Mar 28, 2023 | Goosebumps

Goosebumps #40:
Night of the Living Dummy III

© 1996 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.

Sequel to: Night of the Living Dummy
Night of the Living Dummy II



Spoiler-Free Review

Night of the Living Dummy III turned out to be my favorite of the Living Dummy books so far. That’s a bit of a low bar considering how much I detested the first Night of the Living Dummy. The second book in the series was notably better, but it had a lot of the same problems. This book didn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it did manage to become something more. Its greatest success was in its characters. Trina and Danny’s predicament was fun and relatable, and Zane was laughably annoying and pretentious. Their dynamics are what allowed the book to avoid being a tired rehash of the previous books. Having a hoard of other dummies around helped, too. Even the parents were well done; it was nice having a Goosebumps plot that didn’t rely on parents making bizarre and confusing decisions. I still wish that Slappy was more imaginative with his evil. There’s so much room to go darker and creepier with him. His obsession with child enslavement (with no means of enforcement) remains the weakest part of each of the books. I do find it interesting how this trilogy got progressively better while the Monster Blood books started out bad and managed to get significantly worse. All in all, Night of the Living Dummy III was a pleasant surprise. It holds the unique distinction of being an RL Stine sequel that’s better than its predecessors.

Score: 3.5


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ERMAHGERD #40: Night of the Living Dummy III.
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo and editing by Daniel Stalter with assistance by Lindsay Pacelli.
Background photo by vadimys; Enhanced Adobe Stock License.


Observations & Spoilers

First I need to state that this will be my 100th review on this blog. I’m proud of this little niche project and what it’s taught me about deadlines, plot structures, and my photoshopping abilities. There are only 22 more Goosebumps books after this…


Trina and Danny O’Dell live in an old house with a big attic. Their father collects ventriloquist dummies and stores them up there. They call it “the museum.” The book opens with Dad bringing home a new addition to their hoard of puppets; a broken dummy that he found in a dumpster. If you will recall our last encounter with Slappy, his head was cracked open after he got beat up by another dummy. The Kramer family must have been in a hurry when they discarded Slappy because they left the curse that brings him to life conveniently in his jacket pocket.  Maybe the Living Dummies work like the VHS tape in the ring where you have to pass on the curse to someone else? Because somehow the previous family always forgets to take this step. Anyway, Mr. O’Dell fixes the dummy’s broken head with some wood glue and names him Smily. Trina promptly discovers the piece of paper in the coat pocket and reads the curse aloud. Then Slappy slaps her across the face.


Of course, no one believes Trina when she says the dummy slapped her. She barely has time to process it when the kids get news that their annoying cousin Zane is coming to visit. Trina and Danny had ruthlessly pranked him last summer. Zane is really easy to scare and the temptation to fuck with him is just impossible to resist. Trina and Danny agree to be good because they really want to go away to summer camp this summer. If they fuck up, they’ll be grounded and their parents won’t let them go. This is a classic parent bargaining technique. When Zane arrives, he reveals that he is now really into photography, and not in a fun way. He’s only twelve but he immediately gave me pretentious hipster vibes. He was really into taking pictures of the wall molding. It was very easy to see why Trina and Danny couldn’t resist fucking with him.


As soon as Zane arrives, the dummies start showing up in strange places. Mostly it’s just Rocky, the gangster dummy from their Dad’s collection. Trina thinks it’s Danny messing up their chance to go to summer camp, but he insists that it’s not him. Zane’s room gets trashed, then a roll of his film gets ruined (it’s filled with pictures of Rocky). Trina and Danny are blamed and punished for all of this. Then they catch Zane in the attic taking Rocky. It had all been Zane getting payback on them for the previous summer. The three of them make a truce and have a really beautiful day riding their bikes around and being normal kids. But this is s horror book, and things can only go well for so long. It’s only a matter of time before shit goes off the rails.


Mr. and Mrs. O’Dell, arguably some of the smartest and most competent parents in Goosebumps history, decided to throw a dinner party. They invite a few of their neighbors. The first thing to go wrong is that Zane discovers his precious and prized camera has been smashed to little bits. The family is still reeling from the shock of it when they go back downstairs and find their dinner has been ruined. The dining room is in complete disarray, all of the food is ruined, and sitting at the table are none other than Slappy and Rocky. Trina’s parents are so mad that they can’t even really talk to the kids. Trina and Danny think it must still be Zane playing pranks and breaking their truce, so they hide out in the attic again to catch him. Only they end up catching Slappy in action. 


