Return to HorrorLand Cover by Tim Jacobus
Return to HorrorLand Cover by Tim Jacobus

Title: Goosebumps Series 2000 #13 – Return to HorrorLand, a.k.a. “Let’s Play: The Happy Tooth Game”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Long time no scream!

Summary: “There’s a food stand over there,” I said, pointing. A Horror in a purple apron leaned against a small cart.

We hurried over to it. A sign on top of the cart read: FINGERS

“Great! You got chicken fingers?” Luke asked the Horror.

She shook her head. “No. Just fingers.”

I lowered my eyes to the cart. Steam rose up. I saw a pile of fingers toasting inside. Human fingers.

“They’re pretty good with ketchup,” the Horror rasped.

Initial Thoughts

For the first time ever in Point Horror history, we’re bringing you a sponsored recap!

If you’ve been living in the U.S. or paying attention to social media you’ll know protests have broken out across the world after the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. [Wing: And many other people, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her goddamn home.] Multiple protests have begun in cities throughout the United States and the world because people have finally had enough of the pigs in blue.

I took a chance and set up a post offering fanfic commissions, recap slots on here, and liveblog slots to anyone who’s donated $25 or more to any of the protest funds, GoFundMe campaigns, or campaigns connected to Black Lives Matter.

Sailoreuterpe on tumblr sent a donation big enough to gain all three options. They originally requested I recap “One Day at HorrorLand,” but since I already covered that one last year I offered to recap its 2000 sequel.

Before we begin, as a quick reminder I’m still taking slots for recaps in exchange for donations to any organizations helping Black Lives Matter. Just DM me a timestamped receipt of $25 or more over on tumblr or twitter, or you can email me at hawaiipj1959@gmail.com. I will be doing this for as long as necessary to help with the protesting.

Keep in mind I need to be able to access the work in question to recap it, and I can’t recap something that was already covered on here by other recappers.

“Return to HorrorLand” is in fact the second of THREE direct sequels to “One Day at HorrorLand,” after the “Escape from HorrorLand” computer game but before Goosebumps HorrorLand. The book follows Lizzy and Luke Morris alongside their friend Clay returning to HorrorLand to try and expose the park’s secrets and have it shut down. This was the only Series 2000 book to be a direct sequel to any of the original 62. It gives us a glimpse at Stine laying the groundwork for Goosebumps HorrorLand when a handful of characters from the original books are mentioned. This was the first time an attempt was made to connect the series together outside the Give Yourself Goosebumps books.

Unfortunately, while I keep “Return to HorrorLand” in my box of faves in case of an emergency, it’s kind of a step down in quality to the original. Wing, we won’t be coming back to Werewolf Village but there aren’t any spiders. [Wing: Sadness and joy all in one.]  At the very least, the book offers a decent way of examining how Stine’s writing style eventually changed from the original run to the Series 2000 run.

Recap

It’s been six months since Lizzy Morris escaped from HorrorLand and she never thought she’d ever go back to that horrible place. She doesn’t even try to think about it.

Here it was, a miserable, rainy afternoon in winter and Lizzy’s trying to watch TV while her brother Luke and their friend Clay act like dopes. Yeah, Lizzy’s usually the sensible one in her family but even she can act obnoxious from time to time. You would too if you had to deal with a brother whose idea of a prank involves making their hands cold in the freezer before they grab your throat. Clay, however, thinks everything Luke does is hilarious, even when Luke messes with him. Some people have no taste.

Speaking of no taste, it’s time for everyone’s favorite show, The Strange Report! It’s hosted by husband-and-wife investigators Derek and Margo Strange. The Stranges travel around the world investigating weird and wacky things. There’s the guy who claimed he could eat anything, even a car. He ate a bicycle on camera and tried to eat a live parrot – but they stopped him in time.

So they apparently interviewed Matter-Eater Lad.

Matter-Eater Lad and Blockade Boy
Matter-Eater Lad and Blockade Boy

One of Lizzy’s fave episodes featured a woman who owned a hundred cats. She named each and every one of them, and every night she gives each cat an individual bath.

With her tongue. [Wing: I feel sick now.]

On today’s episode, Derek and Margo interview a seemingly normal kid named Evan Ross. Ah yes, Evan Ross, one of the most well known of Stine’s loser protagonists and star of the four reviled “Monster Blood” books. On screen, Evan’s showing Derek and Margo a ball of green slime, a.k.a. Monster Blood. Evan talks about how Monster Blood keeps growing and growing, and if you eat any of it the Monster Blood can turn you gigantic.

There’s mention of how Cuddles, a hamster that belonged to Evan’s science teacher, ate some Monster Blood and went on a rampage. Coincidentally, someone at Evan’s school just HAPPENED to have a camcorder when this was happening (Because it was the 90s, you see!) and got Cuddles’ rampage on tape.

