Production: Twentieth Century Fox, 1995
Running Time: 45 minutes
After the kids at school taunt her, Carly Beth decides to punish them by abandoning her cute Halloween duck costume and giving everyone a real scare. Though the creepy novelty store owner warns her away from the hideous masks in the back room, Carly Beth insists on buying one. By the time she goes trick-or-treating, the mask has begun to affect her behavior.
Carly Beth meets her tormentors in a graveyard, and gives them the scare of their lives. But once she gets home, she can't get the mask off. When she turns to the novelty store owner for help, she discovers that her mask was once his own flesh - warped and malformed because of his self-loathing. Unless she can learn to love the old, scaredy-cat Carly Beth, the haunted mask will become her own face...forever.
Best For Ages:
6-8: A truly frightening story, this is not for timid youngsters, especially around Halloween time.
9-12: Themes of peer taunts and family frustrations will interest many older kids.
Educational Value: Out to recess. No Halloween safety video.
Entertainment Value: The thrills and chills may be genuine, but stereotypical characters and a hokey feel-good message weaken the impact. Some of the special effects are pretty hokey too.
Violence: Boys dressed as pirates for Halloween have a sword-fight.
Frightening Situations: A girl gets a Halloween mask stuck to her head, then learns that it's made of real skin (that of its maker) and it may become part of her forever.
Emotional Intensity: The old man who owns the mask store explains that he became hideously ugly by failing to learn to like himself. Instead of feeling for him, Carly Beth flees in horror.
Questionable Behavior: Carly Beth is tormented by her brother and virtually all of her school friends for being a "scaredy cat." She takes revenge by destroying a Halloween costume, abandoning her trick-or-treat partner, and terrifying two of her peers.
Most "Goosebumps" videos feature kids dealing with situations they hate: moving to new neighborhoods, getting dragged on family vacations, being stuck with relatives. THE HAUNTED MASK has a darker theme: a girl who hates herself. One six-year-old viewer who enjoyed the ghosts and werewolves in other "Goosebumps" installments was terrified by THE HAUNTED MASK.
It's too bad, because this could have been a moving story. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in makes a nice girl behave in a terrible way, all because she can't learn to appreciate her own good points. Kids face situations like Carly Beth's all the time. But I suspect the anti-conformist message will be lost on all but the most sophisticated viewers.
This video is little more than a clichéd American horror story complete with a graveyard, a gargoyle, and a villain with a German accent. The characters are types rather than individuals. THE HAUNTED MASK delivers on its promised scares, but Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tells a more compelling tale about a person so wracked with self-hatred that his outer appearance reflects his soul.