Which Goosebumps Books Should Inspire the New Movie?

Millennials' treasured series heads to Hollywood, and takes twentysomethings on a trip down memory lane.

Last week, when I read that a Goosebumps movie was in the works, potentially under the direction of Rob Letterman, of Monsters vs. Aliens and Shark Tale, I practically wormholed through time, back to my third-grade math class.

Maybe others remember this. The pandemonium that ensued when a kid brought the newest Goosebumps book to school, fresh from Border’s. Teachers could be in the middle of multiplication tables, but when one of those glossy covers was pulled slyly from under a Lisa Frank binder, stops were pulled. Everyone swarmed the lucky new owner, begging for a spot on the “borrow-when-you’re-done” list. I was the first to whip out How I Got My Shrunken Head. It is still the closest I have ever been to rock stardom.

No one is quite sure which of the spooky chapter books will be the basis for the new movie, but I couldn’t resist flipping through some of the Original Series (publicly, in Barnes & Noble, because someone has checked all the Goosebumps books out of the Free Library) to relive the childhood chills. Here, the five I hope make the director’s cut.

Night of the Living Dummy

Tagline: “He’s made of wood and up to no good.” Twins Lindy and Kris find a dummy in a dumpster, which Lindy immediately names “Slappy.” Much to Kris’s jealousy, Lindy is quite the ventriloquist act. The book unfolds like a reality show, with Slappy’s evil spirit turning Lindy into a possessive maniac. (My favorite bit of dialogue is when Lindy thinks Kris has moved Slappy from his spot in their bedroom: “Were you messing with Slappy?” she demands.) Kris gets her own dummy, and seriously names it Mr. Wood. Turns out, competing dummies don’t sit well with Slappy. I like that this one relies on the Goosebumps leitmotif of the abject awfulness of siblings.

Say Cheese and Die

Dun-dun-dunnnn. (Best title in the series, arguably). Greg, Michael, Shari and Doug are four friends who live in boring old Pitts Landing (“the pits!”) and decide to break into an old, creepy house, where they find a camera that captures whatever evil is about to befall the photograph’s subject. Greg snaps a picture of goofball Michael that shows him falling through a stair railing. That, of course, happens moments later. (Class clowns have it coming, kids.)

How I Got My Shrunken Head

Author R.L. Stine slides into the first person for this action-adventure thriller. Sixth-grader Mark, shy and a little rotund, finds solace in a video game called Jungle King. (“I’m sort of built like the red rhinos.”) A colleague of his Aunt Benna (a scientist who lives on the apparently jungle-heavy island of Baladora) shows up at his house one day bearing a present: a shrunken head. Mark finds this gross but awesome, and is thrilled when the colleague invites him to come back to Baladora with her to see Aunt Benna. Mark’s Cool Fictional Mom packs his bags (school? what school?), and Mark soon finds himself in the thick of the tropics, trying to save kidnapped Aunt Benna with his newly discovered “Jungle Magic” powers. Lots of visual potential here.

Welcome to Dead House

This was the first of the Goosebumps series, and while it’s one of the more cookie-cutter plots in the series, it hold great potential for movie adaptation. Amanda and Josh are dragged to live in a new town called “Dark Falls.” Because kids are always right about what a terrible idea moving is, their new house has some unexpected (undead) tenants.

It Came From Beneath the Sink

The best of Goosebumps: part thriller, part PSA. Daniel has just moved into a new house. (Again! Moving! Bad idea, mom!) There, under the sink, he finds and inexplicably picks up a breathing mass he describes as being like a sponge, but “damp” and “breathing.” He names it “Grool,” which is better than “Mr. Wood.” When he finds that Grool has the power to play devious tricks on him, he stores it in a gerbil tank. Grool, needless to say, can’t be contained. I just want to see the cinematic interpretation of Grool.