Monster Blood II Cover by Tim Jacobus
Monster Blood II Cover by Tim Jacobus

FYI, Evan’s directly talking about the events of “Monster Blood II,” which was the first sequel story in the original series.

Cuddles the Hamster
Cuddles the Hamster

Cuddles is somewhat infamous since he was one of the characters Scholastic featured a lot in their merchandise for the original run. But since Goosebumps HorrorLand started, Cuddles AND Evan AND every other character from the “Monster Blood” books hasn’t appeared in any of the new additions. Though recently Evan, Andy and Cuddles have appeared as characters in the Goosebumps HorrorTown online game. Since the game seems specifically targeted towards people who grew up when the books were first printed, that’s not very surprising.

None of the kids think Evan’s for real and laugh at how dumb the episode is, when who should appear at the front door than Derek and Margo Strange themselves!

Lizzy’s left almost speechless at the sight of THE creative force behind Strange Report. Up close she realizes Derek actually looks a lot older and can tell his black hair’s a toupee. Margo on the other hand looks exactly like she does on TV, like Agent Scully. So apparently they look like a young John Astin and Gillian Anderson.

The boys and Mrs. Morris are both amazed by the sudden arrival as Lizzy stammers they were watching the Monster Blood episode. Margo reveals neither of them actual thought the story was true and call Evan a weird kid. Yep, when you’re Evan Ross, you suck.

Derek jokes the Stranges wanted to come by to personally thank the kids for watching their show, but no one laughs at the joke harder than Derek. In all seriousness, the Stranges have come to Lizzy’s home for an important reason. See, some aliens landed in Lizzy’s backyard and the Stranges wanna film the kids getting dissected for Sweeps week.

PSYCH!

Derek laughs again while Margo tells him no one thinks he’s funny.

“Don’t pay any attention to him. He has a sick sense of humor.”

“I must have a sick sense of humor,” Derek told her, grinning. “I married you!” He laughed at his own joke.

Margo gets down to business and reveals they know the Morris Family and Clay were at HorrorLand. They know this because they found everyone’s names and addresses in the HorrorLand attendance records they stole from the park.

So apparently the Horrors know where Lizzy’s family lives and they know where Clay lives, too. That’s certainly not terrifying to think about. [Wing: And yet six months on, the Horrors have done nothing with this information.]

Derek and Margo explain they want to do an expose on HorrorLand, and they want Lizzy, Luke and Clay to help by going back. [Wing: NO. NO NO NO NO NO. Do not go back to the island I mean Horrorland. This isn’t Jurassic Park, after all.] Mrs. Morris doesn’t understand why anyone would want to go back that place when the Stranges admit they fear the Horrors are up to something. Apparently, HorrorLand never stays in the same place. It was recently set up in Florida a few weeks prior.

The Stranges believe Lizzy and the boys can help them shut down HorrorLand because the kids know what to expect. Lizzy tries to remember what happened last year, saying it was some TV show with monsters but Margo thinks it’s more.

Um, Lizzy, you’re kind of leaving out how the Horrors literally tried to murder you and everyone else.

Mrs. Morris immediately says she won’t let the kids go back to HorrorLand. Derek and Margo insist they’ll keep the kids safe at all times by taping everything they do. Oh, and the Morrises will be paid $10,000 for the entire weekend. Even though Mom doesn’t say anything, you can tell she’s thinking about it. Lizzy feels they could really use that money since Mr. Morris lost his bank job and has had to work part-time for months.

However, Derek and Margo insist the parents can’t come. [Wing: SKETCH AS FUCK.] To complete the disguises, the Stranges will pretend to be the kids’ mom and dad. Mrs. Morris goes to call her husband and Luke asks if Clay’s coming with them. While the Stranges state they need the permission of Clay’s parents, Luke reminds Clay about some of the rides they went on like the Doom Slide and Coffin Cruise. Margo adds they’ll reveal how dangerous HorrorLand is and get it shut down for good.

Mrs. Morris comes back in the room to reveal her husband is okay with the idea as long as the Stranges guarantee no harm will come to the kids. Derek and Margo plan to return in a week to pick up the kids and will drop off the the check for ten grand then. Derek asks if the kids are scared and Luke, ever the blustering one, says of course he isn’t.

As Lizzy lets it sink in that she is about to [INSERT TITLE HERE], she looks out the window to see Derek and Margo departing for their limo. She also sees the fat, green tail sticking out from under Derek’s coat.

To Lizzy’s credit, she quickly questions the Stranges about this the next time they meet. Derek says the tail was a joke from a party they were filming and he forgot to remove it before meeting the Morrises. After all, just because their name is “Strange” doesn’t mean they ARE strange. Sure Derek.

Heading for the airport, Lizzy thinks at least it’ll be exciting to be on TV. Luke seems TOO excited and Clay barely says a word. Lizzy remembers how absolutely freaked out Clay was the last time they went to HorrorLand. She can only imagine a desire for fame was enough to override Clay’s fear.

