Category Archives: Halloween 2008

Day 31 of the Halloween Countdown: Saturday the 14th!

Well, this Halloween season has buzzed by so fast I feel like I could use a whole second month to celebrate.  As per usual, we haven’t yet heard the pitter patter of tiny trick-or-treater’s feet at the door, and again we’ll have a ton of candy to try and eat over the next month.  One of these years we’re going to get at least one kid and I’m telling ya, the whole candy bowl is going in that bag (and trust me, it’s always the good stuff!)  Anyway, I hope everyone has enjoyed my countdown, as well as visited the other fine blogs doing their creepy part to keep this month chock full of spooky goodness.   Heck, I’ll probably still be catching up on all the Halloween craziness for the next few months.  Also, before I get into the meat of this post, I just want to give an official Happy Halloween to everyone out there.

So on to the last countdown post for this season (barring any leftovers I might throw up tomorrow.)   Before I broke down my mother’s will and her kibosh on watching horror movies, there were only a handful of flicks that I was allowed to catch that fell into the horror vein.  One of these was a favorite rental throughout my childhood, though for the life of me I didn’t remember 90% of the film when I re-watched it this past month (after picking up an out-of-print copy from a local Hollywood Video that was closing its doors), Saturday the 14th (circa 1981)…

I think I remember the film’s 1988 sequel (Saturday the 14th Strikes Back) a bit more, though after watching the trailer for that film as well I’m not so sure.  All I know is that for awhile growing up Saturday the 14th and the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown seemed like the only seasonal fare on TV.

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I plopped this flick in the DVD player, but it sure as hell wasn’t what I ended up watching.  Fluttering between god awful silly slap stick, bad pun comedy, and a pretty pedestrian horror film spoof, Saturday the 14th just doesn’t know what it wants to be.  Again, seeing as I watched this a few times as a kid, and considering the film opens with a very goofy animation sequence, I figured this film to be kids flick fare…

The film stars husband and wife duo Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss as John and Mary a couple who has just inherited a decrepit and spooky house.  Of course, there are others who want the house, namely a couple of vampires named Waldemar (played with camp by Jeffrey Tambor) and Yolanda (played by Nancy Lee Andrews)…

The flick was produced by Julie Corman (wife of famous B movie producer/director Roger Corman) who also brought us the illustrious trilogy of exploitation nursing films, The Night Nurses, the Young Nurses, and Candy Stripe Nurses, as well as Chopping Mall (a film I’ve been obsessed with since falling in love with the poster art at a young age, but have never actually sat through.)  Howard R Cohen directed and penned the script (as well as writing the aforementioned the Young Nurses, which is where Corman probably came to know him; he also brought us episodes of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Rainbow Brite, and Emmanuelle V!)

As I mentioned above, the film opens with Tambor and Andrews lusting after the old creepy house that has been inherited by Benjamin, Prentiss and their two kids, Debbie (played by Kari Michaelson of Gimmie a Break! Fame) and Billy (played with smart-alecky goodness by Kevin Brando…)

It seems that the house is cursed/haunted/possessed, and includes a copy of the Book of Evil, which has the power to unleash evil on the earth.  Billy being the perfectly precocious and curious kid finds the book, opens it, ignores the warning and proceeds to let fly the monsters of evil (which include a rouges gallery of men-in-rubber-suit-monsters such as a mummy, a beastly werewolf, and a goofy looking monster with eyes on stalks that reminds me of the aliens from the Explorers movie.)

