Goosebumps #60 – “Werewolf Skin”

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Is it just me, or does it kinda look like the werewolf is waving hello to us? Or maybe it’s attempting to warn us that this book really sucks.

As you can see, this book cover is urging us to tune into the Goosebumps TV show on Fox. Alas, while they no longer air it, we can sort of do what the cover says by checking out Sadako’s awesome recaps on her blog, Get Your Pencil and Your Casebook. And yes, that is a Ghostwriter reference… damn, I loved that show. I recall being sort of hot for Rob, the sensitive writer one.

Oh, right… I’m recapping something. Ahem.

Back-Cover Blurb:
It’s a full moon… Do you know where your werewolf is?

Picture this–Alex Hunter, photography freak, hanging out in Wolf Creek.

Who lives in Wolf Creek? Alex’s uncle Colin and aunt Marta. They’re professional photographers.

Uncle Colin and Aunt Marta are pretty cool. They only have two requests. Don’t go into the woods late at night. And stay away from the creepy house next door.

Poor Alex. He just wanted to take a couple of pictures. But now he’s about to find out the secret of Wolf Creek. Late one night. When the moon is full…

Let me guess… is Wolf Creek actually a top-secret nature preserve dedicated to maintaining the local wild wolf population? Or maybe the secret involves werewolves, skin, and the creepy house next door. Let’s read on to find out!

By the way, it also says that there’s a “terrifying werewolf mask” inside, but all I found was a bogart-y cardboard strip in the middle with the tell-tale nubs that indicate a former tear-off strip. Obviously I would have included some photos of me scaring children and old people if the mask had still been there. As it is, though, we’ve just got this recap. Oh well.

Summary:
We start with 12-year-old Alex emerging from the long bus trip from his home in an unspecified “big city” to visit his aunt and uncle for two weeks while his parents are on a business trip to France. Apparently he hasn’t seen Aunt Marta or Uncle Colin for years and has no idea what they actually look like at this point.

Despite this, Alex feels absolutely no reluctance about getting into the first car that honks as he passes by…

Umm, yeah, I’m not even going to touch that one.

But it’s all good, because it really is his aunt and uncle. After they bond a little over their mutual love of photography, Aunt M is a bit of a Debbie Downer and talks about what a hard life it is to be a pro photog… which is somehow relevant for a 12-year-old who loves to take pictures? Ugh, back the eff off!

Nevertheless, Alex announces that he plans on participating in a special Halloween photo contest at his school, in which the goal is to take the most frightening picture. I guess that means that I can’t enter that black-and-white picture of a lawn chair and its shadow that I developed at Save-On.

But Alex he knows just what he’ll be photographing–a werewolf! You know, like he’s going to dress up as one and stage the shot. Very ambitious, Alex.

For some reason, though, this causes Uncle C to accidentally run a stop sign and nearly run into the side of a moving truck. He makes some excuse about being distracted, but I’d say he just needs to lay off the damn sauce. There’s some ominous mention of the Marling family, but when Alex asks about them, Aunt M states that they aren’t important at all.

So we drive along for a little while, past the tiny-ass town of Wolf Creek and into the brooding woods. Then we come upon a very small neighborhood of just three houses. Yeah, three. What the hell? If you’re going to live out in the woods, don’t people typically want land and stuff surrounding them? Me no understand.

The house in the middle is Aunt M and Uncle C’s crib. It’s kind of a k-hole, since it’s not very well kept-up on account of all the glamorous traveling and shizz that they have to do.

Alex expresses some interest in the Marling house, which is as run-down and crazy-person-chic as his aunt and uncle’s. The minute that Alex so much as steps a foot toward the Marling house, Uncle Colin gets all crazy and shouts at Alex to stay away from the Marlings and their shitty old house.

Privately, Aunt Marta asks Alex to stop asking about the Marlings in front of Uncle Crazy, and Alex quickly agrees.

By the way, the more I hear from Uncle C, the more I think of him as Christopher Walken.

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Can’t you just see it? I totally can.

After Alex settles in, he meets a new friend. He and Hannah, the girl next door, hang out in the woods for a little while. Alex is obviously hot in his knickers for Hannah, describing her as “pretty cute” and devoting unusually long descriptions to her wind-blown black hair and pretty olive skin. Methinks our young man is smitten.

Hannah tells Alex about how the Marlings are all mysterious and crap, and how everybody stays away from them because… um… they’re all mysterious and crap? Oh, and they especially don’t like children, so don’t even think about going near their house or whatever.

This, of course, means that Alex has to run up and get a picture of the Marling house, despite Hannah’s protests. Yeah, Alex, that’s the way to get a girlfriend–by totally not listening to her and pointedly doing the opposite of what she asks. When you get older, you’ll probably be swamped with dates. Not.