Derek and Margo explain the plan will be to infiltrate HorrorLand as a typical family. The Stranges plan to dress up as over-the-top, tacky tourists to hide their identities. Margo mentions they still haven’t discovered the identity of who owns HorrorLand. This actually got answered in “Escape from HorrorLand,” but that’s not canon with this. Derek expects they’ll find out everything AND make great TV.

Oh, and, kids? To make things will juicy, maybe it’d be better if the three of you DON’T survive this time.

PSYCH!

Geez, Derek, how many times does Margo need to ask you to dial it down with the evil jokes?

As the group approaches HorrorLand, they pass by the same sign Lizzy and the others saw last summer. The kids explain to the Stranges how the Horrors are actual monsters, not people wearing costumes. Margo makes a note to investigate this further. Clay’s uncomfortable looking at the billboard, while Luke’s actually excited and gushing over how cool it looks. Lizzy notices there’s a sign mentioning the park’s under new management.

Pulling into the parking lot, they pass another sign that reads:

CAUTION – KIDS SCREAMING

Again, the HorrorLand parking lot’s not very crowded and there’s funeral music being piped in through speakers. Stepping out of the car, Derek asks if their disguises are good.

Derek had a stubble of black beard on his face. He wore a loose green T-shirt, pulled down over baggy red-and-blue plaid shorts.

On his feet, Derek had brown leather sandals over black kneesocks. And he had turned an aqua-and-white Florida Marlins cap sideways on his head.

He looked like a total geek.

Margo’s outfit was just as bad. A shiny gold tank top and black spandex bike shorts. Bright red sneakers with orange laces. The sneakers matched the giant red plastic, heart-shaped sunglasses that covered her eyes and half her face.

She had a fake tattoo of Cupid surrounded by red and blue flowers on one arm just below the shoulder.

“I like this look,” she declared, laughing. “I might just keep it!”

They’d make Al and Peg Bundy proud.

Reaching the ticket booth, “Dad” asks if his “kids” are happy to be here, while “Mom” worries if the park’s safe or not.

“Yes, it’s perfectly safe,” the Horror replied. “Safe for us Horrors!”

Lizzy laughs alongside everyone else, while deep down knowing the park ISN’T safe and hopes they’ll shut it down forever. She’s also weirded out that Luke truly is excited to be back, like he’s forgotten the Horrors tried to KILL him last year.

Lizzy scopes out the park entrance, taking all the buildings and attractions when she sees a map up ahead.

IF YOU NEED THIS MAP, YOU’RE ALREADY LOST

However, the moment the group enters the park, a large, muscular Horror steps in front of Derek. He points to Derek’s camcorder and softly states they’re not allowed in HorrorLand. At which point the Horror grabs the camcorder and smashes it on the ground!

Welp that’s it, plan’s ruined, at least the Morrises have the ten grand. Not you though Clay cuz you suck.

Derek and Margo aren’t deterred that easily and reveal they’ve got smaller, Mini-Super-Eight cameras hidden on them. It’s not like they could carry around tiny phones that are capable of recording videos, because it was the 90s you see! Of course the Horrors would probably ban cell phones of that variety, or set up a scrambler or something. [Wing: Why were at least a solid chunk of the Series 2000 books published in the 90s?]

Anyway, the first thing the group does is check out the FINGERS food cart as mentioned in the summary up above.  The Horror behind the cart mentions she’s also got toes, but they’re not ready. Walking away, Derek assures the kids he got that on film while the kids debate whether it was a joke or not.

Lizzy and the boys notice one thing’s definitely changed about HorrorLand. Last year they kept seeing NO PINCHING signs, but those are gone. Luke almost starts up his Mad Pincher bullshit before Lizzy tells him to cork it. So, it looks like Lizzy and the boys may not be able to beat the Horrors the same way they did last time.

Up ahead, they come across an orange building designed to look like a pyramid. The sign on the front entrance reads MUMMY WALK.

The kids and the Stranges go into a long, dark hallway. What light there is shows the stone walls are covered in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The room smells stale, but so far there aren’t any mummies much to Luke’s disappointment. That’s when everyone starts to hear the hissing. To Lizzy’s horror, she sees the stone floor is almost covered in snakes! She realizes she’s looking at what’s referred to as a snake pit, about a dozen snakes curled up and tangled together. Luke thinks it’s an awesome special effect and runs up to the snakes when one of them LUNGES FORWARD AND BITES LUKE’S LEG!

Luke, the smile frozen on his face, stands perfectly still as the snake slithers up Luke’s leg, into his shirt, and out through the collar. Lizzy realizes the snake only barely missed biting Luke’s leg for real when Luke finally starts to scream and runs back to Lizzy. He babbles he didn’t think the snakes were real. And unfortunately the Stranges didn’t get it on camera because the lighting’s too poor in the room.

