Friday, July 30, 2010

Goosebumps: Calling All Creeps

I'm running another old--no, classic--no, vintage post from my other blog. Enjoy Calling All Creeps!

We open on Ricky Beamer. He's crouching outside the window to a classroom and a voice over is giving us some exposition. Clever boy, R.L.! You can save time and effort if the characters just tell you their motivation. That's totally what your creative writing teacher told you, right? Tell, don't show. (Yes, I'm aware that R.L. Stine didn't actually write the screenplays, but go with it.) As for our protagonist, I see why they call him Ricky. Doesn't he totally remind you of a young Rick Springfield? I mean, Moranis?

And yes, the only thing about this episode that remotely gave me Goosebumps was the thought of seeing that in my bedroom window. Even though I live on the 13th floor. Anyway, Ricky's telling us all about Tasha McClain, the editor of the school paper who never lets Ricky write anything. She also calls him a creep and "Ricky the Rat" and won't let him play in any non-rodent games. So Ricky decides to get his revenge, by showing everyone what a creep Tasha is. Oh, Ricky, you don't have to write for the school paper. Find your own voice. Blog about all the people who make you crazy. You can say bitchy things and then browbeat sad, mentally challenged blonde girls on national television.

Ricky writes on the school computer something that presumably will go in the next issue. He writes: Calling all creeps, calling all creeps, if you're a creep call Tasha McClain after midnight. He gives her phone number and then looks pleased. Hm, so you're a voyeur who attempted to publish an underage girl's phone number and she's the creep. Ricky, the only thing that would make you more creepy would be walking around in a flasher coat. He hears noises in the hallway and realizes Tasha and the newspaper adviser are coming back. He leaps out the window leaving muddy footprints. Subtle, big boy.

The next day in school, he's accosted by the Usual Suspects. A diverse looking group of bullies shows up.

The female bully has a lot to learn if she wants to go the Mean Girls route by the time she's in high school. Regina George would annihilate her for wearing horizontal stripes on a day that ends in y. On to the bullying. One of the bullies breathes on Ricky. Then they all make him sing Old McDonald while everyone laughs. This is what passes for bullying? I'm a mild mannered Virgo, and even I'm having fantasies of swirlies and the dreaded Rear Admiral.

Aww, cheer up, Ricky. You're sporting a sweater vest that would make Chandler Bing weep with envy.

A teacher breaks up the bullying, and the kids scatter. When they leave, there's an adorable new girl who introduces herself as Iris.

She says she just moved here, and when he responds, "I wish I NEVER lived here," she laughs fetchingly. Lucky boy! Cute as a freaking button, ethnic, and she has low standards! She's like the Asian Sarah Silverman. This is so every nebbishy boy's fantasy--meeting a cute Asian girl who digs nerds. I start to think, "R. L., you just wrote about every wet dream you ever had when you were a young writer with big dreams and an even bigger facial mole. Like this could EVER happen in real life," but then I realized that for some nebbishes, sometimes dreams do come true.

Ricky proceeds to take Iris to lunch. Well, he takes her to the cafeteria and tells her that no one ever eats the Tuna Surprise. Iris is all, "Then why do they keep making it," and Ricky snaps, "It's a plot point, just go with it." Then Ricky says, "I can't believe you're talking to me." Iris asks, "Why's that?" and he shrugs. Gee, maybe because the Onion was joking when they wrote that article about Asian teenagers having fetishes for dorky white guys. Because you're a figment in R.L.'s sweaty, clammy, yellow feverish imagination? As they walk by a table, one of the bullies trip Ricky and he goes face down in his own lunch. Everyone but Iris laughs. Tell me this isn't the perfect likeness of a young Robert Lawrence Stine?

He runs off. Iris tells him to wait up, and he says, "Those guys are gonna pay. After Tasha, they're next." And considering your last revenge scheme, I'm worried. Are you going to write them angry limericks? Ricky mentions that he snuck into the newspaper office to play a trick. Are you watching this, little Dylan and Eric? This is the way to get revenge in high school on those who have angered you. Mean spirited little notes in a widely read paper! Not murder suicide.

