Goosebumps #26: My Hairiest Adventure
My Hairiest Adventure was a mess of ideas that never really added up to a coherent story. I did appreciate the humor in it. The band practice scenes were funny and very believable. Dr. Murkin’s name might be the dirtiest joke ever slipped into a Goosebumps book, especially given the hair-centric plot of the book. The characters were fine, there were just too many. It’s hard to articulate without going into major spoilers, but there were so many missed opportunities to tie the various elements of the plot together. A few relatively simple changes could have made a huge difference. The kids finding an expired bottle of INSTA-TAN and excitedly putting it on was an odd choice for many reasons, but it really didn’t work as a catalyst for the eventual twist. This could have been a really fun book in the vein of One Day at Horrorland, but it ended up reading like an afterthought.
ERMAHGERD #26: My Hairiest Adventure.
Photo by Daniel Stalter with assistance by Dierre Taylor.
Observations & Spoilers
I’ll start with a quick recap of the plot. You can find a more detailed one over at the Goosebumps Wiki if your heart so desires. Larry gets chased around all the time by a random pack of dogs that live in his town for some reason. Larry also has a condition where he can’t sweat, so he has to go see Dr. Murkin every few weeks for an injection of something. Larry and his best friend Lily are in a band with a bunch of their friends and they aren’t very good. The kids find a bottle of expired INSTA-TAN in some trash after band practice and you would think they discovered gold by the way they reacted. They all put it on and nothing happens… until that night when Larry grows fur on his hand!
There’s lots of weird fur growing and shaving it off moments, all while practicing for the battle of the bands. Their bandmate Manny disappears. Then Lily disappears and Larry spots a dog wearing her necklace with her same different-colored eyes. They are forced to do the Battle of the Bands competition without them. He finally tells his parents about all the hair and they fess up to him. He’s really a dog and has been the whole time, so were Lily and Manny. Their parents all work for Dr. Murkin and his experiments successfully turned dogs into people, but the process couldn’t hold. It ends with Larry and Lily being dogs again and sniffing stuff. The INSTA-TAN had nothing to do with anything. The end.
So my biggest issue is that none of the main plot elements had anything to do with one another. The INSTA-TAN had nothing to do with anything. The Battle of the Bands certainly happened, but it didn’t make a lot of sense given the twist. The kids being dogs would have been a lot funnier if they all exhibited odd dog behaviors from the jump aside from not sweating. It was like the twist had nothing to do with the rest of the things that happened, and it fell flat as a result. Instead of the INSTA-TAN being the catalyst, it should have been something related to Dr. Murkin or at least referenced the kids being dogs. Instead of the Battle of the Bands, it should have been baseball or something that would make more sense for a dog to be into. Dogs love running and chasing balls. They love the smells of things. They’re not good with boundaries. They have no concept of “gross.” They eat things they find on the sidewalk without thinking about it. That could have been comedy gold and it feels like such a missed opportunity.
I also thought it was super fucked up that both Lily and Manny’s parents fled town and abandoned their dog children after they turned back. It was their shitty decision to take part in Dr. Murkin’s utterly nonsensical experiments. It’s not the dog’s fault they caught feelings and got hurt. Dr. Murkin’s whole gig is extremely suspect and his experiments don’t seem to serve any true purpose. One of the most consistent weaknesses in these books is villains with completely lacking or utterly bizarre motives. Although Dr. Murkin was not a true villain, he was hardly innocent and he fit the bill. I’ve decided he’s most likely just some eccentric billionaire and people let him get away with dumb shit because he’s rich. That would at least make some sense.
The Goosebumps books are at their best when they get weird, and My Hairiest Adventure had plenty of weird. What was missing was focus and structure. It’s almost more frustrating when a book has the goods but misses its mark. I say almost because at least this one wasn’t tedious like Go Eat Worms and You Can’t Scare Me. But with another round of edits and some actual effort, it could have been one of the greats.
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 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, My Hairiest Adventure is ranked 60th of 62, placing it in the bottom tier of the series.
There was an interesting idea at the core here, but it was too half-baked to make any sense. A lot of it was disjoined elements (battle of the bands, roving packs of dogs, instant tanning solution).
The plotting was fine and the pacing was good, but the whole presence of the INSTA-TAN was confusing. It ended up being pointless. It should have been somehow tied to Dr. Murkin’s operation.
Larry was fine, but I wish he had more doglike qualities (sensitive to smell, urge to chase squirrels and cats, chewing things). It would have made the comedic elements more fun. There were too many insignificant characters.
Scare Factor: 1/2
There was some good body horror, but it was more silly than scary. Maybe if I was afraid of dogs I would feel differently.
The experimental town employed by Dr. Murkin who did weird shit like change dogs into human children was unique and weird, so I’ll give it a point for that.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
• The band is even worse than in the book.
• The instant tanning solution is just as silly as in the book.
• Larry has allergies instead of not being able to sweat. Which makes even less sense for him being a dog.
• Dr. Murkin wasn’t called by name. They omitted the dirty joke.
• Larry’s hair looks like pubes on his arms.
• They use voiceover narration for this one; I’m not sure I’ve seen that before on his show.
• It would be funnier if they all had common dog names.
• The acting in this is amazing. Emmys for all.
• The parents leaving town without their dog just because it wasn’t their human daughter anymore is just as messed up as it was in the book.
• Oooh they did keep Dr. Murkin’s name! It’s in the credits
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #27: A Night in Terror Tower
Coming in June 2021.
Also, be sure to check out the latest from the Pulp Horror blog series:
Christopher Pike’s Road to Nowhere