Discover more from Rereading My Childhood by Amy A. Cowan
Goosebumps: A Shocker on Shock Street by R. L. Stine
Topics include unnecessary twist endings, poorly planned dark rides, and meditations on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I love a good dark ride. Strap me into that little car and guide me through that pretzel-shaped track, thank you very much. And it doesn’t have to be the level of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Give me that State Fair cheese ride — either a tunnel of love or a haunted ride featuring copyrighted characters with modified names so no one gets sued.
Speaking of haunted rides, in A Shocker on Shock Street, two kids go on a prototype horror movie ride with all their favorite horror movie monsters. This sounds right up my alley — rides and horror movies. But by the end of the book, I was annoyed. It’s going to be one of those reviews.
Erin and her best friend Marty are watching the sixth installment from the Shocker on Shock Street (minus the “A” from the book’s title) cinematic universe. Erin’s father owns the theater and has worked on the Fantasy Films Studio Tour making animatronics. Unfortunately, when the kids go to see him, he has some bad news.
Not really. It was a gag! He has some good news! However, there is some bad news — the whole book is going to be like this.
Anyway, Erin’s father says that he’s been working on the new Shocker Studio Tour and he wants the kids to test out the ride before they open to the public. I’m sure nothing crazy will happen and the book will just end with their pointed yet helpful criticism.
On the way to the ride, Marty pretends to bite Erin. Totally normal. Yep. There’s nothing weird or off-putting about that.
They arrive and see a row of tramcars and a tour guide named Linda. The kids ride in the front and Linda explains one of the features of the ride: the Shocker Stun Ray Blaster, which can “freeze a monster in its tracks from twenty feet.” Marty aims the gun at Linda and fires — and she freezes.
“Linda! Linda!” I screamed.
Marty’s mouth dropped open. He let out a choked gurgle.
I turned to Dad. To my surprise, he was laughing.
“Dad — she’s — she’s frozen!” I cried. But when I turned back to Linda, she had a big smile on her face, too.
It took us both a while, but we soon realized the whole thing was a joke.
“That’s the first shock on the Shocker tour,” Linda announced, lowering the red blaster. She put a hand on Marty’s shoulder. “I think I really shocked you, Marty!”
“No way!” Marty insisted.
Anyway, the tram moves on its own and Linda doesn’t go with them, so she’s gone forever and inconsequential to the plot. This isn’t a joke. She’s gone now. No more Linda. She was there to explain something that the Dad could have and do that stupid freezing thing.
The first stop is a Haunted House. The tram barrels into the house and there are some spooky house shenanigans. Erin looks around and Marty is gone!
Not really — it’s just really dark. Seriously. She couldn’t see him in the dark.
A skeleton talks to them as the tram takes off. Erin equates the ride to a rollercoaster, which makes me wonder if they’re wearing seat belts and if this ride should have shoulder harnesses.
Then some monsters climb on top of the tram, but they’re just characters from the Shocker movies and this is the photo op part of the ride. This is a strange thing to put in the ride. I don’t mean that it’s weird to have a photo op on the ride — this sort of thing would be great at the end. I mean it’s weird to do it in the middle of a ride. It hurts the momentum and will destroy the ride capacity. Already there are clear problems with this ride. And I should know — I was voted Miss Ride Capacity and Safety Expert by a panel of me.
The tram takes off as the kids wonder why they didn’t see any zippers or seams on the costumes of the monsters during the photo op.
Later, worms crawl on them and they go through a spiderweb. How Erin’s father thought this would be great for a ride, I have no idea. The kids are convinced they are robots, which makes even less sense. The cost associated with robotic worms and spiders crawling over people would be astronomical. And not just with development — people would take these things or accidentally destroy them. I should know — I was voted Miss Ride Development and Maintenance Cost Expert by a panel of my sister’s dog.
Anyway, Marty disappears again during the cave sequence.
Not really, of course, but he does get out of the tram. Before every ride I’ve been on, they tell you in at least three different languages to stay inside the car and keep your hands, legs, and feet inside the car. In fact, because of the safety measures like seat belts and harnesses, you can’t even get out. Somehow, this tram allows people to get out. In fact, it’s encouraged! Because the kids get out, confront a giant grasshopper (the one on the cover, I’m assuming), shoot it with the blaster, and continue on the ride on foot.