The Stranges debate whether or not the snakes were living creatures or robots or puppets of some kind when they leave to find any mummies. Yet even Margo seems afraid they might’ve been real. The group reaches a room with two rows of mummy cases propped up against the walls on both sides. A long hallway filled with mummy cases, yet none are open. Luke’s forgotten about his near-snake experience and wishes they could see the insides of the cases.

While Luke and Clay wander further down the hall, Lizzy wonders where Derek and Margo went. All alone, this is when Lizzy hears whispering coming from one of the cases! At first Lizzy thinks her brother’s trying to scare her, when the voice gets louder and starts begging to be freed from the case. All around Lizzy, a cacophony of voices start begging and pleading to be freed, crying they aren’t dead yet and need to be let out.

Lizzy runs after Luke and Clay and finds them in a room with an open mummy case on the floor. Luke starts daring Lizzy to get inside the mummy case, asking if she wants to know what it was like to be a mummy in ancient Egypt. As Lizzy keeps saying no, Luke decides to get in the mummy case himself…

And that’s when the lid slammed shut!

Lizzy tries to push the stone lid off, but it’s too heavy to move. Not even Clay helping her can get the lid to budge. Derek and Margo are nowhere to be found and all Luke can do is tap on the inside of the case to communicate. Realizing their adult chaperones are proving to be no help, Lizzy tries reminding herself she’s the calm one and attempts to keep her wits together.

Leaving Clay to keep an eye on the mummy case, Lizzy hurries outside the Mummy Walk to get help and finds three Horrors.

“Are you lost?” the tallest one asked. “Don’t worry. Everyone is lost in this park!”

Lizzy explains she needs to get Luke out of the mummy case or he’ll suffocate. The Horrors don’t believe her because all the mummy cases are supposed to be closed. Oh, and they’re on break. Union rules and all that crap. While the Horrors blithely propose making a sign telling people not to climb into the mummy cases at the next meeting, Lizzy’s getting more agitated. Finally, one Horror mentions a nearby supply closet should have some chains and pulleys, those could help.

Lizzy locates the equipment closet and grab the chains and pulleys to open the case as the Horrors keep chatting away. Clay’s worried because Luke hasn’t tapped or pounded for a long time. Getting the chains over the lid, Lizzy tells Clay to help her pull while wondering what the fuck happened to the Stranges. It takes all their strength but eventually, Lizzy and Clay get the lid off to reveal…

An empty mummy case.

Not having any idea where Luke could’ve gone, Lizzy and Clay rush outside. No Stranges, no Horrors, just an empty food cart and LUKE?!

Luke asks what kept the two, saying a trapdoor opened up in the case and sent him down a dark tunnel before he plopped outside the building. Lizzy’s got a strong compulsion to hug and strangle her brother at the same time when the Stranges FINALLY appear. They tell the kids they got everything on film. Lizzy angrily points out the kids needed help, pointing out Luke could’ve suffocated. What might’ve happened if the trap door in the case didn’t open?

Brushing off Lizzy’s concerns, Margo says they can discuss all that later and asks what they’ll try next. Nearby, a family with two little girls walk down the path. Both girls are crying and beg to go home, even as their dad exclaims this place is fun.

Clay asks to do something less scary so Luke grabs his glasses and tells him they can race. By the time Lizzy catches up to the boys, they’re near the GRAVEYARD GIFT SHOP and a place advertising the HAPPY TOOTH GAME. The building’s white and red and has a picture of a happy looking tooth on the front. That seems harmless, right?

WRONG.

The kids enter an area that looks exactly like the waiting room at a dentist’s office. There’s a smiling Horror nurse seated behind a front desk. Above her’s another sign.

A HAPPY TOOTH IS A HAPPY TOOTH

No one knows what that means. Clay’s happy this looks tame while Luke’s disappointed by how boring it appears. Don’t worry Luke, you won’t have to wait long because there are LOTS of dentists available.

What follows is scenery absolutely horrifying, unexpected for a book like this, and awesome.

We stepped into a bright white room, so bright I shut my eyes.

I heard shrill, whirring sounds all around.

And kids screaming. And crying.

Blinking against the brightness, I stared in shock at an endless row of dental chairs. Gleaming white chairs and spit sinks.

What a horrifying scene!

There had to be at least twenty or thirty chairs, with a screaming patient in almost every one.

White-uniformed dentists hunched over their patients. Drills whistled. The screams and cries couldn’t drown out the terrifying drills.

Another nurse informs the kids the Monster Dentist will see them now, and it only gets worse.

“Please stop!” a little girls shrieked in the chair closest to us. She struggled to push away her dentist. But he leaned closer, lowering his drill. “It hurts! It hurts!” she wailed. “Stop!”

The boy in the next chair was sobbing at the top of his lungs. “Rinse!” his dentist screamed into his face. “I said rinse!”

Lizzy looks up to see the dentists really ARE monsters, with yellow fangs, pointed ears, and black fur.

