Production: Twentieth Century Fox, 1997
Running Time: 45 minutes
Dragged to Fever Swamp by parents who want to study how animals adapt to a new environment, Grady feels like a scientific experiment himself. Will Blake, the one kid nearby who's his own age, feeds Grady local lore about the swamp, but something's a little off about his new friend. Warned about a werewolf, Grady adopts a dog for friendship and security. But when animals start turning up dead, his parents insist that the dog must be the culprit.
Grady sets out to prove to his skeptical family that something unnatural killed the wildlife. After he escapes a trap, the boy locks his mother in the barn for safety while he gathers evidence. Unfortunately, while hunting for Will to help catch the werewolf, the werewolf comes hunting for Grady and his family.
Best For Ages:
6-8: For children afraid of dogs, this video could be terrifying. Otherwise, the supernatural elements are remote from average kids' lives.
9-12: This relatively low-key werewolf story may lack bite for some. The rest will probably enjoy the spooky swamp scenes.
Educational Value: Out to recess. Scientific parents refuse to pay attention to Fever Swamp werewolf legends that should be relevant to their studies.
Entertainment Value: Like most "Goosebumps" videos, the makeup and costumes are fine, but amateurish video and poorly used slow motion camera work mar the visuals. The suspenseful story unfolds with interesting uses of lighting and sound.
Violence: Kids own BB guns and carry knives. A hermit shows off his much larger gun. Family members find mauled animal carcasses. A werewolf attacks several people and a dog.
Frightening Situations: Grady and Will get lost in the woods. The hermit traps Grady in a net and hauls him home. A panicked deer crashes through a window. Grady's best friend turns out to be a werewolf and attacks him.
Emotional Intensity: Parents refuse to believe their boy when he cries wolf, and threaten to have his dog taken away.
Questionable Behavior: Will taunts Grady by pretending to be trapped in a bog. Grady locks his mother in a barn.
Like WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE, THE WEREWOLF OF FEVER SWAMP reflects children's fears about having to adapt to a new neighborhood where it's hard to know which new friends to trust. Often "Goosebumps" stories have an older girl and younger boy working together to solve a mystery. In this case, Grady's on his own; even his new friend Will can't be trusted in a crisis.
The werewolf doesn't put in an appearance until near the end of the video, effectively building suspense. It's obvious that the monster will appear, but it's not clear whether Grady's parents will notice it before they take his dog away. One frustrating point: in order to prove the scientist parents wrong, the video scoffs at scientific reasoning.
Cheap video production with dreadful slo-mo sequences undercut the sets and makeup. The alligator-infested swamp is never quite believable, since one can see the characters' breath in the cool air of the filming location. But the murky bog and the hermit's hut look terrific, as does the werewolf itself. Other than the animal attacks, THE WEREWOLF OF FEVER SWAMP isn't very frightening, but kids might prefer a more humorous look at werewolves like the comedy MY MOM'S A WEREWOLF.