Let’s just state the obvious.
Ventriloquist dummies are creeping as Hell and no one sane should own one. Seriously, I’ve seen enough movies and TV shows about living dummies that there’s no way I would ever allow myself to be near one. They’re always talking about their wild sex lives (which, considering the state of the lower half of their body, I kind of suspect that they’re lying about) and complaining about someone having their clammy hand inside of them and, apparently, if you don’t keep them happy, they’ll try to kill you and everyone that you love. Stay away from the dummies!
R.L. Stine obviously understands the inherent creepiness of the ventriloquist dummy as well. The 1993 YA horror novel, Night of the Living Dummy, is about two sisters who get into a dummy-inspired rivalry. When Lindy finds a ventriloquist dummy in the garbage, she names it Slappy and soon, she’s the most popular kid around, which …. seems kind of strange. But who knows? Maybe in 1993, ventriloquism was really cool instead of being ultra creepy. Lindy’s sister, Kris, gets a dummy of her very own. She names him Mr. Wood. Now, there’s two ventriloquist dummies in the house!
And …. they appear to hate each other….
Once you get passed the idea of a young ventriloquist being popular as opposed to shunned by society, Night of the Living Dummy is a fun little book, featuring both a realistic portrait of sisterhood and a memorably nasty dummy. Mr. Wood is a real instigator, insulting everyone he meets and mocking a teacher for being overweight. And yet, is Mr. Wood doing this himself or is he just an extension of Kris’s anger and jealousy towards her sister? It’s an interesting idea, though Stine is smart enough not to get bogged down in subtext. He understands that his readers are reading the book because they want some demonic dummy action and he delivers a lot of that.
I can’t end this review with pointing out that today is R.L. Stine’s 77th birthday! Happy birthday and thank you for the chills!