There are a million bad puns and jokes, most issued by Richard Benjamin (who delivers the horrible dialogue with a grin and a smile.)  After the 1st third of the film I felt that this was surely a kid’s flick, and was then totally taken aback by the drawn-out stripping-before-a-bath scene that (in the kid’s film context) seemed inappropriately alluring…

I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the scene didn’t keep going and going, with plenty of close-ups on Kari Michaelson removing each piece of clothing slowly, and then continuously getting interrupted by phone calls and the like.  Granted, there was a shark-fin-headed gill monster lurking in the water of the tub, which was supposed to be suspenseful, but was really more of an irritation that kept the camera off Michaelson here and there during her strip tease.  I don’t mind the disrobing scene in the least, it’s just sort of weirdly placed in what I assumed was a kid’s flick.   Also, is it weird that my wife and I freeze-framed the screen to see the breast covering bubble bikini that Michaelson was wearing to keep the movie clean?

The film takes another turn for the weirdly violent after the monster chases Michaelson throughout the house, and it’s finally confronted by a cop (a neighbor of the newly moved-in family who happens to be passing by), who proceeds to shoot the creature in the heard (with large animated blood squirt and all…)

The creature then strangles the cop to death in a very frantically gruesome manner, again propelling the film outside of children’s movie territory and into a b-horror film.  Nothing wrong with this, it just makes for a mighty odd combination.  We then slip back into the goofy kid’s comedy arena after the family calls an exterminator for an owl infestation (actually it’s bats, but the running joke is that they’re owls) and they get a house call from none other than Van Helsing himself (played with glee by Severn Darden.)

The flick then see-saws between goofy and horrific as the wife is turned into a vampire by Tambor, and the family soon discovers that they are in fact trapped in the house by the power of the book (getting whipped in the face by a gust of wind and bright lights whenever they try and open a door, yet newcomers to the house seem to negate this effect.)   It’s all way-too-darkly-lit montages of monster parties, severed heads, and eyeballs in the coffee as the family (and the live-in Van Helsing) decide how they can defeat the book of evil and the house-crashing vampires.

Saturday the 14th has one more surprise up its sleeve, as the plot comes to a head and we discover that the menace is really Van Helsing, who wants the power of the book to take over the world, and it’s Tambor and Andrews who are trying to stop him…

Billy brings the book to the vampires, and a battle of immense strength and wills takes place (e.g. Darden and Tambor make a bunch of silly faces at each other for a few minutes while trying to levitate Billy…)

…and then the real action begins (well not really, but it was fun to type anyway!)  There’s plenty of goofy special effects involving Tambor and Darden throwing lightening and fireworks at each other before Waldemar defeats the evil Van Helsing…

In the end, the family makes up with the vampires and agrees to sell them the house (they end up moving across the street into much nicer digs.)

Honestly, I don’t know what to think of this film.  It’s at times so-bad-it’s-good, but mostly it’s just bad, and I wonder what I found interesting about it as a kid.  You can barely make out what the monsters look like as the majority of the film is shot in darkness, though this is probably for the best as the costumes seemed to be pretty cheap.  All in all it just seemed like one big schizophrenic mess of a film that could only be surpassed by the sequel, Saturday the 14th Strikes Back…

Again, I’ve only seen the trailer, but a lot of the imagery (especially the shot of the blonde girl who is huge inside of the house and you only see her eye from a window) and cast strikes a bell with me.  This will certainly be one for me to track down…

Well, that does it for this year’s countdown.   Here’s to hoping I can find enough material for next year’s.  Happy Halloween folks!

Day 29 of the Halloween Countdown: Son of Crestwood Monster Series!

When I was out earlier in the year scrounging around for content for the 2008 Halloween Countdown, I never thought I’d find a cool little book that picked up the torch of the Crestwood Monster series (which I’ve written about both here, and here, as well as in the 1st issue of the Branded in the 80s magazine available for purchase here) in the early 90s, but I did.  While I was browsing the ever awesome Bizarro Wuxtry in Athens, GA (kept up by the ever kind and knowledgeable Devlin Thompson) I spied a little baby blue paperback at the back of a glass case filled with all sorts of monster related goodness from the past 30 odd years.  What immediately caught my eye was the marker attached to the cover which could mean only one thing (that this was some form of the invisible ink books that I grew up loving, having picked up a million and one Yes & Know books on family vacations over the years.)  This was a great find though being monster themed and all and was called the Mark and See Universal Studio Monsters Frightening Facts book (circa 1992…)

