Tagline: “One picture is worth a thousand screams.” (My husband Scott insisted I start recording these. This is the best one yet.)
Premise: Greg and his friends break into an abandoned house in their neighborhood and find all manner of wacky vintage artifacts in the basement. One is a camera Greg brings home. Whenever he takes a photo with the camera, it depicts something terrible happening, something that, in the near future, comes true, including a car wreck and the sudden disappearance of a child (Greg’s friend Shari). In the end, it turns out that the camera is cursed and a mad scientist (the second one we’ve encountered in Goosebumps!) who sometimes hangs around the house the camera came from tells Greg and Shari all about it before … wait for it … dying from fear of the camera. This is the first actual death depicted in a Goosebumps book, thus making an otherwise unremarkable title remarkable.
Creepiness factor: Rather low. There’s a fairly well written scene in which Greg’s father takes his family out on a ride and nearly gets them in a fatal accident, but that’s not scary so much as nerve-wracking. (Nerve-racking? Someone look into this for me.)
Signature Stine moment: Something I’ve noticed is that the author loves breaking up paragraphs sentence by sentence for effect, as seen here.
“Cameras can’t be evil, after all.
Cameras can’t make people crash their cars. Or fall down the stairs.
Or vanish from sight.
Cameras can only record what they see.”
Accuracy of title: It’s a cute title, but it’s wildly inaccurate. Only one person in the book dies, and he definitely doesn’t take the time to say “Cheese” first. Really, “A Picture Worth a Thousand Screams” would’ve been better. Who’s writing these taglines? Why haven’t they been promoted?
Overall rating: 3.5/10. This one was quite a slog, worse even than Welcome to Dead House. Fortunately, we’re coming up on The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, which I remember had a particularly haunting television episode to go along with it.