Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Goosebumps "Phantom of the Auditorium"

It's oddly appropriate that I'm covering this episode today, since there's an actress from Mean Girls in it.

Seriously, I didn't actually plan it out this way.
The plot is relatively unchanged from the original book. More than anything else, it's been streamlined and simplified, with extraneous scenes cut and certain details changed, like where Zeke was when Emile dressed up as the Phantom, or the circumstances of discovering that Emile isn't the night janitor. And the re-spelling of "Esmerelda."

But the episode also cuts the main significance of the play itself. In the book, the unfortunate boy who ended up dying found the play in the basement of the newly-built school. Which adds to the idea that the play is cursed, since that's an odd place to find a random play, hinting that perhaps supernatural forces are behind everything.

But the script was destroyed, save for a single copy, which was locked away... until now. Not sure why Ms. Walker suddenly decided to whip out that ol' cursed play...

You know, maybe it's for the best that the origins of The Phantom were left out of this episode. The full story raises more questions than it answers.

Speaking of questions... if Emile was the "Phantom" that painted that warning, how did he open Zeke's locker to hide the paint inside?

The story does actually touch upon themes of Brian's obsession, but only in the final part. Most of the story takes its cues from a Scooby-Doo episode. You have the creepy guy dressing up as a monster to keep people away, you have the girl losing her glasses, you have a chase sequence...  if Zeke had started eating dog treats, that'd be the final nail in the coffin.

Brooke Rogers (Jessica Moyes)
Brooke is a bit bland, with her only real defining trait being the fact that she's playing Esmeralda in The Phantom.

...I have nothing else to say about her. Not the actress's fault, there's just not much personality for her in the script.

Corey Sklar (Philip Eddolls)
Corey pretty much only exists to fall into the trap door, which Ms. Walker did in the original book. Still, it's a step up from his barely-a-presence. It's good to know that Eddolls still gets work as an animator, working on things like The Little Prince.

Zeke Matthews (Shawn Potter)
Zeke is the first red herring, as the audience is meant to wonder if he's taking his stupid pranks too far this time. And... again, that's it. He's just there to keep the audience from figuring out the twist.

Tina Powell (Julie Annis)
And here we have the person whose warnings get ignored, a staple in many examples of the horror and mystery genres. And another red herring, who goes up to the rafters before Emile swoops down, with a motive for bumping Brooke off.

Ms. Walker (Kathryn Greenwood)
One of Goosebumps's most useless adults. She only gets involved in problems after they've become a problem (see: The "Phantom"'s scuffle with Brooke) and blames Zeke for things he would have to break the laws of physics to have done. Still, I was a theatre kid in high school and college, and I can tell you right now that her energy and enthusiasm is spot on.

And I'm sure she'll be the most famous Whose Line is it Anyway? alumnus on this show....

Emile (Eric Fink)
Yet another in Goosebumps's proud tradition of creepy adults. Today's flavor is a bit more mysterious than other examples, since nothing is ever explained, other than that he's a homeless man living under the stage. But he fulfills all the important requirements for a Goosebumps-brand creepy adult, in that he's creepy, and adult, and he grabs the protagonist.

Brian Coulson (Stuart Stone)
So, Brian's dream is to portray the Phantom onstage, but dies before he gets the chance. So he proceeds to wait 72 years until his school puts the play on again. Then he gives the lead actress dreams about a trap door?

I think the implication is that Brooke going below the stage freed his spirit, since he doesn't show up until after that, but I'm not sure.

But on opening night, Brian decides to live out his dream by getting onstage and not delivering his lines correctly? And now he wants to drag Brooke to Hell?

I mentioned in "The Haunted Mask" that R.L. Stine's more complicated plots like to fall apart. Case in point: "Phantom of the Auditorium." The only clear motivation in the entire episode is Emile, and that's just because I can understand why a homeless man would want to find some shelter where he can live.

Monster of the Week: The Phantom
Not really one of the more memorable villains, and that's primarily because he doesn't exist. The only person to actually use the guise of the Phantom to his advantage was Emile; Brian only dons the guise onstage at the very end when he fails to live out his dream.

And funnily enough, Scooby-Doo ended up (most likely completely unintentionally) imitating this story for Scooby-Doo: Stage Fright, which featured multiple individuals masquerading as a Phantom of the Opera homage for their own personal gain.

Um... it's shot and edited competently?

Ihe dream sequence is a little ADD, though.
But there's nothing in the way of practical effects for the most part, and I think Brian's eyes are the only post-production special effect.

So I'll take this moment to compliment Tina on those sets.

"I don't need your charity."
Barking Dogs: 0
Because if there had been one, its bark would have sounded suspiciously like "Scooby-Dooby-Doo."

Child-Grabbing Count
Brooke: 5
Zeke: 1
Total: 6
Everyone to wear the Phantom costume grabs Brooke at least once.

Foliage POV Shots: 0
But only because there was no foliage in the rafters.

Who was creeping up here, anyway? Emile?
Red Paint: Yes

X-Files Shout Out: No

Final Thoughts
It's not one of Stine's best books, and it's not one of the better episodes, despite the efforts of Bruce Edwards to adapt the story. Having said that, its pretty watchable. I got a few chuckles out of it, and the mystery's fine for the kids this was aimed at.

Next time, we switch from theatre class to music class for one of the... odder installments. See you then!

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