Production: Twentieth Century Fox, 1996
Running Time: 42 minutes
Margaret and Casey's father has been acting nasty since losing his job as a botanist, and when their mother goes out of town, his obsession with his plants gets out of hand. Dad has always been something of a mad scientist, but now he orders Margaret and Casey to stay out of the basement where his hybrid plants are growing. Then he cuts himself and bleeds green fluid, and when Margaret complains that he's not spending any time with them, he cooks them breakfast...made of plant food.
Margaret and Casey try to stay out of his way, but an errant vine growing out a basement window nearly strangles Casey, inspiring Margaret to try to learn the truth about her father's experiments. When she ventures into the basement, she finds something more horrible than she could have imagined.
Best For Ages:
5-8: A very scary "Goosebumps" episode with a verbally abusive father, this video will upset many young children.
8-12: Pre-teens may relate to Margaret's difficulty in communicating with her parents.
Educational Value: Out to recess. Future botanists won't learn anything of use.
Entertainment Value: This is one of the better-filmed "Goosebumps" episodes, featuring excellent creepy lighting in a basement filled with plants. The oddly angled shots of the possessed father are effective as well.
Violence: Large vines grab and try to strangle characters. Children use acid to melt a plant duplicate who looks exactly like their father.
Frightening Situations: Mother is absent; father spends most of his time hiding in the basement, coming up only to threaten the children to leave him alone. Dad has leaves growing out of his hair and bleeds green blood. He tries to force the kids to eat plant food, and has a bed filled with worms.
Questionable Behavior: Kids sneak around in parents' bedroom and break household rules.
Mature Themes: Scientific experiments turn deadly after Dad is fired from his university job.
STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT presents a typical "Goosebumps" dysfunctional family - older sister, younger brother, parents who don't have a clue - but the viciousness of the children's father and their mother's apathy is quite disturbing. Viewers don't learn till the very end that the nasty man who accuses Margaret of spying on him and makes veiled threats is not really their father, but a pod person. Three- and six-year-old viewers were so terrified that the older child left the room.
For kids really looking for a scare, this is one of the best "Goosebumps" available, but that's not because the supernatural plot is particularly well-developed. Instead it preys on the fears of all children than the parents whom they must trust and depend on could become their worst enemies, refusing to feed or care for them, and ultimately threatening them. The novel upon which this video is based presents stronger kids and more complex parents.
The theme of people taken over by alien biology permeates science fiction. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS stars a plant which actually eats human beings, yet the story is told with humor and panache. The "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode AQUIEL features a similar theme, yet the menace is muted.