Nov 22, 2023 | Goosebumps

Goosebumps #49:
Vampire Breath

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

Spoiler-Free Review

Vampire Breath was very much on the goofy side of Goosebumps, but it did well by not taking itself too seriously. It felt like we were in on the joke. The pacing was good, but the book lost a lot of steam in the middle section. It made up for it a little bit at the end, but not quite enough to justify whatever the fuck that castle nonsense was. There were fresh ideas here regarding vampires, which is remarkable when you consider that this book is essentially about the magic powers found in the stank breath of vampires. The two main characters and their adversarial relationship kept the story entertaining even when the plot was spinning its wheels. I would say the book had very similar problems to Legend of the Lost Legend in that respect, only I found this book a bit less grating. It felt like a short story concept that got stretched out too long, but it managed to be more enjoyable than other Goosebumps books that I’ve leveled that criticism at (I’m looking at you, You Can’t Scare Me). There was a silliness and novelty to this book that made it charming in spite of its flaws. I could have chosen to be frustrated by a fun idea that fell short of its potential because it very much fits that bill. Sometimes I will like a book more than others for completely arbitrary reasons I can’t articulate. Vampire Breath just might be one of them.

Score: 3


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ERMAHGERD #49: Vampire Breath.
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo by Daniel Stalter. Photo collaboration with Dierre Taylor.


Observations & Spoilers

Freddy and Cara are best friends who like to rough house. They’re always trying to beat each other up in a way that clearly seems fun for them but confusing to everyone else. This made them instantly more interesting than the vast majority of forgettable (but projectable and relatable) Goosebumps characters. Anyway, they are wrestling and they accidentally knock over a shelf in Freddy’s basement. They find a hidden door behind it. They go in. They find a room with a coffin at the end of a long cold hall. It’s empty except for an old bottle labeled Vampire Breath. They fight over it. It pops open. Cantury old halotosis spills out and stinks up the tiny room and Count Nightwing appears.


Count Nightwing is old but super powerful. He is very confused and can’t remember where he put his fangs. He forces the children to help him go back in time to where he left them. They open the bottle of bad breath again and are transported to an old castle filled with coffins. At first Count Nightwing is confused as to how the kids came back in time with him, then he solicits them to help him find more Vampire Breath so he can get his memories back. Freddy and Cara sneak off and a significant amount of time is spent on them trying to find a room without a locked window. They finally find one in the kitchen and realize that the castle is really high up on a cliff. Freddy accidentally falls and is rescued by a bat who turns out to be Count Nightwing.


On their next escape, Freddy and Cara meet a girl named Gwendoline who cleans the vampire’s coffins. It’s very obvious she is lying but the kids follow her anyway. She reveals that she’s a vampire (gasp) but they are again rescued by Count Nightwing, who also plans to make them vampires. They find a room filled with empty bottles of Vampire Breath. Cara finds a full bottle, then she and Freddy play monkey in the middle until Count Nightwing does vampire tricks and gets it back. They trick him into taking an empty bottle and end up opening the full one. It magically transports them back to Freddy’s basement in the future.


Freddy’s parents enter the basement just in time to discover the kids about to be vampires by Count Nightwing. It turns out that Count Nightwing is Freddy’s grandfather. They have his denture fangs. Freddy’s mom tells him that he will get his fangs soon, too. Then Mom, Dad, and Grandpa turn into bats and set out into the night to feast on blood. A dumbfounded Freddy and Cara then stumble across a bottle of Werewolf Sweat. This sounds like a brand of poppers. They open it, and a strange liquid pours out and gets on both of them. Freddy only has time to get a little worried before Cara starts growling. The End.


So, to explain the plot badly: An elderly senile vampire can’t remember where he placed his denture fangs so he uses a bottle of bad breath to time travel to his old castle where the plot gets a little lost before he almost turns his grandson into a double vampire.


I have to say I loved the whole elderly vampire can’t find his denture fangs bit. This is exactly the kind of weird and funny shit that RL Stine excels at delivering in the best Goosebumps books. Were it not for the meandering middle section, this book could have been up there with One Day at Horrorland. We just needed a clearer vampire culture that lived off of bottled breath. The time in the castle could have been spent showing us weird quirky vampire culture instead of looking for windows. It was a missed opportunity for sure, but Freddy and Cara’s adversarial relationship at least made the boring bits fun. I might have hated this book without them.


I will close this out with some very serious questions I now have about how vampires work in this little world that Stine created. How do vampires breed when they don’t age? What would have happened if Grandpa had turned his already vampire child into a vampire? Is there such a thing as a double vampire and what does it entail? Has Freddy never seen his parents go out in the daytime, or are they Twilight vampires? Bob, if you are reading this, I need to know. Please tell me.


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 wanted to give this one full credit but the time travel element was just too contrived and didn’t fit with the rest. The entire castle storyline felt like a detour from a more interesting story.

Execution: 1/2
The pacing was great. We didn’t waste time getting to the good stuff, and the grandfather twist at the end was fun. What really didn’t work was the middle section. It felt like a waste of time.

Character: 2/2
Freddy and Cara were solid, and their tough act made for great tension when they actually got scared. Count Nightwing was a fun senile vampire. I didn’t like Gwendolyn, but that was more of a plotting issue and the way she was shoehorned in.

Intent: 0/2
I’m struggling with this. It had some good creepy moments. It was fun and weird. But the tone was uneven because of the whole time travel bit. I don’t think this book succeeded in being what it intended to be.

Originality: 2/2
An elderly vampire who misplaced his denture fangs is funny and original. So is the whole concept of Vampire Breath, so far as I can tell. This felt like a unique take on vampires, and I very much appreciated that.


Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Vampire Breath is:
Ranked 23rd 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.
Vampire Breath” is Episode 2×17.


•  They made Freddy and Cara brother and sister, which makes sense. They also fight a whole lot less, which unfortunately made them less distinct here.

•  I love that there’s just a bunch of lit torches just hanging on the walls in the abandoned tunnel beneath their house.

•  Cara says “I don’t know Freddy, maybe we shouldn’t open it.” Then Freddy immediately opens it.

I was not expecting Count Nightwing to have that haircut.

•  A Coffin slide to a vampire den is a way better twist than the bad breath that makes you time travel.

•  Gwendolyn is way more sus right off the bat.

•  I like that Count Nightwing announces himself while trying to find the kids. “Children, I’m coming for you!” 

•  “I may be 657 years old, but I can sniff out a meal.”

•  Freddy’s got some cahones challenging a vampire like that.

•  It struck me that I am watching vampires fight over a bottle of breath.

•  The set for the vampire den screams “high school theater production” and I LOVE it.

•  Count Nightwing getting his breath back redeemed the unfortunate haircut.

•  Mom’s fangs are really big. So are all of her teeth.

•  LOL at coffin bunk beds. Better than the Werewolf Sweat twist in the book.



Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #50: Calling All Creeps


Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Pulp Horror blog series:
RL Stine’s The Babysitter IV


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