Summary

  • The 2023 Goosebumps reboot blends self-aware comedy and anthology-style storytelling, following a group of teens targeted by cursed items at a Halloween party.
  • Each episode of the show is adapted from one of R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps novels, with “Say Cheese and Die” and “The Haunted Mask” being two notable examples.
  • The reboot adds a unique twist to the original stories, delving deeper into the creepy plots and exploring the consequences faced by the characters, such as a time loop and superpowers from eating worms.

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While 2023’s Goosebumps reboot has a brand new overarching story of its own, the show does use classic novels from R.L. Stine’s book series as loose inspiration for each episode’s plot. Goosebumps started as a series of children’s horror novels back in the early 1990s. However, no one could have predicted just how perennially popular author R.L. Stine’s novels would become in the decades that followed. Goosebumps spawned a 1990s TV show, two live-action movie adaptations in the 2010s, and dozens of spinoff novel series that continue to this day. In 2023, Hulu revived the franchise with another reboot.

Hulu’s 2023 Goosebumps TV show promises to change the franchise’s formula once again. Whereas the 2010s Goosebumps movies were self-aware comedies and the ‘90s TV show was an anthology series akin to a PG version of Tales from the Crypt, 2023’s Goosebumps reboot blends these approaches. The show tells the serialized story of Isaiah, Margot, Isabella, James, and Lucas, a group of teens who are targeted by cursed items when they attend a Halloween party at a stranger’s seemingly abandoned home. However, while the gang’s connection to this stranger is told in a season-long story, each Goosebumps episode is adapted from one of Stine’s novels.

6 Say Cheese and Die

Zack Morris as Isaiah in Goosebumps 2023 looking around a dark corner cautiously

Say Cheese and Die is a notable Goosebumps book for numerous reasons. For one thing, it was only the fourth novel in the long-running original series. For another, the book had cover art depicting sentient skeletons at a barbecue that remains an iconic emblem of the series. Finally, Say Cheese and Die’s Goosebumps TV adaptation starred Ryan Gosling long before he was famous. As such, it makes sense that Goosebumps 2023 season 1, episode 1, “Say Cheese and Die,” used this story as the basis for its creepy plot. In the original novel, the book’s hero Greg discovers a camera that is seemingly able to predict catastrophes before they happen.

Greg soon realizes that anyone he photographs with the camera falls victim to whatever gruesome fate is featured in their photograph, so he sets to work trying to destroy the camera and free his friends from its malign influence. “Say Cheese and Die” tells essentially the same story, but the Goosebumps 2023 episode goes a lot deeper with the idea. Isaiah is a star quarterback who finds the camera during a party at the seemingly abandoned Biddle house, and he’s horrified when the camera predicts the near-death experiences of his friend Margot. Later, Isaiah’s photo is taken by his friend James, causing Isiah to break his arm during a football match.

5 The Haunted Mask

A girl screaming and covered in slime in the Goosebumps TV series

While Isaiah’s broken arm happens early on in Goosebumps’s 2023 reboot, the football player can at least claim that it was idle curiosity that led him to take the cursed camera from the Biddle basement. The next episode’s heroine is not so lucky. Isabella is a shy, quiet girl who leads a secret double life as an online troll who torments the popular kids whom she resents for ignoring her existence. In Goosebumps 2023 episode 2, “The Haunted Mask,” Isabella turns the tables on her tormentors by borrowing the eponymous haunted mask from the Biddle basement during the same raucous Halloween party.

Initially, the mask makes Isabella confident enough to enjoy herself at the part but, when her classmate Lucas breaks her expensive drone, the mask convinces her to attack and maim him. The mask takes over Isabella’s body, trashing her house and trying to attack her brother before she overpowers its influence. This story is quite close to the original plot of Stine’s The Haunted Mask, the eleventh book in the Goosebumps series. While many Goosebumps novels were inspired by classic horror movies, this story of a girl struggling to remove a mask that altered her behavior was influenced by Stine’s son getting stuck in a Frankenstein mask as a child.

4 The Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Miles McKenna's James stares horrified in Goosebumps 2023

In Stine’s twenty-eighth Goosebumps novel The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, a twelve-year-old is tormented by his little sister until he finds himself trapped in a time loop by the titular timepiece. As the book’s story progresses, the hero grows younger and younger but finds that his little sister is still as much of a nightmare as ever, and an even bigger problem than the time loop he is trapped in. As a result, when the hero eventually succeeds in breaking the cuckoo clock, he makes sure to erase his sister from existence in one of the darker endings in the series. 2023’s Goosebumps reboot borrows only this book’s title.

In the show’s version of events, Goosebumps 2023 episode 3, “The Cuckoo Clock of Doom,” sees James get stuck in a Groundhog Day-style loop after he is knocked into the cuckoo clock during the Halloween party. James uses the time loop to win over his crush, but he is horrified to learn that each loop created an evil duplicate version of him. These duplicates then trap him in an abandoned mine and set to work ruining his life, only for their plan to be foiled when one of James’s friends accidentally discovers that the clones explode into goo when hit.

3 Go Eat Worms

Zack Morris, Ana Yi Puig, Miles McKenna, Will Price, and Isa Briones in Goosebumps
Zack Morris, Ana Yi Puig, Miles McKenna, Will Price, and Isa Briones in Goosebumps

Go Eat Worms was the twenty-first book in the Goosebumps series and the Stine novel told the tale of a child obsessed with worms who found himself besieged by the same creatures that he used to torment. While the hero of Go Eat Worms arguably deserved his fate due to his mistreatment of animals, the reboot offers a stranger take on this tale. In Goosebumps episode 4, “Go Eat Worms,” the self-destructive daredevil Lucas finds himself feeling strange after eating a worm to impress his crush Margot. Naturally, this was a worm he found at the Biddle house party, and eating bugs temporarily gives him superpowers.

2 Reader Beware

Mr. Bratt possessed by Harold Biddle and holding a shovel with a menacing stare in Goosebumps 2023

Much like Isabella’s mask and James’s time travel, Lucas’s magic comes at a cost. He realizes this when the worms gang up against him, setting up the events of Goosebumps episode 5, “Reader Beware.” This outing reveals that the mysterious object that Mr. Bratt has been searching for throughout the first few episodes is the possessed doll, Slappy. The most memorable of the many villains in the Goosebumps novels, Slappy was first introduced in the seventh book of the series, Night of the Living Dummy.

1 Night of the Living Dummy

Goosebumps Poster with Slappy the Dummy Cropped

Episode 6, “Night of the Living Dummy,” takes its title and antagonist, Slappy the Dummy, from the Goosebumps book of the same name. However, like “The Cuckoo Clock of Doom,” the episode strays far from its source material. In the original novel, a pair of feuding sisters find Slappy and are terrified when the sentient dummy wreaks havoc on their lives. In this significantly darker episode, Harold Biddle’s backstory is finally revealed as viewers learn that Slappy has been in his family for generations. Ironically, this episode owes less to Night of the Living Dummy than to Slappy, Beware, a later book that introduced Slappy’s creator, a magician named Ephraim.

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