While I appreciate good old horror and gore, there’s a place in my heart for the stuff I watched as a kid. Sadly, shows like Goosebumps haven’t stood the test of time too well. They were kids shows designed with kids strictly in mind, toned down because adults believed kids couldn’t handle much else. In Stine’s case, there was a short-lived follow-up called The Nightmare Room. It was decent, studded with stars like Tippi Hedren, Amanda Bynes, Shia LaBeouf and so on, but didn’t get beyond 13 episodes. Finally, in 2010, a lasting series came out, though it’s baffling full season DVD’s aren’t out, only volumes with select episodes. The Haunting Hour is an extreme step up from prior entries in Stine’s hall of shorts. The difference in tone is substantial and the characters tend to be in real danger, pushing beyond its TV-PG rating. The first episode alone includes a doll intent on switching souls with a little girl, and it achieves said goal. Her brother also gets threatened with a hacksaw to the neck. The follow-up includes the doll putting a bird’s cage in a tub in an attempt to drown it and a man getting shoved down the stairs with malicious intent. There’s even an attack with a knife against a child.
All that aside, whether characters are fighting demons, dodging ghosts or seeking supernatural ice cream, the tone is darker than expected. It pushes beyond the depths of what most PG-13 horror films do, not holding back on the eerie sounds or shadows. Even the acting is good for once! As a matter of fact, many of the children have been in movies before, such as Baillee Madison from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Connor Price from Cinderella Man and the Carrie remake, Jodelle Ferland from Silent Hill and The Cabin in the Woods, and Ariel Winter from Killers, now on ABC’s Modern Family.
As an aside, the story quality is usually ramped up. Not all are up to par, but the standard is good, as they select from a barrage of short stories to see what comes out up top. This isn’t just Stine’s work.