So Alex gets a picture of Chez Marling, and as he’s walking away, he notices a gentle fluttering of the curtains, almost as if someone has been watching them.

Ooooh, creepy. How weird that people who live in a typically quiet part of the woods would look out their window when a strange kid starts taking pictures of them. Sinister!

Later, they meet up with two annoying kids from Hannah’s school, Sean and Arjun. Yeah, that’s right–Arjun. Alex struggles with the name, which makes me wonder if he’s such a “city kid” after all if he finds himself freaking out over a very easy to pronounce Indian name. Arjun and Sean are mean-spirited assholes who pretend to steal Alex’s super-expensive camera, but our homegirl Hannah has his back and tells them to GTFO. Alex comments that the “hungry” look in Sean’s and Arjun’s eyes remind him of wild animals.

The visit is cut short when Alex tells everyone he’s going to be a werewolf for Halloween. Things get awkward, so he and Hannah head back home.

That night, after dinner, Sean is busy spying on the Marlings from his little bedroom window. He sees a weird figure in one of the windows and decides that it isn’t a man, but an animal. Add the scary howling he suddenly hears coming from outside, and our boy is all kinds of freaked out. Oh, and his camera is missing–crap! He goes downstairs to find his aunt and uncle, but they’re suddenly gone and Alex figures they just left randomly to go photograph animals in the woods or whatever.

And then he hears something upstairs in the attic! Whatever’s outside must be inside the house now, in the attic! AaAAAahHHhhh!

Psych! It’s just Hannah trying old clothes on. But because we need some thrills, Alex insists on going out in the woods to retrieve his camera. We get a pseudo-scary chase with some unspecified “creature,” and then after Alex gets away, he finds two dead animals. Gross, yes, but seriously? We’re in the woods. I’m sure there are dead animals everywhere. Haven’t you ever seen the Lion King? It’s called the Circle of Life.

The next morning, Hannah comes by to pick up Alex for school. It seems that Alex is going to attend the local school in Wolf Creek for the two weeks that he’s staying with his aunt and uncle because… uhm… it’s a convenient plot device? Whatever.

Alex notes that Sean and Arjun both look as if they’ve had a rough trick or two last night, with bloodshot eyes, wrinkled clothes, and messed-up hair.

And we get to learn all about werewolf legends in class. Sweet! I wish my elementary school would have taught us crap like this.

After school, Sean and Arjun corner Alex menacingly, which somehow leads to him agreeing to go to a private place in the woods later that week in order to take a picture of a werewolf. Anything for that photo op, I guess. Oh, and now Alex suddenly believes in werewolves, despite making fun it for the entire book, simply because Sean and Arjun seem so serious about it.

Cut to the night before Halloween. Alex is about to sneak out and see a werewolf, but discovers that Aunt M and Uncle C have barred the windows so he can’t climb out. Cock block! He vows to find some way to sneak out tomorrow. Somehow this plan devolves into just taking some pics of the Marling house, since they’re probably werewolves, anyway.

He tries to get Hannah to go along with this stupid plan, even knocking on her window late the next night, but she totally blows him off and dammit, I don’t blame her. Who wants to hang out with some obsessive photography freak, peeping into people’s windows, when I could just stay in my nice warm bed and dream about Chace Crawford? I rest my case.

Not surprisingly, while he’s out and about, he runs into some werewolf action. He sees two people wearing animal pelts, and a moment later, the pelts magically merge onto their bodies and they turn into scary-ass werewolves.

Instead of trying to, I don’t know, hide or something, our guy Alex is all about getting that photo. He’s like Tyra Banks–he’s all about getting that fierce shot!

But (ruh-roh!) a branch scrapes his face and he drops his camera before he gets a chance to take a pic. Oops!

The werewolves pad away, but as Alex hears shrill screams in the distance, he realizes that his aunt and uncle are supposed to be out photographing night animals, and what if it’s them that the werewolves are eating?!?!?!

Alex runs off to find out what’s going on. He follows the werewolves for the rest of the night, still trying unsuccessfully to get his stupid shot. In the morning, the two werewolves shrug off their pelts and…

OMFG!

It’s Aunt Marta and Uncle Colin!

Oh, and the twists don’t end there, everybody. Alex stumbles into the Marling house to try and warn them, but finds that nobody lives there at all. Aunt M and Uncle C just made them up to distract Alex.

So yeah… Uncle Colin is crazy. Crazy like a fox!

Now Alex is convinced that he has to do something about his evil aunt and uncle, seeing as how they’re sinister werewolves who… uhm… hunt other animals and stuff. Ugh, you’re a tool, Alex. When is this stupid book going to be over so I can Google Taylor Lautner pics?

