It’s time to talk about Goosebumps yet again, as we’ve reached the anniversary of yet another of R.L.Stine’s classic children’s horror books. Some of you may be a little surprised to have seen this book appear here, as here in the UK Say Cheese and Die was the second book in the series released by Scholastic. But originally it was the fourth, so we’re doing it fourth. Publishing is weird right?
Speaking of weird, Say Cheese and Die is wonderfully Stineish in its weirdness, and follows a group of four friends who end up getting involved in a frightening situation. Greg, Shari, Doug, and Michael are trying to find something to keep them entertained in their small town, and the four of them decide to explore the mysterious Coffman House, an old, dilapidated building that local legend claims to be haunted. Breaking their way inside, the kids fail to find a ghost (something of a surprise for a book in this series), and instead discover an odd homeless man called Spidey.
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Avoiding Spidey, the four of them find a secret out-cove in one of the walls that hides a weird looking camera. Having an interest in photography, Greg decides to claim the camera for himself. He takes a picture of Michael, and the camera produces a photo from the front that shows Michael falling, rather than leaning against the railing like he was when it was taken. Moments later, the railing breaks, and Michael falls, injuring his ankle. Fleeing the house, as the noise has attracted Spidey, the kids take the camera with them.
Greg keeps using the old camera, and keeps getting strange photos. His father’s brand new car has a photograph of it wrecked, his brother’s picture shows him running across a baseball field looking afraid, and Doug’s picture shows him with his neck twisted at an odd angle. When the next day all of the pictures become real, his father’s car crashed, his brother running afraid to help him, and Doug getting injured, Greg begins to suspect that there’s something wrong with the camera. However, it isn’t until he takes a picture of Shari, who doesn’t appear in the photo, that things become really worrying, as Shari soon goes missing.
Say Cheese and Die is one of the more famous of the early Goosebumps books, not particularly because of the plot, but because of the cover. Here in the UK the cover showed an evil looking camera with a face sinking into some orange goo, but in the US the cover depicted a family of skeletons at a barbecue. This artwork, which depicted a scene that wasn’t originally in the book and had to be added later so that it matched, would go on to become one of the most remembered in the series. The fact that Stine liked it so much that he added an extra sequence into the book to include it, speaks to the popularity of the moment.
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Outside of this, Say Cheese and Die is a fairly standard haunted/cursed item type story, and doesn’t really feature many of the wild twists and shock endings that the series would be well remembered for. As such, there isn’t really a moment here that makes you shake your head and think ‘this is too silly’. It actually bears some passing similarity to the episode of The Twilight Zone ‘The Most Unusual Camera’, a series that Stine has said he’s a fan of and may have been an intentional homage to the show. Speaking of shows, this would be one of the stories that would go on to become part of the Goosebumps series, appearing in the first season.
One of the less wacky entries in the series, Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die came along a few months after the initial wave of releases and helped to keep the series selling well, with more than 2 million copies of the book being sold.
Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die was released in November 1992.