Sunday, March 15, 2015
Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs #9
Jerry Elfman is constantly bullied for being ugly, which has earned him the nickname "Dogface." It's because he looks like an elephant. When his friend Ben asks why he doesn't stand up to the bullies, he says it's because he's afraid he'll get beat up. So Ben starts to pick a fight with them, but the bullies crack up when Ben's big argument is basically, "He can't help it if he's ugly!" The bullies then unleash some crushing burns, such as my personal favorite,
"Boy, when they were handing out ugly, you must've gone back for seconds!"
Now, I know what you're thinking: woah, chill out there, Dane Cook. It's the beginning of the story and you're already pulling all the stops? Well, you're right, but check this out: Jerry goes home and tells his mother about the bullying, who doesn't even deny the claims that he's ugly but rather insists that he's beautiful on the inside, much like the ugly duckling. This prompts Jerry's response: "Just what I need. Next I'm going to look like a bird!" So basically the writing sucks. Later, Jerry's sitting at his dining room table when he starts to feel tingling in his hands and wrists. It spreads up his arms and shoulders, and eventually he can't even feel them. His mother insists it's probably just the flu, but it spreads to his head and knocks him out, which I don't think the flu does.
When Jerry wakes up, he's in a hospital, and has a noncancerous tumor growing from his spine. His skin splits open and sheds, and underneath he's covered in a gross red liquid. Hey, I've seen Coccoon, I know what you're doing here, Allen R. Ury. And, crazy enough, Jerry wipes off the liquid to discover an attractive new boy. But when he gets up to walk out, his knees buckle and he feels another tumor. So, what, he's going to become even more handsome? Or will he pull an Amanda Bynes and do the opposite? Oh well, I can live with not knowing.
2. "The Girl in the Attic"
Lisa and her family are going to a cabin in the woods for a vacation. Lisa immediately has a bad feeling about it, and her family is extra mindful of her because she has heightened senses. She's like a lame superhero. The crew packs in the old-fashioned home, complete with VCR and fireplace, and sets up the room she'll share with her sister, Sara. But soon after, she hears a girl screaming for help. She searches the land nearby with her sister, but finds nothing. A few days pass, and nothing happens. And then, out of the blue, she hears another cry for help, but this time the crier throws in that she's in the attic. For someone who's supposedly dying, she's really helpful. It's like geocaching. But with people.
Lisa's dad checks the attic, but surprise surprise, nobody's in there. That night, Lisa is woken up when her father shakes her awake, telling her to get dressed because there's a fire. Lisa does so, but hears the girl after she leaves the house and decides to run back up to the attic. I can't really blame her for any of this, because it's a reasonable thing to do. That's no fun. The air fills with smoke behind her, stopping her father from finding her. I guess he's never heard of a fan before. But when she does go up to the attic, the trapdoor slams shut behind her and gets stuck. She calls for help, and realizes that she is saying the same things the crying girl said earlier. She heard herself in the future for no other reason than because whynot?, and when the floor gives in she knows she's going to die.
Well, this was a really clever and creative idea for a story. Only problem is, it's taken straight out of a Ray Bradbury short story collection called The Illustrated Man, from a story called "The Veldt." Great story by the way, one of my favorites. But that's classic Allen Ury for you, ripping off other stories. I must admit though, this is exciting. Let's try to identify the "inspirations" for all the stories, shall we?
3. "Rules is Rules"
That title would have been perfect back when I still used that "Did... Uh... Did You Even Go to School?" segment. I have to start doing those after-segment things again. Maybe when I stop reviewing short stories. But anyway, nameless 1st person protagonist and his friend Kevin Blayne are attending Camp Elkhart, a fun yet strict summer camp with tons of rules. The most hated rule is that you cannot swim after 5 pm, which is strange because the sun sets at nine there. The camp is run, of course, by an ex-police lieutenant named Vince Mancuso, and the boys' counselor is named "Mitch Logan." Wow. So one day Kevin convinces the protagonist to go out on the lake with him at four o'clock, and they swim across the lake. Then Kevin throws their paddle out into the lake so they can purposely disobey the rules and prove that the lake isn't dangerous after five. Even if there wasn't a lake monster, that's still a really stupid thing to do. Like, have fun sleeping in a tin boat, dumbass.
