Production: Twentieth Century Fox, 1997
Running Time: 44 minutes
Childhood innocence gets destroyed when a child's doll becomes possessed and when a sweet old aunt turns her nephews into old men in AN OLD STORY. The only horror in these "Goosebumps" episodes is from the nastiness of the storylines.
BRIDE OF THE LIVING DUMMY brings back Slappy, the ventriloquist's prop with a mind -- and a voice -- of his own. Now a successful stage performer with a down-and-out actor in his thrall, Slappy becomes obsessed with a cute doll in the audience. He then menaces the family of the doll's owner in an effort to claim his bride.
In AN OLD STORY, Aunt Dahlia comes to stay with brothers Tom and Jon while their folks are away. Her prune cookies and plans for a bridge night sound boring at first, but they're just the start of a sinister plot to turn the boys into old men...ideal husbands for two paying customers who want gentlemen to retire with.
Best For Ages:
6-8: Younger children who play with dolls may be disturbed by BRIDE OF THE LIVING DUMMY; AN OLD STORY will more likely confuse than frighten them.
9-12: Some viewers may be offended by the sexism and jokes at the expense of the elderly in AN OLD STORY. Others will enjoy seeing Slappy the Dummy again, though this is his poorest outing.
Educational Value: Out to recess. BRIDE OF THE LIVING DUMMY has moments of humor, but no real screams for horror fans.
Entertainment Value: AN OLD STORY is probably the worst of the GOOSEBUMPS installments despite excellent makeup turning two young boys into senior citizens; the story plods, the jokes are offensive.
Violence: Two dolls beat each other up and are destroyed by a buzzsaw, their ghoulish green souls flying off into the sky.
Frightening Situations: Both stories involve absent parents and children menaced by strangers. AN OLD STORY is more disturbing in that a family friend left to babysit tortures the kids by transforming them into old men. Kids may have nightmares about their dolls coming to life after BRIDE OF THE LIVING DUMMY, in which a possessed dummy tries to force marriage upon an underage girl.
Questionable Behavior: Kids (wisely) refuse to eat their prunes. A girl takes a cab downtown into a seedy neighborhood to visit a man she barely knows who has sent her a strange gift.
Mature Themes: Two elderly women desperate for companionship hire a witch to transform young boys into old men whom they can force into marriage. Gender/Racial Insensitivity: Both stories portray women as conniving schemers desperate to get husbands.
In older kids' movies, marriage is often portrayed as a fate worse than death -- the old ball and chain ruining every boy's good time. In these "Goosebumps" episodes, the venerable institution becomes downright unnatural. A plastic doll pursues a theatrical dummy, who in turn lusts after a human girl in BRIDE OF THE LIVING DUMMY. This sort of miscegenation is characterized as evil, and the dolls are punished by death for their unnatural desires.
Scary? Yes, but not because the dolls can bite. Slappy's plan to marry young Gillian has overtones of pedophilia, and his vampy blonde sidekick acts out every cliché about a woman scorned. As if that weren't bad enough, the eccentric matchmaker in AN OLD STORY finds grooms for the desperate old maids who come to her by turning innocent young boys into decrepit old men. It's not funny, and it's only scary in that the writers think these stories are appropriate to spook children.
"Goosebumps" isn't Shakespeare, but it's usually much better than this. The series' own NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY tells a much more entertaining story about the adventures of Slappy. For a fresher perspective, the Tom Hanks classic film BIG gives a more sensitive portrayal of what it would be like to be a kid trapped in an adult's body.