Fits of Nostalgia: Goosebumps #3
Evan and Andy made for the most interesting characters in the series so far, as did Evan’s mysterious Aunt Dorothy. Unfortunately they were not enough to save this book from its mess of a plot. For starters, green slime that keeps growing isn’t that scary. There was actually an interesting storyline buried in Aunt Dorothy’s odd and reclusive behavior, but how it ultimately tied in with the Monster Blood was just perplexing. Monster Blood is a badass book title with a fantastic cover by Tim Jacobus, but unfortunately the interesting elements of the plot never added up to a cohesive story. It especially difficult to fathom how this book warranted more sequels than any other books in the series, but there certainly are three more.
Observations & Spoilers
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: slime that keeps growing just isn’t that scary.
I wanted it to do more. Maybe if it put out a pungent scent and started bringing out strange creatures who craved it. Maybe if it started turning Evan and Andy into scaly monsters because they touched it. Maybe if it exuded some form of mind control on its victims and seeped into their skin. But none of that happened. It just grew a lot and then started bouncing and absorbing people. It felt like some odd cross between Gak and Flubber, and it didn't even turn anyone into Ninja Turtles.
The ultimate plot turned out to be that Aunt Dorothy’s cat was really a witch who was keeping Dorothy as a prisoner in her own home. Sarabeth had even gone so far as to take away Dorothy’s hearing and inhibit her ability to communicate with the outside world. This part of the storyline was actually creepy and could have worked in a different book. In order to make that plot fit in with the Monster Blood, however, required some baffling logic.
You see, Sarabeth felt threatened by Evan. She therefore cursed the otherwise harmless Monster Blood when Evan and Andy brought it home from the old toy store. So, if you’re following me so far, Sarabeth’s plan was to make slime grow uncontrollably until it started bouncing around and absorbing people in order to get rid of Even so that she could get back to controlling Aunt Dorothy in peace? Her logic and motives here are pretty terrible. Evan was just visiting for a week while his parents went house shopping. All Sarabeth had to do was lay low and wait… for a week.
A better title for this story might have been something like The Witch’s Curse. Maybe Evan could have accidentally uncovered some of Sarabeth’s secrets. Maybe Aunt Dorothy could have been leaving strange cries for help around the house. Maybe the Monster Blood could have been Sarabeth’s blood. The TV show adaptation actually made some improvements on how the Monster Blood tied to the larger plot, but it still ultimately suffered from the fact that growing green slime just isn’t that scary. Gross maybe, but not scary.
It’s difficult to fathom how this book warranted more sequels than any other book in the series. I’m guessing that it’s badass title lead to it being a best seller, and thus justified returning. At least we have a giant hamster to look forward to in Monster Blood II.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 point each. I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are Concept (the overall idea), Execution (the mechanics of storytelling), Character (the protagonists, antagonists, and villains), Scare Factor (from a childhood standpoint), and Originality (subversion and reliance on genre tropes). Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Monster Blood is ranked 49th of 62, placing it in the middle-low tier of the series.
I’m giving half a point here because there were a number of interesting concepts, even if they didn’t really fit together. A mysterious old canister of something called Monster Blood and the deaf aunt being held captive by a witch… there were great elements for a fun horror story there.
This plotting of this one reminded me of the stories I used to write when I was a kid. That is to say it felt like it was made-up as it went along. I felt like it had no idea what to do with it’s own ideas and couldn’t figure out what kind of story it wanted to be.
Evan is weird, Andy gives no fucks, and Aunt Dorothy is mysterious and creepy. These are the most dynamic set of characters in the series so far, and the only strong element of this book.
Scare Factor: 0/2
Green slime that won’t stop growing just isn’t all that scary in almost any context. Even when it’s bouncing around and swallowing things up. Especially when it’s bouncing around and swallowing things up.
I already gave a half point for the interesting elements that did not add up into a cohesive plot, so I won’t give another one here. Monster Blood is such a bad ass title. It’s just a shame the actual stuff is pretty lame.
TV Adaptation - Bullet Review
This one was adapted into a single episode which included a Part 2 original story titled "More Monster Blood" that was not based on any of the books.
• Condensing one of these books down to a half hour episode requires a lot of editing. That's why a lot of the best-rated books got two part specials.
• The book version of Aunt Dorothy was a lot creepier, and so was her house. In the adaptation she was just a bit eccentric and lived in a really nice upscale suburban home.
• I actually like the improvement on how the Monster Blood fit into the plot here. In this one, Evan ventures into the room that Aunt Dorothy told him was off limits. In there he finds a vile of Monster Blood and opens it, thus releasing the trapped evil spirit of the witch Sarabeth.
• This one really tested the limits of the special effects abilities and budget. What was ridiculous in the book was even more ridiculous in CGI form. I'm guessing this is why there are no adaptations of any of the sequels.
• The casting for Evan was odd; I pictured him being a lot more squirrelly in the book.
• The adaptation didn't really do Andy justice. She had a lot more spark and personality in the book.
The "More Monster Blood" was set on the plane ride home after Evan's trip to Aunt Dorothy's. It was mostly forgettable.
• Even if the slime looked real, the rest of it still would have looked ridiculous. It relies on the idea that green slime by itself is scary. It's not.
• The uniform of a 90s bully is apparently a cut-off sleeveless jean jacket.