Premise: After being fired from his job, Margaret and Casey’s botanist father begins some radical experiments in their basement, where he doesn’t want anyone else to be. The reasons for this become obvious when Margaret and Casey see the plants he’s been creating, mutated vegetation, a combination of plant and animal DNA. In the end, it turns out that their father’s experiments went awry to the point that he created an entire plant version of himself, one that locks the real father and his former boss in the closet (!) and proceeds to steal his life. In the end, it’s up to Margaret to determine which man is which. The only way is through stabbing one or the other (!!!)–and she does. Now, how terrific is that?
Creepiness factor: Surprisingly high. The scares run the gamut from a man creating a plant copy of himself to said Plant Man wielding an axe and a daughter stabbing her father in order to confirm his identity. It’s pretty dark stuff for a kids’ book, and a reminder of why these books were at one point somewhat controversial.
Signature Stine moment: A killer simile describing one of the botanist’s plants: “Another low moan, a mournful sound, muffled, like air through a saxophone.”
Accuracy of title: 100% accurate, although by book’s end, going in the basement is the only way to keep their father and his pantsless boss alive.
Overall rating: 7/10. This was what I was looking for when I started re-reading these books. There’s a genuinely creepy feel, plus a thoroughly original idea at work and the typical Stine-ian jump moments that help make the series so endearing. Also, I can’t overstate this stabbing incident. So good.