Oh, and then a tentacle rises up from the water and grabs the boat, emptying the children onto the lake. More tentacles come up and grab Kevin before a giant mouth with multiple rows of teeth comes up and eats him. OK, that actually is pretty terrifying. Jesus. Protagonist swims back somehow and tells the story to Lieutenant Vince, who then tells the Protagonist that rules are in place for a reason and that if anybody asks, it was a tragic boating accident. I guess I understand why he didn't close the camp since his life savings were put into it, but why not move it to another lake? It's gonna cost him, to be sure, but it will cost him cash as oppose to children's lives. But the protagonist decides on his slow walk to the cabin that he will spread the word about what happened there. He knocks on his cabin door, and Mitch Logan informs him that he's three minutes late. How is Mitch Logan not in prison? His name alone should be enough, not to mention the fact that he just kind of lets campers die. Then the protagonist begs to be let in while a giant, hairy monster gets closer, and Mitch reminds him that the rules are in place for a reason. Now that I think about it, the camp owner must have bought the land for next to nothing with all those monsters running around. Future landowners take note.
OK, so this one was pretty good. Of course Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea come to mind, but PotC was well after this was written and TTLUtS's squids don't have much resemblance, so I don't know. I mean, of course the whole theme/plot of "break the rules and discover horrible unexpected consequences" isn't a new one, but I can't remember any specific medias. I'm a failure. Well, on to the next.
4. "Sound Bites"
Jeanne loves listening to the new teen heartthrob, Hunter Smith. All she does is listen to music, but she does it so loudly that her father goes upstairs and yells at her. He then unplugs her speakers and takes away music privileges until she gets her grades up. OK, I know parents often take away toys, games and TV, but music? What parent stops his/her kid from listening to music? Jeanne is just heartbroken, because music has been her comfort and solace ever since her mom died of cancer. That's... wow. So much heavier than I expected, and it's made sadder that it's the only plausible thing in this story. So Jeanne goes to school and they pass around headphones like the music's heroin. So Jeanne decides to go to her friend's house and listen to Hunter Smith's newest album. When she goes to sleep that night, she is woken up at 2:00 am by the sound of music, which she soon recognizes as the album from earlier. She searches the house for the source, but it just gets louder and louder until eventually it's all she can hear and she's carried into "a place of madness." What happened?
I'm pretty sure this story was too stupid and nonsensical to rip off of anything.
5. "Night Terrors"
The story starts as Doug Snow (no relation to Jon Snow, because Jon Snow's not a whiny bitch) is awoken by his father's unconscious screams. He goes to his parents' room but is told to go back to sleep by his mother. The next morning, Doug learns that his father is suffering from night terrors. This continues for three nights until Doug decides that he has to do something about it. He and his little sister whine to his dad about his awful nightmares that wake the kids up because I guess they've never heard of earplugs. The siblings learn that their father had problems like this before, and that it will pass with time. But that night, Doug wakes up to his father and mother screaming, but his mother is saying "No! Don't touch me," instead of his father's bloodcurdling screams. He walks in to see his mother with a bump on her face and found that his dad had hit her in his sleep. Wow. This just got way too real. Children's horror, meet domestic abuse. By the way, "Don't touch me." Don't touch me. Goes really well with the other themes of breaking rules, doesn't it? Wow.
Doug's father agrees to take medication, but Doug's mother starts screaming again and it sounds like glass is breaking in their room. Doug rushes over and sees his father with a golf club, going after his mom because the medication stopped him from waking up. Holy Jesus. Doug mans up and attracts his father's attention and then trips over his sister. Smooth move, Ferguson. Doug's dad misses with the golf club and his wife gets his attention again, and one more time, just in case you couldn't catch my feelings on the matter: wow. Doug, meanwhile, runs into his room, grabs a piggy bank and smashes his father over the head with it, knocking him out. The next morning, the family flushes the pills. And later on down the road, Doug hears his father scream and his mother slap him quiet, as is the new daily ritual. More abuse, cool cool.
As the story opens, a baseball flies through Samantha's window, shattering it. She looks out the window to see two embarrassed children, Tommy and Stewart, holding a baseball and glove. Classic Stewart. Later, a wood board is put over her broken window to keep out wind and rain. When she looks at the board, though, she sees the creases make a cat face. This is common, as she sees faces in lots of things, but she calls her dad nonetheless. He doesn't see it, of course, and though she feels threatened by it she does not attempt to eat it because she's a vegan. The next day, Samantha tells her friend Anne Besch, who is described as "gothic," about the incident. Anne suggests that it's a tree spirit, like the ones the druids communicated with. When Samantha asks whether the spirit is good or bad, Anne replies, "Now that's the final Jeopardy question, isn't it?" No, it's not, that makes no sense. I think Allen Ury's never seen Jeopardy.