“You broke my tooth!” a boy wailed halfway down the long row of chairs. “You broke it!”

“Owwwwwww! Help me – somebody!” Another cry, from nearby. “He’s drilling my tongue!”

The nurse repeats her order for the kids to follow her more loudly over the screaming. And don’t bother leaving, guys. There’s no exit. Lizzy makes a break for the door but finds it’s locked as the nurse beckons some guards to “escort” the kids to their Monster Dentists, wishing them good luck.

Dragging Lizzy and the boys to their chairs, Lizzy can hear more screaming. One kid’s crying over how all his teeth are broken while one girl begs for help.

“Open up – or I’ll drill through your lips!” the dentist growled.

Lizzy’s forced into a dental chair next to a rinse sink covered in blood. The Monster Dentist approaches and promises, in his own way, this won’t hurt.

“I’m a painless dentist.”

“Huh? Painless?”

He nodded. “Yes. This won’t hurt me one bit!”

He reached over my head for the drill.

“A happy tooth is a happy tooth!” he bellowed. “I’ll drill some big holes and see how happy your teeth are!”

Lizzy screams and tries to fight back as the Monster Dentist gets closer with the whirring drill. She beats her fists against his chest when she notices there’s a THUNK noise. As she squirms under the leather strap of the chair, Lizzy hits his chest against. The same THUNK. Reaching up, Lizzy grabs the dentist’s face and it feels it’s made of wood! He’s some kind of robot!

Not knowing if this means the other kids are robots too, Lizzy keeps fighting back against the dentist when she grabs his snout and twists it. All at once, the dentist appears to shut down. Even the drill’s stopped.

It seems to take Lizzy forever but she finally gets free of the chair and goes to rescue Luke and Clay. She saves Luke from a dentist threatening to drill his lips. Oh but of COURSE Luke knew they were robots. Sure Luke. Lizzy considers turning the dentist back on just to teach Luke a lesson before she remembers Clay. Lizzy turns off Clay’s dentist, but isn’t bothering to stick around and learn if the other kids really ARE robots or not.

Once again, Derek and Margo prove useless as they congratulate the kids on an excellent performance. They were filming from a nearby window, much to the indignation of the kids. Lizzy has to count to ten before she rightfully throttles the Stranges. Luke continues to be an ass as he claims he knew everything was fake.

However, Derek and Margo think the kids have had it too easy so far. They need to find some REAL horror to film. Derek especially thinks the last two rides were nothing. But don’t worry, he def wants the kids to survive.

Well, he’d want at least two out of three to make it to the end.

Margo again tells her husband to can the humor when Luke suggests the try a nearby ride. Lizzy immediately vetoes that idea when she reads the sign.

ELEVATOR SHAFT RIDE. WORLD’S FASTEST FREE FALL. IT’S A SCREAM. DROP IN ANYTIME.

There’s no way Lizzy’s getting shoved into a falling elevator. Clay asks if they can get something to eat and points to a small cart. The sign on it says CARAMEL HEADS. The Horror at the cart explains they’re shrunken heads dipped in caramel. The outside’s sweet, but the inside’s sour. Oh, except for the eyes. Holding up a shrunken head covered in gooey caramel, the Horror says no, they’d NEVER use real heads in a place like HorrorLand.

“How many do you want? One for each of you? Or more? You know, two heads are better than one.”

Lizzy’s almost mesmerized as she makes out the features underneath the sweet goop.

And then I let out a gasp as the lips parted. Through the layer of caramel, I saw the mouth open. Saw it move. Saw the tiny lips silently form the words: “Help… me…

We don’t want any!” The scream burst from my mouth.

I think the cover would’ve worked much better if the Horror had been holding a caramel head instead of a slimy ice cream cone.

The Horror laughs and moves along when Lizzy notices the Stranges have disappeared again. Lizzy hurries after Luke and Clay past DRACULA’S CASTLE and outside the entrance to the INSECT GARDEN. She can hear snapping and angry buzzing sounds behind the tall hedges, but is more horrified when her brother suggests they try out COFFIN CRUISE again.

COFFIN CRUISE: A RELAXING FLOAT TO THE GRAVE

Lizzy and Clay have no desire for a repeat of THAT ride and want to keep looking for the Stranges. Suddenly, the kids are surrounded by three muscular Horrors who proceed to drop a net over them!

The Horrors drag the kids down a brick walkway, into an alley and down a dark, dank staircase. The walls and steps are coated in green muck as the kids struggle, demanding to know where they’re being taken. The kids are thrown to the bottom of the steps and the net’s removed, at which point a fourth Horror emerges in the room. This Horror’s wearing a purple cape and has a black mask over his yellow eyes. The other Horrors refer to the kids as his “volunteers.”