Ricky leaves school early before he can get a copy of the paper. Iris calls him at night trying to warn him about something awful. His dad picks up on the other line and makes him hang up. Mr. Beamer, dude? Your son's getting calls from a hot girl. This is going to be his only chance for sexy pillow talk that doesn't entail running up the phone bill with calls to 900 numbers or perfecting a Real Girl who's passed the Turing Test.

Anyway, the next call is from a guy who rasps, "Hello, I'm a creep. When do we meet?" followed by several other equally sensual calls. Well, this makes the time at all girls' college when we all got calls from some perv who would ask us to put the Jergen's on our skin or risk the hose again look like Tommy fucking Tutone by comparison. I'd like to deride Ricky for freaking out but when it happened to me I ended up curled in a fetal position outside the R.A.'s room, so I won't. I will, however, mock him for the phone.

Is a glow in the dark phone really necessary? What, are you constantly fielding late night calls from your dealer?

The next day at school, Tasha reveals that one, she saw him that night, two, this newspaper has a better fact-checker than those guys who published James Frey, the Wall Street Journal, and Dan Rather. She somehow managed to see his fiendish little joke and changed it. Tasha laughs at him and then leaves, and the bullies saunter by, nodding and grinning. But not actually, you know, bullying.

At lunch, they stare at him longingly. Oh Ricky, you're so fine! One of them tosses the Rickmeister a note that says, "When will the creeps meet?" Then Ricky heads to his locker.

Incidentally, love the low camera angle, but that is NOT creepy lettering. The cover of the Goosebumps books? Now that's creepy lettering.

Iris comes up behind him and they talk about the weird events. Then she asks him to go bake cookies with him for the school bake sale. They agree to meet after school the next day, and Ricky's all excited because...well, cookie-baking with a cute Asian girl! You never know what this might lead to. Like, she might show him her collection of stuffed Pokemon dolls and name the cutest one Ricky. Or ask him to help her pick out another schoolgirl skirt. As Ricky stares at her happily, you can tell he's hoping her jacket will slip off her shapely shoulders a little, and I share his feelings, but only because I'm thinking, "This girl has to have a hump under there or a weird evil twin that comes out of her head a la Imprint because what the hell is she doing with Willard here?"

That night, Ricky takes the phone off the hook. Ingenius! However, I'd like to give him the same advice I got for MY weird phone calls in anti-rape class, which is to blow a rape whistle into the telephone receiver. The next morning, he puts the phone back on and the second he does, he gets a call from a female voice saying, "Don't ever take the phone off the hook." Whoa, the writers from that new Beyonce movie Obsessed were totally cribbing from this. The voice goes on, "How can we make contact? We'll be watching. Waiting. We will find you. We will meet soon. Very soon." Oh yeah. Well, who will watch the watchers, dumbass?

Later, Ricky's walking through the woods for no given reason when someone throws a bag over his head and kidnaps him. When he opens his eyes again, he's in a cave, and the bullies are there. They approach him apologetically. "We didn't meet to hurt you!" one says. "We didn't know!" Yeah, turns out they would never have bullied him if they'd known he was a creep like them. And what is a creep?

Based on the cover of the book, I get the feeling that R.L. Stine told scriptwriter/show creator Dan Angel, "Yeah, I'm thinking raptors meet Dennis the Menace," but they only had enough cash for some cheap raptor head knock offs at K-Mart that someone had accidentally spilled yellow paint onto. So, now the erstwhile bullies have yellow dinosaur heads and are doing the Christian Bale Batman voice. Cheap transformation--we don't even see it. One minute we see regular kids, then we cut away to Ricky's rugged visage, and then when we cut back, it's yellow K-Mart dino heads. C'mon, R.L. Stine, what'd you do with the budget money for this episode? Spend it on booze, Asian hookers, and mole glitter?

The dinosaur things explain that they need to get everyone in the school to eat these identity seeds so they'll be changed into creeps as well. If you really want people to know what it's like to be a creep, can't you guys just write a gripping expose on the life of a creep? Creep Like Me? A Creep of One's Own? Then one of them (yes, it's the fat one) eats a fly near Ricky's head with its long, serpentine tongue.

