Production: Twentieth Century Fox, 1997
Running Time: 42 minutes
New residents learn that a chemical spill haunting the town of Dark Falls did more damage than lowering property values. It's bad enough that Amanda and her brother have been forced to move to the tiny town. "We're moving to a place that's totally dead," whines Josh. When they arrive, they discover that the house is falling apart, and the neighbors look downright creepy. They can't even play baseball with the local kids, who hate sunny days.
Things get worse when Amanda begins to see people sneaking around in her home, and her parents don't believe her. Then she discovers an old newspaper with reports of local deaths in a factory accident, which puts everyone on edge. But the real trouble starts when the family dog disappears...turning up inside a cemetery where the children overhear their neighbors conspiring to suck their blood!
Best For Ages:
6-8: Children who are afraid of graveyards, ghosts, or vampires will be scared by this video. Kids who like haunted houses may get a kick out of an entire town of dead people.
9-12: Many pre-teens will be familiar with the plot of WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE, which is based on the very first "Goosebumps" novel. The video offers some spooky new twists.
Educational Value: Out to recess. Some historical value as this video is based on the novel that kicked off the modern teen horror series craze, but no clear environmental message.
Entertainment Value: Like many of the better "Goosebumps" videos, WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE borrows images from classic horror films, though there are some poor-quality video shots as well.
Violence: Animated corpses attack the children, then the entire family, trying to suck their blood.
Frightening Situations: Amanda sees ghosts in her bedroom. The family dog escapes into a graveyard. Everyone in the town of Dark Falls turns out to be dead. When exposed to sunlight, the villains melt like THE WIZARD OF OZ's Wicked Witch of the West.
Questionable Behavior: A youth gang surrounds Amanda and Josh, waving baseball bats in a threatening manner.
An adaptation of an extremely successful book, WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE has a lot to live up to. For the most part it succeeds admirably, developing a backstory about a three-year-old environmental disaster that killed everyone in Dark Falls. Unfortunately, the town residents didn't stay dead. Though no one calls them vampires, they have pasty white skin, fear potent herbs, drink blood and melt in sunlight...sound familiar?
Though Amanda is not as strong a presence here as she was in the novel, where she served as narrator, she does get one introspective sequence while writing a letter to a friend. She and Josh are both likeable characters who react like typical kids faced with an undesired move. They think the house is ugly and the neighbors are all creeps. Despite the fact that their worst fears come true, this video might reassure children who are unhappy about moving that their feelings are very common.
As in other "Goosebumps" installments, the makeup and sets look great but some of the camera work is amateurish, especially a shot around a circle of menacing kids that looks like home video footage. The attacking zombies look quite real and may scare younger children. The Magic School Bus video INSIDE THE HAUNTED HOUSE, which explains why old homes can seem scary, might assuage such fears. The Scooby-Doo installment THE HAUNTED HOUSE HANG-UP takes a more humorous look at the popular theme.