Hey, it’s another episode revolving around child actors! So, deep breath and we’ll get through it.

We open on a suburb, and a pan in on the house of That Neighbor, the one with garbage bags in their yard and trash on their porch, while we hear a woman screaming at and hitting some children from inside. The kids, Mike and Janine (played by the kids off Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Mrs. Doubtfire, leave their house to approach a neighbor boy bashing his GI Joes and Transformers together, and affect disinterest in his toys because they’ve got a playhouse. They lure the boy into the Amityville looking place, which somewhat underwhelms him, and promise him that the playhouse will give him whatever he wants, if he just waits it out a bit. We see some winds and swirling lights, and Mike and Janine leave the playhouse, alone, while the boy’s mother starts to wander the streets calling for him.

That night at the shop, Micki is busy watching the news and feeling sad when she sees a report on the ninth child to go missing from the neighborhood we were just shown, and I’m all for free range parenting, but when eight other kids have already gone missing, maybe you don’t let your kids play in the front yard unsupervised. The gang makes plans for which artifacts they’re going to track down the next day, and Ryan pulls the “haunted evil playhouse of evil” straw. The next day the gang heads over to the suburbs to find the playhouse, while Mike and Janine find themselves locked out, and determine that it’s easier to find another kid to feed to it instead of reporting their abusive, negligent mother to Not Canadian CPS. They lure two little girls to the playhouse, and we finally get to see the place in action. And it’s basically a cleared out FAO Schwartz as designed by Escher, with a little bit of “omnipotent cosmic villain ala Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who” thrown in for good measure. And the kids play nicely for a bit, until the playhouse gets hungry and Mike and Janine begin ritually chanting “we hate you” and the little girls get sucked into a featureless white void.

Our heroes are starting to wonder if maybe there’s a link between children disappearing and an evil haunted cursed playhouse in the neighborhood, but their only lead wants $5000 to tell them where the playhouse is (or $7,000 in modern real money). The decision to go door-to-door and ask grieving parents about missing kids doesn’t do much to help, either. In the meantime, Mike and Janine are in a panic as their mother has decided to sell the playhouse back to her dirtbag ex-boyfriend, just as Ryan and Micki stumble upon the playhouse and hide inside to escape detection. And get sucked into Escherland. Where the kids tie them up and torment them with clowns and people in mascot suits, taking only a brief break to frame their mother’s scumbag ex for the child abductions. Jack finds his way into the playhouse, just in time for it to get hungry again. The kids attempt to feed Micki and Ryan to the house, but it refuses to eat them because they’re not children, and so starts to suck Janine into the featureless white void instead. At which point we discover that the playhouse is vulnerable to the Care Bear Stare, and Mike and Janine begin chanting “we care about you” to bring all the children eaten by the house back. And the police are there to watch all the missing children walk out of the playhouse that they just confirmed was empty seconds ago. And Mike and Janine are taken away by CPS and an innocent man is left in jail.

This is one of those episodes where ambition outstripped execution. Going back to the “evil child” well was a nice change of pace, even if in the end the show didn’t have the courage to stick with the kids being evil or the missing children being killed/removed from reality/made non-existent. You can tell some attempts at arresting visuals also went into the design of the world inside the playhouse, although again it appears that budget constraints meant that things had to be suggested rather than shown. The antique itself is also one of the more compelling ones, given that it operates with some degree of intelligence and that, within the specific context of its world, it’s easily the most powerful of the cursed objects. Though it’s size does raise some questions about how, exactly, it’s going to fit in the vault.

A Very Robey 80s

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