The masked Horror, the Dungeon Master, ignores Lizzy and the boys as he asks if anyone was with the kids. Reporting the kids were all alone, the Dungeon Master cracks his knuckles and states he was starting to get bored. Oh, and by the by kids, you’re in the DUNGEON OF NO RETURN.

Lizzy, Luke and Clay are forced down another set of stairs. The only sounds are the steady drip of water and a low, human moan. Lizzy doesn’t understand why the Stranges aren’t here, helping them, when the kids are herded into a room filled with medieval torture equipment. Chains and cuffs attached to the walls. A cage with spikes. Even nooses hanging from the ceiling.

The kids hear more screaming which the Dungeon Master tells them to ignore as he explains the intricacies of using a thumbscrew.

“This fits over your thumb,” he said. “Then I tighten this screw. Tighten it… tighten it…”

However, the Dungeon Master decides to do something a bit more… exciting. The kids are forced onto a platform that slowly descends into another room, a pit of some kind, at which point the Dungeon Master asks if they know what a ferret is. Luke mentions another friend of his who owns a ferret, and it doesn’t sound too bad when the Dungeon Master asks if they’ve seen a HUNGRY ferret?

Left in the pit, Lizzy can make out a nearby sign that reads

FEED THE FERRETS

And that’s when they see the eyes. Hundreds of glittering, hungry eyes!

The kids are backed up against a wall as the ferrets lunge forward, crawling over one another in a mad dash to eat Lizzy and the boys! The kids start screaming as they try to bat away the hungry, shrieking ferrets. Lizzy hits the wall as she dodges a ferret when her elbow presses something and she hears a click.

Suddenly the wall spins around and the kids are outside!

Well that was pointless.

The kids can hear the ferrets hitting the other side of the wall trying to get to them. Lizzy and the boys see they’re outside while she’s left wondering what would’ve happened if she hadn’t hit that button?

Having reached her limit, Lizzy wants to find the Stranges and leave. She doesn’t care about the money anymore, and it’s clear they’re not gonna expose HorrorLand with the way things have gone. Clay suggests Derek and Margo could’ve been dragged off too, but Lizzy just wants to leave. Luke ignores Lizzy’s anger to point to a nearby stage and sign proclaiming it’s time for a magic show featuring the one, the only, Amaz-O the Magician!

AMAZ-O THE MAGICIAN. APPEARING – AND DISAPPEARING! – DAILY.

Our second cameo! Amaz-O was a main character from the 41st book in the original series, “Bad Hare Day.”

Bad Hare Day Cover by Tim Jacobus
Bad Hare Day Cover by Tim Jacobus

The rabbit on the cover was yet another of the characters Scholastic used a lot in the original merchandise.

Even Lizzy’s heard of Amaz-O, yet can’t understand why such a famous magician would be working in HorrorLand of all places.

Lizzy suggests the kids wait for the Stranges at the show. As families start to fill the benches, she reasons they might be safer with lots of other guests. Clay’s still shaky from the ferret pit but Luke assures him Amaz-O’s act isn’t scary.

The afternoon sun high in the air, Lizzy wishes she could get something to drink from a food stand that wasn’t totally gross. Soon Amaz-O appears on the stage after being heralded by fanfare. He does a barrage of tricks using cards, red balls, and dozens of rabbits that appear out of nowhere. The tricks are really good and no one can figure out how Amaz-O does it when he calls Lizzy to the stage as a volunteer.

Lizzy finds herself being dragged onstage and hears an angry growl from behind the curtains. It’s a bunch of tigers in a cage! This is apparently Amaz-O’s famous tiger cage trick, as he tells Lizzy to GET INSIDE. Oh don’t worry about the tigers. They’re just mad they missed breakfast… because Amaz-O ATE IT IN FRONT OF THEM. Maybe Lizzy can be lunch!

Amaz-O explains Lizzy will enter the cage, and the tigers will disappear. Liz, word of advice. Don’t let them know you’re scared since they can smell fear a mile away. Lizzy’s forced into the cage and a heavy black curtain’s dropped over it. Horrified, Lizzy tries to back up as far as she can from the tigers. She can smell their breath and screams to be let out when Amaz-O starts telling someone to lift the curtain up! The trick has gone wrong! Horribly, horribly WRONG!

Hey where’d the tigers go?

Lizzy opens her eyes to see the curtain’s been removed and the tigers have vanished.

And so has Amaz-O.

And the audience.

And Luke and Clay!

A nearby Horror tells Lizzy to beat it since the show’s over. Lizzy screams she’s locked in…

Oh apparently the door’s not locked.

Out of the cage, Lizzy tries to find Luke and Clay. Yet another map’s just as helpful as before.

YOU ARE HERE. YOU ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

Lizzy’s not feeling the humor.

Running past the Coffin Cruise, Lizzy comes across

SWIM THE RAPIDS: LEAKY RAFT RIDE

And then the SCREAM CLUB. Lizzy hears screams coming from the clubhouse but doesn’t check inside for Luke and Clay. She hears the clatter of pins in a building marked HEADLESS BOWLING but doesn’t go inside. Getting closer to the front entrance, Lizzy finally finds Derek and Margo…

As they’re being kicked out of the park!

