Goosebumps #35: A Shocker on Shock Street
A Shocker on Shock Street was, for the most part, one of the weaker books in the Goosebumps series. It centered on two very irritating main characters, relied on tired horror tropes, and wasted most of the book on fake scares. I remember enjoying this one as a kid, and I can see why. The story moves at a steady clip, however incoherently. Then it ends with one of Stine’s better twist endings. In fact, the twist ending is easily the most memorable part of the entire book. It was genuinely chilling. I was reminded of You Can’t Scare Me, which similarly has a great ending tacked on to a tedious and repetitive book. I think both books would have made much better short stories. My favorite scene aside from the ending was when the kids collect the monster’s autographs. That was really fun, and it reminded me of the best parts of One Day at Horrorland. Unfortunately, the comparisons end there. Where Horrorland felt like a weird and distinct place with an identity of its own, Shock Street just felt like one indistinct horror trope after another. There was a real missed opportunity here to make the park itself something unique. Ultimately the biggest letdown of A Shocker on Shock Street was that, were it not for that ending, it would have been completely forgettable.
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It might not seem like much, but it has a big impact!
ERMAHGERD #35: A Shocker on Shock Street. Photo by Yours Truly with assistance from Dierre Taylor.
Background stock image: Rue Franciscus Vandevelde, looking towards Rue Jean Ekelmans (intersection) and Rue Franciscus Vandevelde (ahead) by Trougnouf.
Observations & Spoilers
Erin and her best friend Marty love the Shock Street horror movies. They’ve seen every one of them. So you can imagine that they were thrilled when they found out Erin’s dad, Mr. Wright, was designing a new theme park based on the franchise. More importantly, he wants Erin and Marty to be the first kids to see the park before it opens. Erin asks if her mother can join them, but Mr. Wright assures her that it will be better with just the two kids. They then jump into his car and head over to see the park. Right off the bat, Marty demonstrates to us that he will be an insufferable character. He’s the sort who will never admit to being scared even when he’s shitting bricks. It made me feel bad for Erin.
Erin and Marty are introduced to Linda, who is to be their tour guide. But all she really does is give them toy guns that she says will “freeze” the monsters in the park if they get too scared. Then the kids pile into a tram without Linda and then set off into the park on their own. The first stop is a haunted house that turns out to be a sort of roller coaster. The kids almost fall out of the tram since it has no seatbelts. Both of them are rattled, except for Marty who is still being obnoxious. As they exit, their tram gets surrounded by several Shock Street franchise stars who offer to sign autographs for the kids. This was a nice, goofy little scene and I wish there had been more moments like this. I hope you’re ready for a long slosh of B horror movie tropes from here on out.
Next up is the Cave of the Living Creeps! The tram stalls and the kids get out. They get attacked by large white worms, then giant spiders after that. They try to use their guns, but none of the animatronic creatures freeze in place. After narrowly escaping the spiders they decided to abandon the small tram and escape the cave. They have to get passed two giant praying mantises in order to do so, which they accomplish by stepping on the bug’s legs. When they emerge from the cave they find themselves on the infamous Shock Street! The kids forget about being lost for a moment and allow themselves to be starstruck. From there they go to the cemetery. Marty falls into an open grave and a bunch of zombie hands emerge from the ground. I am sad to report that the next scene was not a “Thriller” dance sequence.
Erin rescues Marty who’s still totally not scared. They decide they need to get out of the park and let Mr. Wright know that something is seriously wrong with his park. They try climbing a stone wall to get a better idea of where they are but end up slipping and falling into quicksand instead. Because of course they do. They’re about to give up when they get pulled out of the sand by Wolf Boy and Wolf Girl. Their werewolf rescuers are a bit too lifelike to be animatronic. Erin and Marty realize a bit too late that their rescue was not an act of goodwill; they were actually meant to be werewolf dinner. They try to use their guns again, which I thought got left in the tram? Honestly, I don’t care at this point I just want the book to end.