Hannah convinces Alex that they should hide the werewolf skins so that Uncle Colin and Aunt Marta won’t have to be werewolves anymore. If they don’t wear the skins for a full night, maybe they won’t be werewolves!

And you know what the best part of this plan is? For some reason, the last place that Aunt Marta and Uncle Colin will expect the skins to be hidden is in plain sight–Hannah and Colin are going to wear them for trick-or-treating tonight!

Yeah, that makes sense. Since that logic works so well, I’m going to find someone with scabies and wear their favorite sweater for a day so that I can cure them. I’m sure that Hannah’s idea will work out about as well.

But, as it turns out, it works! Uncle Colin and Aunt Marta are saved! Yay!

Except, yeah, there’s one other thing. It turns out Hannah is, herself, a werewolf. She just got her special skin last night. The book ends with Hannah knocking Alex to the ground and sinking her teeth into his chest.

WTF?

Quotable Quotes:

Hannah stepped up beside me. Her eyes locked on mine. “I didn’t wear the [skin] from this house, Alex,” she said softly. “I used my own. I just got it last night.”

“Huh?” I cried. “I don’t get it.”

“You will,” she whispered.

Really, is that a promise? Because I don’t get this ending at all.

The Moral of the Story:
You really don’t need a cohesive plot or a satisfying resolution to a story so long as you have a long-running book series with a well-known brand name and a tv tie-in.

Seriously, what the hell was up with this story? There’s all this lame foreshadowing about Arjun and Sean being werewolves, but for what? Is this supposed to imply that the whole town is a bunch of werewolves? If so, then why would that be?

The ending really screams for a sequel, but it just never happened. I’m kind of annoyed about this, but in a way, I’m also a little relieved. How many werewolf stories with flat characters and unsatisfying plot twists do you really need, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be watching the New Moon trailer for the millionth time…

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Posted in Danger, Goosebumps
9 comments on “Goosebumps #60 – “Werewolf Skin”
  1. Shannon says:

    What? That ending doesn’t make a bit of sense!

  2. Sadako says:

    Yeah, I agree, it’s weird. One thing I never got also was that if werewolves choose to put on skins to become…well, werewolves, then why bother? Why not just stop putting on werewolf costumes? Or do they just enjoy it? Clearly not that much since they put bars up on the window to keep the nephew safe.

    I agree, it does look like wolfie is waving at us. This cover is hilarious.

  3. Sadako says:

    Oh, and thanks for plugging my blog! 🙂

  4. R. G. Quimby says:

    @ Sadako — Not a problem! There are just not enough TV blogs out there. Sure, I dabble a little, but it’s always nice to have something that’s truly dedicated to bad 90s TV shows. And, come on… A Ghostwriter reference? It’s love, baby!

    @ Shannon — I’m starting to wonder whether or not this book was ghostwritten by the same people who did the SVH books. The end makes about as much sense, I think, except without a beach party or something.

  5. Shannon says:

    I don’t know, Quimby. Were there any dances? Are Alex’s parents successful interior designers and/or lawyers? The fact that his parents are absent from the book is a good sign that you might be right. I can’t even remember the last time Mr. or Mrs. Wakefield was in an SVH book for more than a paragraph.

  6. Callie says:

    I’m really not getting the 3 house neighborhood either. Why in the hell would people who live in the country choose to build their houses right next to each other, unless they are family and even then most people at least try to put a field between themselves and their mother-in-law.

  7. R. G. Quimby says:

    This is going to sound weird, but I actually checked out the Goosebumps episode of this on YouTube, and it’s actually… um… better than the book. I know, I know–it’s hard to top. But the exposition is handled more smoothly, though Alex is much more of a little turd.

    Oh, and they clear up that whole 3-house neighborhood int he woods issue by just putting the houses in a regular neighborhood, but one that’s really close to some woods, which makes a whole lot of sense.

    Oh, and the guy who plays Uncle Colin is kinda hot. You know, in that I-wish-I-were-Michael-Madsen way.

  8. Sadako says:

    I also like that when they transformed back into humans from werewolves, they were NAKED! Not that we could see…but still.

    Also, the special effects were way better than in Werewolf of Fever Swamp where the wolf looked kind of gorilla esque.

  9. How many werewolf stories with flat characters and unsatisfying plot twists do you really need, right?

    Reply: Well, if you’re R.L. Stine, it doesn’t really matter, so long as they make bank. Other werewolf stories Mr. Stine did are:

    “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” from the original Goosebumps series

    “The Werewolf in the Living Room” from the Goosebumps 2000 series

    “Bad Moonlight” from the “Fear Street Super Chillers” series

    “The Werewolf’s First Night” from the “More Tales to Give You Goosebumps” anthology series.

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