First things first, I was so jazzed that the back cover was a perfect copy of the front cover, even including an image of the attached marker, as there was no way I was going to get a good scan of the cover (since the marker bulged out so far.)  Anyway, when I first picked up the book and headed home I assumed that it was just a Universal Monster themed Yes & Know book, but when I got home and really took a good look at it I was floored.  Crammed into its 48 pages is a wealth of material on all of the Universal monster movies and their source material that this one book contains almost the entire Crestwood Monster Series…

There are sections devoted to Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon that feature one page Cliff’s Notes versions of the main films, as well as background on the characters and some fun facts on the films…

Though a lot of the interior artwork is re-purposed from the 90s Universal Monster campaign (as seen in the top left of the cover), there are also a lot of nice full page stills from the movies…

Most surprising of all was that the invisible ink marker still works, even after sitting on various store shelves for the last 16 years.  Now that’s quality!

The book also features four detachable monster trading cards with some nifty airbrushed artwork.   Snazzy!

Stuff like this really warms my heart as I’ll always be a fan of the Universal monsters films first and foremost, and (probably pointlessly) I fear that as the years go on and the films get older and lose some of their relevance to the current generation that more and more kids aren’t going to get introduced to them.  Crestwood was there for me as a kid, and Universal themselves were picking up the slack in the 90s, but what about kids today?  What books are out there turning pre-teens into Franky Fans?

Day 28 of the Halloween Countdown: Sugar Shock!

New Halloween candy has really been a mixed bag this year.  Overall I was pretty disappointed with the crop, but I have to admit that there were some pretty crazy concepts and designs floating about.  There were some really fun repackaging designs as in the Halloween Nerds that popped up way back in early August…

I mean as Nerds candy goes, it’s kind of hard to find new ways to market it outside of pretending that the little candy coated grains of sugar are edible aquarium pebbles.   So when Wonka put ’em in plastic test tubes with monster shaped stoppers and called them antidotes, vaccines, makeovers, and morphs, it was pretty ingenious.  In essence I’m getting a little plastic monster toy, candy, and imagination fodder for pretending that the only thing keeping me from sprouting fangs and draining my wife of her life blood is the test tube of candy that is just outside my reach!  Seriously though, these were a great way of getting me excited about a candy that I’ve known and loved for years.   It also doesn’t hurt that the werewolf figure/stopper bears an uncanny resemblance to A.L.F.!

In that same vein (oh ho, what a bad pun), we have Confectionery Lane’s Halloween contribution this year in the form of a crazily realistic liquid candy Blood Bag!

When I saw Harris Smith write about this candy wonder over at his blog Negative Pleasure, I knew I was going to have to rush out and find the nearest Walgreen’s and procure a bag for myself.  This is the essence of perfect Halloween candy, at least in concept.  What kid wouldn’t squeal with glee at getting one of these realistic bags of blood plopped into their goody bag come Halloween night?  Unfortunately, as Mr. Smith points out in his post, the liquid candy is pretty awful.  It’s way too sour and chemically enhanced sweet that it would be quite the chore to consume the bag without puking up blood colored vomit minutes later.

Also in the fun-in-concept-but-awful-in-execution department we have yet another large gummy severed hand make a debut this year, this one from Amos Sweets…

This severed gummi hand is about the same size as this year’s severed hand gummy from Flix Candy, and just about as inedible.  I’m getting the feeling that the larger gummi candy gets the more and more it starts tasting like rubber or plastic…

So, going by this thought one would think that any "normal-sized" gummy candy would probably taste fine right?  Wrong.  I had very high hopes for a late comer in the Halloween candy department, Sherwood Brands line of Gummi Scary Treats candy…

These four boxes of gummi candy had some of the most fun packaging designs I’ve seen in recent years.  These die-cut wraparound boxes scream love and attention to detail, so it was a real disappointment when the candy housed inside was pretty bland, and a little chemical tasting.

