For children of the 90s one of the defining names in horror was “Goosebumps.” This series of child-friendly horror books by author R.L. Stein was one of the most popular series of its time. No elementary school classroom was complete without a set of these books. Even if you didn’t read the books you at least had a passing familiarity with them. “Goosebumps” was so big that it spawned a four-season anthology horror series on Fox.
These books were important for many in my generation as it served as their introduction to the world of horror. I am not one of those people. My exposure to “Goosebumps” was limited to the choose-your-own adventure books and as for the TV series all I ever saw were two episodes: “The Haunted Mask” and “A Night in Terror Tower.” I’m reviewing the latter for this entry, perhaps in the future I will discuss the former. I had these two episodes on VHS, I believe they were birthday/christmas gifts, and I would watch them all the time.
I can’t express how excited I was to re-visit “A Night in Terror Tower.” It was my favorite out of the two However there is a sense of hesitation one gets when watching something they loved as a kid. Certain people may re-visit “Goosebumps” and find themselves enjoying it in that ironic, hipster sense (cough, my friend, cough). Maybe certain episodes haven’t aged well but that is not the case with Terror Tower. This episode is a surprisingly suspenseful, well-paced mystery with an unique story that separates it from other “Goosebumps” episodes.
Siblings Eddie and Sue are on vacation in London. Their tour group deciders to stop at Terror Tower, a historical landmark that served as a torture chamber in the 1400s. When they get to the tower strange things start happening. Eddie see’s a ghost telling him to “Go Back”, a wax figure tries to kill Sue, a strange thunder storm happens, they get separated from their group and a man dressed in black, who they though to be a wax figure, tries to capture the two. Sue and Eddie will soon find they are not who they think they are.
What I love about this episode is the plot. It is very dense. A reason I was so excited to revisit this episode was, as a kid, I fully didn’t grasp what happened. Particularly when the twist comes into play. It’s an intelligent story that does not talk down to its audience. In doing my research I have found that most “Goosebumps” episodes relied on a monster or some kind of haunted object. This one doesn’t and because of that it stands out from the rest. It may be one of the more intelligent episodes of the series. Not to knock any of the other episodes as they may be fun and entertaining but from what I understand the plots are much more simplistic.
Since the plot of this episode is different from others in the series it provides a different kind of horror as well. This one has a, for lack of a better term, “Hitchcock” feel for it. We have two characters thrust into a situation where they have no idea what is happening. There is a lot of suspense and genuine terror going on as our characters try to find out what is happening to them. The writers spent time in developing a strong and suspenseful narrative and it shows. To be fair the pacing in the first ten minutes is a little slow as the time is spent going on the tour of the museum with our characters. However get past that and you have a tense, enjoyable episode.
Re-visiting this episode was an absolute joy for me. It holds up extremely well, if not better than I remember it. I loved how this episode relies purely on suspense and mystery. This is not just the nostalgia talking either. In no way did I watch this episode with that ironic, hipster mindset. Perhaps the acting can be cheesy at times but when the story is this good it doesn’t bother me. I enjoyed this episode and I highly recommend it. Even if you didn’t grow in the 90s and have no connection to “Goosebumps” you may still enjoy it.