Slappy informs the kids that they are now his slaves, which is his go-to line. I mean, it’s a pretty bold statement for someone who doesn’t have any bones. The kids try to drop Slappy into the old well in their backyard, but he turns up again the next morning. The next night Trina tries to read the spell again, thinking that maybe it will put him back to sleep. It doesn’t work; Slappy is still alive and on his slavemaster journey. But then all of the other dummies come to life and huddle around Slappy. There’s a brief dummy fight before Zane interrupts. All the dummies instinctively play dead. Zane proceeds to rat out Dan and Trina as the perpetrators of all the dummy-related pranks. Fucking hipster snitch.


The next day, it’s time for Zane to go home. Zane announces that he is now really interested in ventriloquism. Mrs. O’Dell instructs Trina to go up to the attic and give Zane one of their dummies from the museum. Trina promptly goes up and grabs Slappy. It’s the perfect payback after Zane got her and Danny grounded. She sees Slappy wink at her while Zane gets into his dad’s car.


Now that is what I call a near-perfect Goosebumps ending. It was just the right balance of horror and comedy. Trina and Danny might not get to go to summer camp, but there is some sweet satisfaction in knowing that Zane’s horror story is only just beginning.


I think what really made this book for me was the chef’s kiss revenge twist at the end. I also thought the dynamics between Trina, Danny, and Zane worked really well with the chaos that Slappy likes to sew. It’s unfortunate that Slappy never rises above his dream of owning child slaves. There’s so much more to play with in the whole ventriloquist concept that could have made all of these books much scarier. I’ve written enough about them in my earlier reviews so I won’t bemoan the point here. It’s just the one thing that holds these books back from being as scary as their cover art promises. All of that aside, it was a nice surprise to have these get better with each new book. I don’t yet know if I will read any of the Goosebumps 2000 sequels, so there’s a good chance this is my last Slappy review. I’m not mad about it; this was a good note to end on.


Score Card

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


Concept: 1/2
I still wish more imagination went into Slappy’s motives, but this book at least introduced a new mystery with the attic full of dummies and the annoying cousin staying with them.

Execution: 2/2
The angle of having Zane get payback for his previous visit gave a fun spin on things. It managed to not just feel like a rehash of the previous books. It also had the best ending of the three.

Character: 2/2
This is probably what made this book a standout. Trina and Danny were relatable in their predicament, Zane and Uncle Cal were hateable in an understandable way, and the parents were treated with more dignity than we typically see in these books. 

Intent: 1/2
I still don’t know that the books ever rise above the fact that dummies are creepy on their own. I think there is so much room to make Slappy creepier and it always feels like a missed opportunity.

Originality: 1/2
This one didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it managed to become something more than the other two books. It had a great little twist at the end, too. 

Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Night of the Living Dummy III is:
Ranked 8th of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.


TV Adaptation – Bullet Review

For every book that was adapted for the Goosebumps TV series, I will watch and do a bullet review.
Night of the Living Dummy III” is Episodes 2×24 & 2×25.


•  I wish every episode of Goosebumps was a one-hour special with a ridiculous intro from RL Stine.

•  They made Zane less pretentious. Guess there won’t be any photographs of wall molding.

•  Note to self: look up the actor who plays the dad and see if he’s a real ventriloquist. (Answer: not that I can tell).

•  Slappy is on to something with his putting corn cobs on the candle holders. Might need to try this.

•  The dining room scene in the book was way more destructive. Also, how did Slappy turn the turkey into what looked like a clown cake? That was a confusing gag.

•  I love how Slappy’s toxic breath brings the other dummies to life. Magic halitosis.

•  I wish it wasn’t so obvious that Slappy was a short guy in a costume.

•  Zane really loves a vest. He might be giving my Ermahgerd costume a run for its money (spoiler: it’s not a lot of money).

•  I feel like they’ve used this house in previous episodes. Too lazy to check.

 •  LOL a slappy barfing up a frog.

 •  Oh shit, Zane got infused with Slappy’s toxic breath. What’s that gonna mean?

 •  This is what I’ve wanted the books to do since the first one. It’s so much more unsettling than unenforceable slavery that the Slappy in the books is always obsessed with.

 •  This episode probably would have freaked me out at a certain age. In the same way that Pinocchio and Earnest Scared Stupid did. Being changed into something inhuman against your will is equal parts thrilling and terrifying.

 •  I like that they made Rocky into a 1920s gangster dummy. Or maybe he’s just from Treskelion?

 •  Slappy getting struck by lightning… can’t say I saw that coming. It was utterly ridiculous. More of this, please.

 •  Zane’s head twisting around at the end made ZERO sense. Is he still part dummy? Because most dummy’s heads don’t do that. 

 •  This was better than the average episode, but the twist ending in the book was significantly better.



Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #41: Bad Hare Day


Also, be sure to check out the latest from the Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street #31: Switched


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