Probably the best effort in the gummi candy department as far as merging a great concept with a good taste was the 3-foot-long Big Fat Hissie Fit Gummy Snake I found at my local Wal-Mart…

This is a pretty impressive piece of confection as it’s pretty much a life-sized gummy snake and it’s pretty good as far as over-sized gummi candy goes.   I could see myself easily making my way through this monstrosity during a day watching horror flicks, though I’m sure I’d regret it soon after.   How much gummi candy can one eat in a day anyway?

All in all, I think I’m too easily swayed by the wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to Halloween candy.  I want the crazy insanity of a giant lollipop Halloween mask, but I also want the quality of your everyday Nerds or fun-sized candy bar.   I think this is asking for a bit much though, at least not without a heft price tag.  Who knows, there’s always next year…

Day 27 of the Halloween Countdown: Branded/Art & Story Podcast crossover!

Wow, this month is flying by.  It’s already the week of Halloween, how in the hell did that happen?!?  Well, I stumbled a bit last week in terms of keeping up a daily posting schedule, but it’s certainly not the end of the world.  I am on vacation from the stupid day job this week, so I should be able to cram it chock full of Halloween-y goodness.

First up is my half of the Branded in the 80s/Art & Story Podcast cross over event.  When Mark Rudolph, Jerzy Drozd, my wife and I got together to talk about horror storytelling and Halloween we recorded enough material for both of our podcasts.  Their half, episode 61 of the Art & Story podcast is up and available at their site, and now here’s the second half.  We end up talking for around 40 minutes about some Halloween memories past (in particular costumes and some fun candy gathering hyjinks) as well as talking a bit about how we celebrate the holiday today.  Talking with these guys is always fun for me, so I hope you can get some pleasure from the conversation as well.  To listen you can either click on the banner below, or right click and save it to your computer for ipod/mp3 player listening and such.

Again, if you enjoy this podcast, take a minute to check out the Art & Story show, as Mark and Jerzy have really put together a great podcast…

Day 23 BONUS! Talking horror on the Art & Story Podcast, Episode 61!

I wanted to take a minute and point to one of my favorite podcasts, Art & Story (hosted by Mark Rudolph and Jerzy Drozd), which I had the extreme pleasure to take part in recently.  Jerzy and Mark do an amazing job deconstructing the process of writing and illustrating comics (storytelling in general), and I was invited to the conversation to help get into the nuts and bolts of horror storytelling.  We ended up talking about why people choose to watch and read horror stories referencing our own personal taste in horror movies and such.   I had an absolute blast during the recording and I think we did a good job starting the conversation on horror as a storytelling genre.

We also recorded material that I’m going to use for the basis of another Branded in the 80s podcast, a look down the Halloween-y memory lane, which I’ll hopefully have cobbled together and ready for everyone’s listening pleasure this weekend.  It’s a Branded in the 80s/Art & Story crossover, 80s Marvel comics style!

Also, Mark Rudolph has another great podcast on Metal music called the Requiem, which I also urge anyone interested in broadening their listening horizons to checkout.

Day 23 of the Halloween Countdown: I wonder when the first edible full-body costume will come along?

Well, this certainly is the week from hell (as far as the day job goes.)  I can’t wait for tomorrow to be over because I’ll then be on vacation until the end of October.  Anyway, I hated missing yesterday’s posting, but thems the breaks.  To make up for it today, I’m going to take a second to talk about the craziest piece of Halloween candy I’ve found this year, and possible ever, the Tricky Treats Mask Pop from Brand New Products, LLC!