A bunch of Horrors push the struggling couple out the gates and lock them shut, but not before destroying Derek and Margo’s cameras. Lizzy keeps screaming at the Horrors to stop but it’s too late. Blocking the front entrance, the burly Horrors ask if Lizzy’s got a problem when they suddenly think she can join Derek and Margo. Not leaving without Luke and Clay, Lizzy gets away before the Horrors grab her.

One of the Horrors announces a red alert, and Lizzy fears the entire park will be after her. Lizzy runs through an area called ZOMBIE TOWN, past the BAT BARN and DOOM SLIDE. She stops near a gift shop with a rack of Horror costumes and wonders how the kids’ll get home if the Stranges are gone. Lizzy’s forced to keep running past the HOWL HOUSE when she hears familiar voices.

Luke and Clay!

And they’re coming from VULTURE BEACH.

VULTURE BEACH. PLEASE FEED THE VULTURES.

Lizzy runs onto a stretch of sand where the boys have been chained to wooden stakes. Up in the sky, Lizzy makes out dark shapes circling above them. Vultures, which hungrily start to dive bomb the sand as Lizzy gets close to Luke and Clay!

Lizzy drops to her knees as she tries to free Luke’s hands from the chains, but the vultures keep coming towards the kids, snapping their beaks. She screams at the boys not to ball their fists when a vulture almost bites into Luke’s neck. Another vulture flaps its wings in Lizzy’s face and she tries to fight it off. She can feel it getting tangled in her hair [Wing: And here is the reason I don’t like birds flying too close.] and Lizzy fears she’s outnumbered. Luke screams a vulture’s trying to peck out his eyes while Clay keeps shaking his head trying to dodge the beak.

Lizzy finally manages to get the vultures back by throwing sand at them while shouting at the boys to slide their hands out from the chains. But the sand’s not deterring the vultures for long and they dive again as the boys start to get free. The boys finally get off the stakes and all three make it off the beach before the vultures attack again. Lizzy points out vultures usually eat DEAD things so they must’ve been REALLY hungry.

Unfortunately, the kids can choose between hungry vultures or angry Horrors coming their way!

Lizzy manages to direct the boys to the alley behind the Howl House where she proposes an outlandish idea to escape. Returning to the gift shop she ran past before, Lizzy grabs three Horror costumes and tells the boys to put them on. Clay complains the mask doesn’t fit and Luke thinks this won’t fool anyone, but Lizzy asks if they’ve got any better ideas?

The kids are almost immediately caught when a Horror demands to know what they’re doing…

They’re not supposed to be searching THIS section for the three kids. GET IT TOGETHER!

The Horror tells the three to check the beach, but as soon as they’re far enough away the kids head for the front gate. They don’t think they can just waltz out the front gate because do the Horrors ever leave HorrorLand? And the fence is probably electric plus being too tall. That’s when Lizzy gets another idea.

Lizzy convinces the Horror at the ticket booth she’s been sent to take over the rest of the shift. As soon as the Horror’s out of sight, Lizzy motions to the boys and they manage to get out through the ticket booth. They’re free!

Now how are they gonna get home?

Walking down the side of the road past the parking lot, the kids suddenly hear a vehicle approaching. It’s Derek and Margo! The Stranges are so relieved the kids are okay; they tried to find another way into the park but couldn’t locate one. Lizzy’s happy they can finally get away from-

Uh, Derek? Margo?

W-why is the van heading BACK to HorrorLand?

The Stranges drive the van to the front entrance and leave the kids trapped as Horrors await their return. The kids are dragged out of the van while a Horror hands the Stranges a fat stack of cash. Confused and horrified, Lizzy asks why the Stranges are doing this. Margo coldly explains Lizzy, Luke and Clay had to be taken care of because they know too much. See, if the kids turned down Derek and Margo’s “offer” to help expose HorrorLand, that would’ve been the end of it. But since the kids accepted, well, now they have to die so HorrorLand’s secrets remain safe.

As the Stranges drive off with their blood money, the Horrors drag the kids to a new ride called THE FINAL LEAP.

Everything seems to be a blur for Lizzy as the kids are forced into a tram car on a ride shaped like a mountain. The kids promise they won’t tell anyone about HorrorLand, but the Horrors don’t care. Lizzy, Luke and Clay are forced onto a narrow cliff, promised to make for the world’s most exciting, and shortest, free-fall ride. While the Horrors mock the kids by saying they can hold hands, Lizzy states they won’t jump. Not bothered by this, one Horror pulls a yellow lever in a control panel and the cliff starts to slide INTO the mountain.

Well, looks like this is goodbye, everyone.

Bye Lizzy.

Bye Luke.

Bye Clay.

