Yes, I’m back for another Goosebumps book! The second book in the original series, Stay Out of the Basement, is about kids who discover their scientist dad’s experiments with plants have taken a frightening turn. I don’t remember much more about this book, but if I recall this wasn’t one of the scarier installments of the Goosebumps series. I mean, plant monsters? Spray them with some dog urine.
Childhood Rating: 2 out of 5 killer ferns
Casey and Margaret Brewer have noticed changes in their dad since he was fired from the job that made him move the family to California. Dr. Brewer, a botanist, spends all his time in the basement with his “plants and weird machines” and no longer spends any time with the kids. When they decide to go in the basement and say hi to their dad, Mr. Brewer, hand bloodied, yells at Casey and Margaret to stay out of the basement. Mrs. Brewer leaves her family to visit her sick sister in Tucson, leaving the kids alone with their newly distant dad. While their dad drives their mom to the airport, Casey and Margaret investigate the basement on a dare from Margaret’s friend Diane. They find a ton of plants in the hot, humid basement, and the plants seem to be breathing. Diane gets spooked and runs back home while a plant grabs Casey. The kids are shocked their dad doesn’t punish them, and calmly reminds them not to go in the basement.
After that, things get weirder as Dr. Brewer installs a lock on the basement door, starts wearing a baseball cap at all times, and is seen eating plant food. When Casey throws a frisbee to his dad and knocks the baseball cap off they see bright green leaves growing out of his head. Their dad finally sits them down and explains this is a side effect, and he’s busy trying to make plant/animal hybrids. Casey is satisfied with Dr. Brewer’s explanation, but Margaret has even more questions and later that night sees her dad bleeding green. As their dad’s behavior continues its weird downward spiral, Casey and Margaret plan to check out the basement one last time and find the underlying cause of their dad’s experiments.
The Goosebumps books are unpretentious because they’re children’s books, but the kids in this were either dumb or willfully ignorant. As their dad’s symptoms become increasingly outlandish, they keep thinking maybe they’re getting it wrong and dad is fine. Um, he’s bleeding green, growing plants out of his head, and sleeping in a bed of dirt. You’re right to be suspicious. Finally, humanoid plants aren’t scary, unless they’re human/Venus flytrap hybrids. Sure, it was a little creepy to think of plants calling out your name, until you think about it too long and start laughing at how ridiculous it is. Slight creep factor, but not enough to overcompensate for the silly premise.
Adulthood Rating: 2 out of 5 killer tomatoes