attacks Greg, who has little choice but to use the camera in self-defense, which makes Spidey disappear into nothingness because...

I don't know, this is just something the camera can do now. It's an evil camera. Don't question it.
Anyway, Greg and Shari take this opportunity to run off as Spidey's disembodied soul screams from inside the camera. Sometime later, Joey and Mickey come along to recover the camera.

Joey: "Those jerks actually thought they could hide it from us."

So... how did these doofi know it was there?
But as soon as they use it and laugh over the resulting picture, Spidey returns behind them.... And that's it. The episode's just done. So let's review.

Accidental "Ryan" Counter: 4

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