I ended the last review by recalling that this show started to get real bad as it progressed in its run. I was more on the nose than I thought because as it turns out, it gets bad almost immediately. Maybe “bad” is too harsh, but “far less good” is certainly not an understatement as we go to the second episode - The Cuckoo Clock of Doom.
What an odd choice for the second episode. I get why The Haunted Mask was chosen as the lead story. I remember that one being very popular, even with people who weren’t that into the series. Now it comes time to select the next story, of which you have dozens to choose from. Why this one? This feels like the one you do late in the series run when you’re starting to get desperate but don’t want to craft an original story.
So in this one our hero is 12-year-old Michael but from here on out I will be referring to him as Dopey Haircut because my god, look at him. Dopey Haircut is not happy with his life because his little sister Tara is a nightmare, his Mom seems completely oblivious to it, and his Dad’s seemingly only goal these last few years has been to buy an antique cuckoo clock. Things aren’t going great for this kid.
We quickly see his twelfth birthday, which is ruined by the following: Tara revealing he has a crush on a girl (the idea that there was a period in life where you were made fun of for liking girls is blowing my mind right now) and then tripping him while he’s carrying his cake so he does a face plant right into it. The best part of the scene is easily his friends, who have the most overplayed “HA HA HA HA HA” laugh you’ve ever heard. Seems the director should have made them redo that scene and have them laugh like actual human beings do, but I imagine the budget was whatever they saved by not buying coffee while filming episode 1, so maybe nothing could be done.
Thankfully though, this cuckoo clock the Dad’s obsessed with is all magic and shit, so when Dopey Haircut turns the bird’s head around (it’s in an effort to frame Tara so he doesn’t do it for fun, but that would be way better) he starts going back in time! He goes through his twelfth birthday again, which means we get to watch the exact same scenes we just saw a few minutes ago. For a 20 minute show this feels wasteful. Also how does he fall for the birthday cake trip again when he knows damn well it’s coming this time?!
So he goes to bed that night and wakes up in the morning as a six-year-old who is a better actor than his 12-year-old counterpart. However, he ruins all good will almost immediately when he finds out he is now six, and proceeds to do the Home Alone scream. Hands on the face and everything. It sounds so much like the Home Alone scream I’m not convinced they didn’t just use the same audio. I wonder if on set somebody realized the actor looked like MacCauley Culkin and so they thought this would be hilarious, but shame on the rest of the crew for not immediately putting a stop to that. It’s so bad I had to physically stop watching and gather myself up again.
Let’s get sidetracked for a second. My wife and I, very early in our relationship, decided that we needed a password that we could use if something freaky is happening to one of us and we need the other person to know we’re being serious. So if I’m travelling through time or saw a ghost in the shower, I just say the word and she knows immediately that I’m of sound mind and not fucking around, and we need to deal with this time travelling ghost problem or whatever. We also will pass this code along to our children. That way we can easily avoid the situation this episode presents, where the parents just assume the kid is sick or fucking around so they don’t believe him that they need to go to an antique store and turn the head of a cuckoo bird back around so he doesn’t vanish in time. I’m not going to take that chance with my kids because with me, I just assume that situation is inevitable.
There’s a strange part during the six-year-old sequence where he runs off to the antique store, only to find it’s closed. On the way there a homeless guy asks him for change and then creepily follows him for a while while ominous music plays. Then he just, goes away. Nothing comes of it at all. Maybe the book dealt more with it? Either way it feels out of place and meaningless.
In our last scenario he wakes up as a baby but thanks to his dad’s unsettling love of antiques, he takes the kid there on a walk. Also thanks to his parents being frighteningly neglectful of their baby, they leave him unattended long enough for him to get out of his stroller, climb up to the front of the clock, and turn the bird’s head around right before his parents grab him.
In the end he wakes up as a 12-year-old again and everything seems back to normal. Except, oh shit, the year Tara was born is missing from the clock so she no longer exists! The end! It seems strange to have the happy ending be the complete eradication of a child from existence, but I guess she did trip him so fuck her.
Cuckoo Clock of Doom is not quality television, especially following the surprisingly decent Haunted Maskepisode. The acting is poor, the plot is decent in concept but boring in execution, and it’s overall uninteresting. Apparently it’s the only episode to never be released on VHS. That tells you everything you need to know right there.
I also just read that apparently R.L. Stine called this his favourite book in the whole series. Let’s just assume he was messing with us.