The kids again try to climb the wall, this time without shoes. They manage not to fall into quicksand. In the distance, they spot their tram and run towards it. Wolf Boy and Wolf Girl are hot on their trail. They make it to the tram only to find that it is now full of skeletons. The skeletons try to attack them. They also see the tram is about to crash into a stone wall at high speed, so they jump back out of the tram. Then kids find their way back to Shock Street, feeling defeated. Suddenly the director, Russ Denver, appears and tells them it’s a wrap. He says they were great and the filming was a huge success. Both kids are extremely confused.
The director elaborates; Erin and Marty have been on film since they entered the park. Everything they went through is going to be a part of the next Shock Street movies, and the two of them will be the stars! Erin demands to see her father, but the kids are told they have to go through one last attraction: Shockro’s House of Shocks. They will find him in there. Erin is hesitant because she knows from the movies that anyone entering the house gets electrocuted. She also notices a huge plug behind the director. When she unplugs it, Mr. Denver shuts down because he was yet another robot in a park full of robots. Marty runs on up to the house of shocks because he’s clearly learned nothing from their whole ordeal. He is appropriately electrocuted and falls to the ground. I feel nothing for him because I am dead inside.
Erin spots her father and begs him to help Marty. But her speech starts to go all wonky all of a sudden. She can’t seem to form any words and then shuts down entirely. Mr.Wright informs his colleagues that the Erin and Marty robots have stopped working properly. He examines them and finds that they have damaged chips. He knew something was wrong when Erin asked about her mother, who does not exist. He resolves to have their chips recharged so that they can resume testing the park before it opens for real kids. The End.
I know Stine usually starts with the twist and works his way backward. The kids being robots was one hell of a twist. Its implications are incredibly dark. We can presume that this isn’t their first time through the park and that it won’t be the last. They just live in a continuous loop of a shitty horror franchise. It makes me wish so badly that the rest of the book had been good. If only the Shock Street movies had been more than forgettable, surface-level horror tropes. If only the park itself had some personality and distinctive qualities beyond how incredibly dangerous it seems to be. There was a cool concept in here but ultimately the execution lacked soul. And it’s a real shame.
Before I close this review out, I want to share one last fun bit about the title of this book. I went to high school in the early aughts, which was when the term “shocker” took on an entirely different meaning. I was a skinny bitch right up through my senior year, so I was able to wear my old Shocker on Shock Street t-shirt well into my late teens. It was glorious. It was certainly better than the experience of re-reading this book. Unfortunately, there are no sequels, but we can rest assured that Erin and Marty will be rebooted and live through the pages of this unremarkable book all over again… and again until the end of time.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
There was an idea for a great twist ending, but the concept of the theme park felt uninspired compared to Stine’s similar works.
Aside from the twist ending this book was an onslaught of fake scares. The Shock Street monsters were generic and forgettable. It just didn’t feel cohesive at all.
Two of the more annoying protagonists I’ve come across in these, and Mr. Wright wasn’t given any discernible personality.
The twist ending is the only thing propping this book up. The skeleton tram scene at the end was pretty memorable too. But there’s a solid 100 pages before you get to any of that.
The kids turning out to be robots was original. At least for this series. Nothing else in the park came anywhere close to feeling like that.
Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, A Shocker on Shock Street is:
Ranked 34th of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
All episodes of Goosebumps are streaming now on Netflix.
“Shocker on Shock Street” is Episode 3×1.
• I was surprised this one even got adapted given the special effects required.
• It made some improvements on the book, namely in that it cut out a lot of the fake scares.
• This version of the studio tour seems much less hazardous than the book version.
• Is it fair to criticize childhood actors? I mean, they are adults now and they were older than me when they filmed these.
• I’ve decided it’s ok. Erin’s acting is very cringy.
• They didn’t wait very long for the tram to move before getting out.
• The toxic man scene wasn’t bad.
• Missed opportunity to drop more hints that the kids are robots. Little quirks could have gone a long way.
• I didn’t like the additional twist on the original twist. I wish they ended it with the kids being carried away.
• LOL at how their voices and movements are robotic and metallic-sounding now that they know they’re robots.
• The more I watch this show, the more I wish they’d spent more time and money on adapting fewer but longer episodes.
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #36: The Haunted Mask II