If Ricky's the leader of the creeps, then why are they telling him what they need to do? I haven't been so disgusted by a plot point since Alex Fernandez on Ghostwriter snuck into Thabto headquarters pretending to be the Thabto leader but then some other goon led the meeting. From that moment on, children's TV jumped the shark for me.

The creeps ask him how they should disseminate the identity seeds. Ricky has no idea. The female creep proposes that they put the seeds in the cafeteria food and the other one asks Ricky if he thinks it's a good plan. He replies, "I guess so," and another creep says, "Then it's decided. Seeds in the cafeteria food. It's a goooood plan." So...all he did was stare at them while they came up with ideas and then tell them it was a good plan? I'm suddenly reminded of the decision process for most of the last Bush administration. Ricky IS the deciderer!

Cut to the next morning, in the cafeteria. The creeps need Ricky to dump the seeds. He's unsure and they start to doubt his commitment to the plan. After all, Ricky might not be a team player. They decide to transform and ask him to join them to prove he's a creep. Ricky protests that he is indeed their commander. Well, I can't argue with that. Ricky decides to put the identity seeds in the Tuna Surprise since no one eats that anyway. He dumps it in. Then a cafeteria worker shows up and tries to make him eat it, telling him Tuna Surprise is good nutritious food and that they kids shouldn't mock it. "No, I, uh, never eat tuna in the morning!" Ricky says and then leaves. I'm thinking you're going to have to change your morning fish-eating stance if you want to get into Soon Yi's Digimon themed panties, but okay.

At noon, Ricky anxiously tries to make sure that no one is eating Tuna Surprise, and when he sees Iris has it, he makes her throw it out. She reminds him about their cookie baking date, and he gets impatient and snaps at her, so she leaves. Can I add "has a working spine" to reasons why I love Iris?

Later, in the cave again, the creeps harass Ricky for screwing up the plan. They want to devour him for his poor job performance. (May I suggest placing a pube on his can of Coke?) Then Iris shows up, telling them that she's the second in command and that that plan was just a test run. So Ricky comes up with the plan of putting the Identity Seeds in cookies for the bake sale.

The kids bake cookies in the cafeteria later. Ricky questions Iris separately, and Iris reveals that not ONLY is she a non-creep, cute Asian schoolgirl with a backbone, but that she's also brilliant and came up with this fake plan to get Ricky out of a tough situation. Get the girl a kitten and put her in a Lolicon outit, and I'll start squeeing. The creep-kids chant, "Humans are the past. Creeps are the future." Okay, as slogans go, it's no One of us! but for adolescent-freak things, it's not bad. Even George Orwell probably had to start somewhere lame before he got Four legs good, two legs baaaaad.

At the bake sale, Tasha mocks Iris for being friends with creepy Ricky. Ricky sports another hot sweater vest. Fat creep screams, "Free cookies," and the kids swarm. Ricky tells them not to eat the cookies, but they start laughing at him and chanting, "Ricky the Rat!" The creep-kids tell them that he'll be their leader once everyone eats the cookies. Ricky looks tempted to go mad with power. After all, have you ever gone mad WITHOUT power? It sucks.

Iris tells him that they have to get everyone to stop eating the cookies. But the creeps are quite Mephistophelean. They tempt him with the idea of being leader of the creeps (vroom, vroom!).

Pasty ginger creep leans forward to whisper in Ricky's ear. Just think. Your own line of sweater vests. Also, Feed me, Ricky, feed me all night long! Ricky tells the kids, "Enjoy the cookies," and everyone devours them. Iris protests. One of the creep-kids hands Ricky a cookie and he takes a bite and the credits roll. Uh, don't the creep kids think he's ALREADY a creep? Why hand him a cookie? Well, okay, maybe he looked like he needed the blood sugar rush.

Anyway, I have high hopes for Ricky. I seem to remember one gawky teenager with a cute female sidekick (albeit a redhead, not an Asian) who grew up to become a creep. And he got to be in a Tim Burton movie AND star in a USA series. If you don't know who I'm talking about, do not pass GO or claim $200 but go directly back to the eighties and bone up on your John Hughes movies.