Get Into The Halloween Spirit With ‘R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series’ Season 4 Premiere

The Haunting Hour

Burgeoning young horror fans have plenty of scares to look forward to in this Saturday, October 4th (4PM ET/PT) two episode premiere of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series season four. The back to back episodes “I’m Not Martin” and “Grandpa’s Glasses” both use the unknown of the past to spook modern kids, although “I’m Not Martin” is the far more effective episode of the pair. While “I’m Not Martin” is pure horror, “Grandpa’s Glasses” is a ghost story with a side of pathos– which some members of the audience may need if they want to sleep after watching the first half-hour of the premiere.

“I’m Not Martin” stars The Goldbergs‘ Sean Giambrone as a young boy (also named Sean) staying overnight in the hospital to get his tonsils out. His older brother does his brotherly duty by telling Sean a story of a mischievous patient named Martin from the’50s who switched his chart with the boy’s in the next bed, leaving his roommate to have his foot amputated instead of his tonsils taken out. If the premise sounds dark for kids that is because it is.

What follows is a story that would fit quite nicely in the American Horror Story franchise, minus the explicit blood. Shot with the lighting and surreality of a hazy, fever dream, the episode sends Sean running through corridors in the past, faced with menacing doctors and nurses who are convinced he is Martin. While most horror anthology series aimed at children pull their punches by hiring cardboard actors and using cheap special effects, The Haunting Hour creates a sharply acted and written installment with the edge of reality on its side. Who hasn’t worried about going into the hospital for a procedure only to have something go horribly awry? The uncertainty is multiplied if the patient is a child too small to fight back against the doctors and nurses who insist he is someone else.

The most startling part of “I’m Not Martin” is just how vivid the episode is in describing and threatening unnecessary amputation. Not only is Sean strapped to a bed at one point, he is faced with unfamiliar technology (rotary phones will get you every time) and a doctor who breaks out various rusty saws. There is even the suggestion of sexual innuedo between the crazed doctor and nurse, an odd aside that only adds to the gruesomeness of Sean’s impending fate. A word of warning: the episode is so genuinely scary, younger children should probably not watch unless they are seasoned Haunting Hour viewers. It is terrifically scary, but also graphic and disturbing even for an adult who has seen her share of horror movies.

After the goosebumps of “I’m Not Martin” have subsided, The Haunting Hour sends another young boy into the past, metaphorically this time. In “Grandpa’s Glasses” a boy who never met his grandfather, goes to help his mother clear out his grandfather’s belongings after his passing. Fascinated by the dusty objects lining the walls of his adventurer grandfather’s home, the little boy puts on his grandfather’s old spectacles and begins to see horrors in the house. For a while, the episode sustains the mystery and creepiness of its premise, but it never reaches the spellbinding heights of fear inherent in “I’m Not Martin.” The softer outing will either be a letdown or a relief, depending on how you view the opening half hour.

Children and parents alike should find something to shiver over in the season four return of The Haunting Hour. As a whole, the hour perfectly ushers in the Halloween season. Just be aware that it is best to heed the parental guidance warning unless you want your children to wake up screaming I’m not Martin in the middle of the night…then again, what is Halloween for, if not for inducing a few sleepless nights over a well-crafted ghost story?

Follow me on Twitter @sljbowman