When she gets home, Sam discovers that her room is in disarray. She tries to sleep later, but is surprised to hear moving at the foot of her bed. The plank is resting there, and when she starts to touch the face, it pops out and almost bites her. It then starts to work its way out of the wood. Huh, I thought coke was the worst drug kids take during school, but I guess they also take every drug at once. Terrified by her super-acid trip, Sam reasons that the best way to beat a wood-monster is with fire, so she gets lighter fluid and a lighter and lights that fool up. She grabs her parents and they escape while her house burns and the beast dies. Fast forward and Samantha is sitting in a mental institution. She had told the police about the monster, and they had locked her up. She felt safe, at least, until she sees a face in the ceiling. How did this suddenly become an awesome story?
Kent Newcomb is awoken by a scratching sound from nearby. He decides to investigate, and he walks downstairs to discover that the noise is coming from his garage. He turns on the light which spooks the clawed creature a little, but the scratching ultimately continues. The next morning, Kent checks out the garage and discovers what attracted the scavenger: his garage is overflowing with trash because the city's trash collectors went on strike. Also, it's reaching record heat and that combined with trash overflow makes for an awful stench. Now that I think about it, we'd all be screwed without trash collectors. Huh. Here's hoping they're happy over here in El City de los Angels, because I don't even know where trash goes after it gets in the one-armed truck.
That night, the scratching continues, and Kent wakes his dad when he yells at the unseen animal. They buy a wire-mesh cage trap but of course it's empty but activated the next day. Kent decides to sleep in his parents' minivan and stake out the garage, and he is reminded of a time where he camped out in the car as a child. Because what kid doesn't dream of sleeping in his mom's car. It's not directly said, but I assume Kent Newcomb entertains himself by picking box B. Oh, and then a monster made entirely of garbage jumps on the windshield. I don't know, kind of a trashy climax. I mean, my hopes for this story weren't high, but this is just rubbish. I know you're cringing, but I promise the puns won't stop until this absurd situation does. Kent actually honks and calls his dad, who walks in with a baseball bat just in time to get tackled by the trash monster. Wow, what garbage reflexes. In retaliation, Kent leaves the car and destroys the monster with a garden shovel. There's a valuable lesson in here somewhere. Kids, write to your local trash pickup-guy. Without them, we'd all be sleeping in our parents' cars.
8. "Shop Till You Drop"
This story's really bad.
It's about a girl named Casey who's a total shopaholic. She's shopping with her friend Joleen when she stumbles upon a red purse. She discovers that she's short ten dollars, but finds ten dollars in the purse. Then she goes and possessedly buys everything she can with money that magically appears in the purse. The big climax comes when Casey falls on the escalator and somehow gets the strap wrapped around her neck, which is bad because the other end of the strap is stuck in the escalator. I don't know how that works. Despite the fact that she's in the middle of a crowded mall, nobody moves to help her– classic humans, I guess– and Joleen ends up cutting the strap with her keys. The big twist at the end? Another girl ends up finding the same purse at the same place Casey found it. Cool so I guess it can respawn or what? Looks like another girl will have to suffer the same horrible curse of getting unlimited money.
So there's nothing special or good in this story. The only remarkable aspects are these sexy one-liners:
"Her azure blue eyes blazed like twin suns, and she hungrily licked her lips as if she were gazing at the world's greatest ice cream sundae."
"It's like shopping makes you high." I just include this because it's the only story I can remember that even halfway approaches the topic of kids doing drugs.
"'This place is great!' Casey gasped in awe.
'It's all junk,' Joleen said dismissively.
'I know,' Casey agreed, 'But it's great junk!'"
I think I've had more than enough reading about teenage girls buying things. Well, at least I can skip my weekly visit to Tumblr now.
Conclusion: I don't know what Allen Ury was smoking when he wrote this, but it's the most bizarrely bad collection by far. It's a strange mixture of terrible stories that make no sense, awful-to-decent stories that rip off of other things, and one diamond hidden in an absurd amount of rough (I'm referring, of course, to "Faces"). Well, see you this weekend, folks.