When I saw this on the shelf at my local Wal-Mart I just about crapped myself with a mixture of awe and fright.  Sure, we’ve all probably seen the giant rainbow colored confections that the Lollipop Guild carried in the Wizard of Oz (a lollipop that is also a staple of the Walt Disney theme park experience), but this Mask Pop sure beats those other suckers bloody.  This insane piece of candy clocks in at just under a pound (at 13 ounces/369 grams, 330 of which is sugar) and has 1400 calories!

Health hazard aside, this is an ingenious product that borders on the sadistic for sucker enthusiast and the parents or loved ones of said enthusiast alike.  It’s as if one of Homer Simpson’s world-made-of-candy daydreams came to life Halloween-style.  I mean what kid wouldn’t love traipsing around the neighborhood on All Hallows Eve, knocking on doors, and screaming out "Trick or Treat" from behind one of these delectably gruesome masks, scaring poor old grandmothers and strong-arming them into giving them sweets, and then, when the night of greedy debauchery is through, getting to eat your own Halloween mask?!?

Now I did mention that this awesome mouthful-of-cavities-waiting-to-happen is sadistic, and here’s why.  Being that it’s a mask made out of candy, as soon as you unwrap it, it’s almost impossible not to make an exploratory lick.  Bust even the slightest bit of moisture near this giant lollipop brings out the sticky, so even if a kid could resist nibbling on an ear, their warm breath trapped behind the mask will certainly make it one giant mess.

I was kind of skeptical about this whole deal, even thorough my near-bowel-moving excitement, as it just seemed too good to be true.  I feared that the pop itself would taste disgusting, if not just bland, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work as a mask.  There were a few varieties to choose from including a cat-like demon, a pumpkin head, a witch, and a pretty frightening clown, but this zombie pop is the one that really sang to me.  Besides, a lot of the other pops tended to have the mask eye holes separate from the design of the face (so there were effectively two sets of eyes to the mask), and this zombie was a nice combination of form and function with only one set.  When I got home immediately ripped the pop out of the plastic packaging and had my wife give it a test drive.  The verdict?  This is one creepy-as-hell mask!

As far as the edibility factor goes, it was surprisingly great.  The zombie pops are grape flavored and it was quite tasty.  There’s no way in hell I’d ever eat the whole thing, but I nibbled off an ear and chipped off some sticky goodness here and there.  What’s kind of funny is that the mask only gets more and more disturbing the more little bits you eat off of it.  This is an amazing piece of candy, though it is pretty damn unwieldy, especially after you start eating it (there really is no going back from that point…)

Day 21 of the Halloween Countdown: I wonder if raisin flop sweat is sickly sweet?

Well, the day job is certainly doing its level best to impede my work on the Halloween countdown this year.  I’m not writing to complain about the woes of the working life though, nope, I’m here to share a crazy piece of Halloween-y goodness (one endorsed by the California Raisin Advisory Board none the less.)  For today’s entry into the countdown I present the wackiness that is the California Raisins in A Haunting We Will Go! (circa 1988.)

The book was written by Mark W. Lewis and illustrated by the elusive Pat Paris Productions (elusive because the only info I could find on the world wide intertubes was that she/they illustrated not only the rest of the California Raisins books, but also Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails books as well.)

The story is pretty simple (how could it really be all that convoluted anyway), everybody’s favorite sun-dried R&B a cappella choir runs out of gas late at night near a broken down abandoned manor that just so happens to be the site for some ghostly birthday celebrations.   The ghosts have a broken phonograph and a need to boogie, and the Raisins can’t stop boogie-ing if they tried and need a place to crash.  Hilarity and a good dose of Scooby Doo inspired antics insue…

I was surprised by the art in the book. It’s not amazing, but it’s still pretty fun and I like the wrinkly style (especially in the 300 year old Shadowy Lady.)

I’ll tell ya, I’ve never seen a group of raisins secrete so much flop sweat in my life!