Bye new Horrors that are coming up the mountain saying they’ll be dealing with the prisoners since the current group’s needed below.

Huh?

Don’t worry Lizzy, these new Horrors have their own plans for you.

The kids are forced back into the tram car as the sun begins to set. They’re forced through a door that’s for employees only, and then into an empty parking lot. Inside a black van with the motor running, Lizzy watches as the new Horrors are revealed to be two young human men and a human woman. They’ve been saved!

The kids’ saviors state they work for a DIFFERENT show, Weird Copy, that also reports on weird stuff going on in the world. They were already working undercover in the park to expose how the Horrors are monsters. #BecauseGoosebumps

They say HorrorLand’s the place where the Horrors make a sport of terrifying and killing humans. The Weird Copy hosts promise they’ve made sure the Stranges were arrested and now they can have HorrorLand shut down for good.

Only…

Yeah, see, the Weird Copy people say the footage they’ve got isn’t exactly scary enough so they’re making a quick stop before they return the kids home.

Lizzy screams when she sees the neon sign outside the car.

WELCOME TO TERRORVILLE

Final Thoughts

As you can see while the book’s a definite step down in quality over the original book, it’s still fun in its own right. I’ve always enjoyed the Happy Tooth Game sequence because it was so unexpected and weird. It makes sense though as a park that’s built on horror attractions, so you’d naturally have walk-through experiences.

As for the cons, I hated how the Morris Family forgot the Horrors weren’t just trying to scare them the last time, they tried to KILL them. Luke’s excitement always disturbed me for what a freakin’ DITZ he was. Stine also missed a big opportunity to link more of the books together when he could’ve ended it with the kids brought to the Carnival of Horrors from the Give Yourself Goosebumps books. Also, the ending of the first book saw the Morrises and Clay fighting to free themselves while here, Stine has the kids stumble out thanks to a Dues Ex Machina. It takes away the agency Lizzy had the last time when she figured out how to beat the Horrors. [Wing: I don’t know, Lizzy has a lot of agency throughout the book, and she keeps rescuing the boys.]

That all said, this book made a better attempt at connecting the books than Goosebumps HorrorLand would do. One of the biggest problems for that series has been how only BARELY a handful of characters from the original books came back for that arc when it was promised to feature a return of some of the worst villains Stine had to offer. It brought back Lizzy and Luke alongside Carly-Beth and Sabrina from the “Haunted Mask” books as well as the Deep siblings from “Deep Trouble,” but that was it for protagonists. As for villains, you had the Horrors sure as well as the Haunted Mask, the Evil Camera, Monster Blood, and… Slappy. I’m still pissed the Masked Mutant got shafted for Dr. Maniac.

Thank FUCK Stine didn’t use Slappy in this book. The HorrorLand volumes are where Stine really overused him.

SEQUEL IDEA – ONE NIGHT IN TERRORVILLE: A direct follow-up to try and explain why the ending wasn’t mentioned in Goosebumps HorrorLand and why Clay didn’t appear in those books.

So, all in all thanks again to sailoreuterpe for their donation and hope you enjoyed this. At some point I’ll possibly see about recapping “Escape from HorrorLand” even if I never get to play it for myself.

1 thought on “Recap #276: Goosebumps Series 2000 #13: Return to Horrorland by R.L. Stine

  1. I haven’t read this one yet but it feels like I have due to the recaps/reviews I’ve read of it already and I’ve skimmed through parts of it, mostly the cameos. This certainly feels like a rushed forced sequel that wasn’t done earlier due to the PC game and honestly that one seems better just due to going more into the lore, with Madison Storm and all that. I appreciate the references, even if it’s to books I didn’t like it lol. I sorta wish they made more of an impact but I get that there’s only so much room in these 12o page books. Also, I wish the ending of the first book was referenced as I think even the game did that.

    I feel like having a whole series that was generally planned out from the start instead a single smack in the middle of the monthly grind allowed the Horrorrland, at least in some ways, to expand more on the Horrorland lore than this could, among other things.

    As for it only having so many protagonists, I feel like they were trying to have an even-ish mix of original and classic stuff so they could get in new fans, since this was the first time the series came back, and there’s frankly only so many iconic/memorable protagonists in these to begin with. They likely didn’t want to alienate who have only a strong memory of certain books. Besides, Carly Beth is the only one that matters anyway lol.’ (Oh and it seems they just wanted to do follows up ones that already had sequels which I kind of get)

    The only reference to Clay in that whole series wasn’t even in the series, it was in the Escape HorrorLand tie in site that you can only get to through the wayback machine. It was a one off mention and that’s it. Clay was quite useless so I don’t mind him getting shafted like in the TV episode.

    On a side note, when HorrorTown did a HorrorLand event, they opted to basically focus on The Horror at Chiller House with just slight references to outside of that. I think that angle worked since the game in general already has established villains and heroes interacting often.

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