Marty pretends to be caught by something and yells, “APRIL FOOLS!” I didn’t know it was April Fools Day and the kids just continue to a creepy street that is home to the Mad Mangler. They don’t encounter the Mad Mangler, but they do end up in a cemetery and fall into some graves.
Again, how would this ride work with actual riders? You can’t have them falling into holes — you have to account for people in wheelchairs and people who have limited mobility. And this ride is days from opening? The ride designers are either blatantly neglecting the ADA or are bad at their jobs. And I should know — I was voted Miss Accessibility by a panel of imaginary experts.
Just when you think the ride couldn’t be even more of a logistical nightmare, something pulls the kids out of the graves. Unfortunately, they are not there to help the kids. Erin and Marty narrowly escape their captors. Again, if this were a ride, there is no way you can allow people to be touched by actors.
Or maybe there’s another explanation. Marty suggests that the animatronics have gone haywire, not unlike what happened to the Simpsons at Itchy & Scratchy Land.
The kids end up in quicksand, an issue I thought would be a bigger problem in my adult life. Luckily, Wolf Girl shows up and saves them. However, she growls at the children, even as the children ask for help.
“That’s enough!” I shrieked. “Stop the act! Stop it! Stop it!”
I was so angry, so furious — I reached up with both hands. I grabbed the fur on the sides of Wolf Girl’s mask.
And I tugged the mask with all my strength.
Tugged. Tugged with both hands as hard as I could.
And felt real fur. And warm skin.
It wasn’t a mask.
The kids run away and climb up a wall. If the ride has come to life, that would explain all the weird things happening. It’s not that the designers are negligent — it’s that the ride has come to life and they can’t get the kids out.
They run away and see the tram zoom past them, but Erin and Marty jump on it. The kids aren’t in the clear yet, however. They don’t know where the tram is taking them. They jump off the tram just before it careens into the wall, and they are surrounded by gray faces that are closing in on them.
And then I heard a man’s voice, shouting over the wind: “Cut! Print that one! Good scene, everyone!”
It was just a movie, huh? They were filming the kids’ reactions, huh? And now it’s time to wrap up. And the kids have to just find Erin’s dad, who’s behind this door, huh?
Well, Marty runs through the door.
And falls while Erin has a meltdown.
Jared Curtis, one of the studio engineers, came running into The House of Shocks. “Mr. Wright, what happened to your two kid robots?” he demanded.
Mr. Wright sighed again. “Programming problems,” he muttered.
He pointed to the Erin robot, frozen in place on her knees beside the Marty robot. “I had to shut the girl off. Her memory chip must be bad. The Erin robot was supposed to think of me as her father. But just now, she didn’t recognize me.”
“And what about the Marty robot?” Jared asked.
“It’s totally down,” Mr. Wright replied. “I think the electrical system shorted out.”
“What a shame,” Jared said, bending to roll the Marty robot over. He pulled up the T-shirt and fiddled with some dials on the back. “Hey, Mr. Wright, it was a great idea to make robot kids to test the park. I think we can fix them.”
Jared opened up a panel on Marty’s back and squinted at the red and green wires. “All the other creatures, and monsters, and robots worked perfectly. Not a single bug.”
Are you kidding me? The kids were robots? And the Dad character didn’t just program both of them to be his kids. He made one some kind of electric orphan. What would be the benefit?
And, even worse, this is how the ride is supposed to go? It completely disregards the ADA, it’s dangerous, there’s no clear path, the ride capacity is shit, there’s no flow. Imagineers they are not.
Honestly, I was fine with the ride going haywire and the kids being trapped, but I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to think that a studio would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into realistic animatronics that go with the movies and take photos for a ride with such a low ride capacity that is bound to be the subject of a lawsuit.
And remember — this ride was days away from opening. There was no oversight? No lawyers running in yelling, “You can’t open this ride!” After years of development and $150 million, no one thought everything about this was a terrible idea? I’ve done school projects with more planning.
This book should be up my alley — horror movies, dark rides, and haunted houses — but it’s just too stupid. Universal Monsters, the obvious real-world allusion to the Shock Street movies, can be scary and work as an attraction. The problem lies in the overreliance on the twist ending, especially when it comes at the expense of a coherent story.
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