I do have to say that even though I’ve been aware of the raisins since their inception, I never really paid all that much attention to the story or characters.  After reading the book I’m sorry to say that they don’t get much deeper than the goofy claymation commercial shorts they originally starred in.  Proof of this can be found in their names (Shades and Tux are a couple of the amazing examples of how deep the character design goes…)  I never had any of the Raisin’s swag, but I always wanted some of the little PVC figures you could get at Hardee’s when you ordered their raisin biscuits for breakfast.

Anyway, the Raisins are another shinning example of anthropomorphized food items that should turn kids off of eating the sun-dried fruit (“Mommy, I don’t want to eat Shades, he’s my friend!”), but ironically fueled a temporary fire of raisin purchases in the 80s.  Weird.

*Updated* Day 20 of the Halloween Countdown: I think I just might make my pumpkin Skeletorized this year…

This is going to have to be a quick countdown entry today (work is crazy stupid killing me today.)  This is from the Fall 1986 issue of the He-Man & the Masters of the Universe magazine.  Make your pumpkins the mightiest pumpkins in the universe!

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to update later with the cover to the magazine and some other interior treats from the issue…


Here’s some more from that issue of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine including the cover…

…this really fun PAAS Halloween make-up kit ad (I always thought PAAS was just about the Easter swag..)

…and this Pineapple Kids Club ad (notice those four Glow Ghosts!)

Hopefully I’ll have more time tomorrow!

Day 17 of the Halloween Countdown: More gummi than you’ll need ever!

Last year during the ghouliest season of the year I wrote about a piece of Halloween candy that completely floored me as it was the single craziest, and largest gummi I’d ever seen called the Mad Lab Frog Dissection Kit (which was part of the Target-specific branded candy under the Edgar & Ellen heading.)  Though I was completely dazzled by the kit, in particular the molding on the frog gummi itself and the concept in general, I sort of lamented a couple of the design elements (or lack thereof.)  The set came with some gummi flies that were tucked away in a little baggy hidden in the hollowed-out belly of the frog.  Personally I thought this was a missed opportunity as the set is a ‘dissection’ kit, and it would have been so cool to have to cut into the frog (with the provided plastic knife) to liberate the flies.  I also thought that it might have been cool to include some sort of liquid candy (like the innards of a Squeeze Pop) to give the impression of a gruesome reptilian autopsy.

Well I was pretty happy this year when I first glimpsed the 2008 Target candy section and saw that the gummi frog dissection kit had made a comeback.  It’s a bit smaller, though just as heavy, and I hoped as I was standing in the checkout line that it’s reduced stature and increased heft might mean that there were some dreamed of improvements…

Target ditched the Edgar & Ellen branding this year in lieu of their new Domo theme (as I mentioned in the inaugural post for this year’s countdown), and the new dissection kit has since been relegated to the normal Target monster character branding (as well as being a great example of the design of this year’s offerings, package-wise.)  It’s been re-dubbed a Gummy Dissection Kit (a bit more generic to give room for other varieties as we’ll see in a minute), and is pretty much just a pared down version of last years affair…

Basically the gummi flies and a good bit of the molded details have been dropped, and though the frog itself has shrunk, it’s now solid and has an opaque section of gummi layered on top of the more standard green translucent base.  As I plunged the little orange plastic knife into the tough gummi flesh I still had hopes that there was a liquid surprise inside, but I was disappointed as it’s just one sold gummy frog.  Also, it’s still green apple flavored (not my favorite by a long stretch) so I didn’t really care for the taste, though it has a better consistency than the Flix gummies I talked about a couple days ago.

This year we can also choose a second dissection kit if the frog doesn’t float our boat.  The gummi heart is a welcome addition to the stable of oversized (almost life-sized) confections around this season.  It’s exactly like the frog with no fun little discoveries tucked inside, and is strawberry flavored, so it might be more palatable for those of us who don’t care for green apple candy flavoring.

All in all, I’m still a little disappointed at the missed opportunity of putting more ‘dissection’ elements into the candy, but it’s still a neat idea that I’m sure kids are going gaga over.  Maybe next year, huh?

