When it comes to R.L. Stine, the horror writer is mainly known for his Goosebumps series. The first book, Welcome to Dead House, was released in July 1992 and R.L. Stine would go on to publish 200 plus books in his career. With the success of the books, a television show of the popular novels was created in the early 90’s.
The series as a whole was quite cheesy minus a couple of episodes. However, R.L. Stine came back with The Haunting Hour on a little-known channel called The Hub. Running from 2010 – 2014, this adaption of Stine’s books is what the original Goosebumps series should’ve been. The production quality was top-notch, the acting was pretty good, and the storytelling was strong across the board. In celebration of Goosebumps recent return to television, this list will look back at one of the more underrated series and highlight the five best episodes of the four-season run of The Haunting Hour.
Dolls are every kid’s nightmare. Stine created the iconic Slappy, but Lily D is just as creepy as the Goosebumps legend. Really You was the first episode of The Haunting Hour and it left an unforgettable impact. Now, the lead girl Lilly Carbo (Bailee Madison) was annoying, but that was the point.
Her being a spoiled brat justified the demon taking over the young girl’s body. It taught her a lesson in humility, but more importantly, Really You was a genuinely unsettling and scary story. Lily D wasn’t anything like Slappy; she didn’t crack jokes and the doll moved in silence, which amped up the suspense and tension for the two-part episode. The acting was pretty strong too. Bailee Madison is an engaging presence and though her character in the first half was absolutely the worst, the young actress was a natural playing Lilly. You felt bad for her when she kept getting in trouble for things she didn’t do. An excellent start to the series that remains one of the best out of all 76 episodes.
This was frightening. What The Haunting Hour did best was tap into the lives of kids and teenagers, and use that as the basis for the horror throughout the series. Everyone loves the ice cream truck. Documenting Marty’s growing obsession with catching the Kreamy Kold was intriguing as the mystery of who’s inside the truck hopefully had a strong payoff. And it did.
In a brilliant twist, Marty does catch the Kreamy Kold truck, but it’s revealed by Jimmy – someone who was trapped inside of the truck – that he’s been waiting for thirty years for “someone who wanted it as bad as he did”, explaining that the ice cream truck runs on the souls of those obsessed with catching it. Marty is now the victim trapped in the truck. It’s an example of strong storytelling in that the twist was genuinely shocking, but it made sense due to the overall narrative. Catching Cold doesn’t have the scary factor like so many episodes in the series did, but it was an engaging horror tale that could still haunt you with its ending.
The Dead Body
The Haunting Hour took the concept of a bullied kid meeting a new friend and flipped it on its head. Like Catching Cold, the story isn’t terrifying. But it’s not trying to be. It’s a strong tale that slowly builds once it’s revealed that Jake Skinner (Matt Angel) may not be the guy that he seems to be. The performance was on point from the main actors, especially from Matt Angel. Jake is a charming thief and the actor organically displays these emotions effortlessly.
The ending is controversial, but a darn good one. The twist is unexpected and ultimately sad as Will is one of the nice protagonists throughout the series. R.L. Stine would do Part II after the backlash surrounding Will’s death, which sadly isn’t as good as the first part. Nevertheless, The Dead Body is an excellent standalone episode overall.
This episode is just nerve-wracking from beginning to end. Big props to whoever created the creepy Big Yellow mascot. It’s scary enough to send shivers down your spine, but not so scary to wonder why this school has this type of mascot in the first place. Big Yellow ending up being a monster who eats Willie and Drake was not a surprise. But this episode was a masterclass in dread and tension. We always suspect something happening, but the episode is so well written that there’s tension in every scene Big Yellow is in. The mystery surrounding the dark secret is well-paced and nicely thought out, and like every other episode on this list, the acting is pretty strong across the board.
Stine took a different approach here as the story is about acceptance and reality. Since The Haunting Hour is skewed towards teenagers, the stories were able to tackle mature themes. Confronting death isn’t easy. To have an entire episode that focuses on the grim reaper looking for its next victim made for a compelling saga that played on a different type of fear. Flight highlighted the complexity of The Haunting Hour series and why it’s considered to be the best R.L. Stine adaptation to date by many.
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