Day 16 of the Halloween Countdown: Sitting for monsters is a full time job…

So if the fact that I’m doing this Halloween countdown weren’t enough of an indication that I love the season and horror themed entertainment in general, I just have to take a moment to say that I love the scary.  Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been infatuated with the macabre, be it grotesque Garbage Pail Kids artwork, the array of insane Halloween masks that used to be on display at Spencer’s in the 80s, the addictive VHS covers to all the horror films at my local video store, and especially in the fiction I chose to bury myself in.  I’ve written many times of my love of the Crestwood Monster Series in past countdowns, and when I started ignoring chapter and Choose Your Own Adventure books for more adult fare it was Stephen King that I first picked up (around the time I turned 12.)  Another example of some ghoulishly fun reading that I did when I was younger is a short series of books starring a character named Samantha Slade.  I mentioned the series a couple years ago in passing, but I thought I’d take a second today to look at the books a little closer, in particular the wonderful cover art by the very talented Jody A. Lee.  The series was published between 1987 and 1988 by Archway Paperback Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, and was written by Susan Smith (an author who I haven’t been able to find much information about.)

Of the series, I must have read this first installment (SS: Monster-Sitter) the most (at least 10 times if not more) since my mom picked it up for me in 1987.  The series was probably cashing in on the craze of the Babysitter’s Club and the rest of the book series in that ilk.  I certainly wasn’t against dipping into series that were more or less meant for the other gender (I loved the more girl-centric Judy Blume books for example), but what really grabbed me wit this series was its creepy theme in that Samantha is a babysitter for what amounts to an amalgam of the Addams Family and the Munsters.  Basically, Samantha plays Marilyn to the Brown Family’s monsters, spending the majority of the first book unaware that the kids she’s sitting for are actually monsters (believing that the family is just eccentric to a T.)  Between heading up the planning committee for her school’s annual haunted house, taking on this new babysitting gig, and trying her darnedest not to embarrass herself in front of a boy she has a crush on, Samantha just doesn’t get a break.  With the help of her best friend Iris and some unexpected aid from the Brown kids (Lupi, a real life werewolf, and Drake a mad scientist in training) she manages to pull everything together and put on a legendary haunted house party.

One of the aspects of the first book that’s always stuck with me is all the crazy food that the Browns (an unbeknownst to her, Samantha as well) consume including crunchy spider’s legs (seen on the cover above.)  There’s a scene in the book where the Brown kids help Samantha make burgers out of, well, it would be indecent to say.

As far as the rest of the series goes, I wish I had found them when I was younger.  Though I loved the first book to death I never found any other entries in the local used and new bookstores around the central Florida area.  There was an ad in the back of the first book which teased me with and informed me to look out for the second installment, Confessions of a Teenage Frog, and for years I was curious about the continuing adventures of Samantha Slade.  It wasn’t until the amazing gift that is the internet that I’ve managed to track it, and the rest of the series down in the last 10 years.  Confessions picks up where the last book left off with Samantha now the permanent sitter for the Browns.  While attempting to run for class president she partakes in Drake’s “Greatness Formula” which does little for the campaign, and in fact turns her into a frog.

In the third installment, Our Friend: Public Nuisance #1, Samantha is introduced to Lupi and Drake’s pet dinosaur Bubbles.  Drake invents an invisibility formula that makes Bubbles disappear, but he escapes the starts ravaging the town.  Samantha has to snap to action to corral the dinosaur and keep him safe from the nation guard and the angry townspeople as the invisibility formula begins to wear off.

The last installment revolves around Samantha and the kids starting up a band (called simply enough Blood) and entering into a battle of the bands.  This is probably my favorite cover in the series as the realization of the band in full glam/glitter rock glory is awesome…

I think these hold up pretty well, and aside from the questionable first person perspective (it gets old having Samantha explain and give internal commentary on everything), I was surprised at how enjoyable it was to read through them.