An Australian horror novel series for kids from 1997, coauthored by Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman. The same authors would later go on to write Deadly!, a similarly-themed series about a family of evil scientists discovering the formula of eternal youth.
Received an animated adaptation in the early 2000s that ran for 26 episodes.
A widower with a teenage daughter and a widow with a teenage son are getting married. Much to the distaste of their children, who hate each other and find constant reasons to argue. The fixation that Rory, the boy, has on an "appleman" — a doll with a head made from a dried out apple — that is the only thing he has left of his Disappeared Dad is an excellent excuse for Dawn (the girl). And then worms emerge from the apple... worms with tongues. That suck the guts out of other living creatures. And then things get really eerie...
- Adaptational Dye-Job: Dawn is blonde in the books while in the cartoon she's a redhead.
- Animated Adaptation: A 26 episode cartoon series ran in the early 2000s.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: How Dawn sees Rory. Not without reason though as he took her precious Milo tin to use as a container for the worm infested Appleman doll.
- Artifact of Doom: Rory's appleman, which is infected with the Virus.
- Attack Of The50ft Whatever: Frogs infected by the Virus eventually sacrifice themselves to one of their own, to turn him into a monster-frog large enough to swallow humans whole.
- Blended Family Drama: Dawn and Rory aren't keen on their single parents marrying as the two kids hate each other's guts. They grow out of it while working together against the threat of the virus.
- Body Horror:
- The effects the Virus has on human beings. They grow increasingly covered in thick white mold, which starts eating away at their flesh. Rory's dad shows up in the final book after having been infected for years, and doesn't look like anything human. In the animated series, it actually promotes the appleman from "Artifact of Doom" to "Big Bad" by changing Rory's dad so he's driven insane and develops a head exactly like a half-eaten apple.
- The description of victims of Slobberers. Having your entrails and flesh sucked out of your body through holes bitten in your skin is not a comforting thought.
- Character Narrator: The narration switches from Dawn's to Rory's point of view and vice-versa between chapters.
- Cool Old Guy: Dawn's grandfather, Gramps; a little dotty, but he's the only adult help that Rory and Dawn have in facing off against the Virus.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover for Part 1 has a colossal demonic-looking face looking down on a cluster of skyscrapers and laughing. No part of the actual story alludes to any of this.
- Subsequent covers also had a habit of depicting events that happened in the previous book. i.e. Book 3 has one of the killer sheep on the cover when they were only a threat in Book 2 and Book 4 had the giant frog on the front cover- when it had died in Book 3. By Book 5 this habit has been kicked.
- Disappeared Dad: Rory's dad. It turns out he didn't abandon his family, but left when he realized he was being consumed by the Virus, as he didn't want to infect them.
- In the cartoon, the virus turns Rory's dad into the Big Bad Appleman.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Any animal infected by the Virus becomes a homicidal monster. Worms turn into Slobberers, multi-tongued pack hunting predators that suck the internal organs of their victims out through holes they bite in the skin. Sheep have their wool turn into steel wool and become smart enough to use tractors. Frogs willingly feed themselves to the biggest frog so that he can grow into a man-eating giant... A dried-up appleman becomes the source of a monstrous vine-like weed. You get the point!
- Expository Theme Tune: The cartoon series has one:From across the ocean, on a cold dark night
Something is coming, and it doesn't feel right!
And it sucks the good from everything in sight!
Feel the evil in its cool, green light...
Transformed by a virus that feeds on hate
The Appleman works in his lab and waits
For hatred to fill his darkest schemes
So don't get angry, or you'll fulfil his dreams!
- Fire-Forged Friends: Rory and Dawn bond over the course of the series while fending off the virus mutants.
- Hate Plague: What the Virus is, in a rather zigzagging way; it drives those who are infected with it to feel hatred, and grows stronger by feeding off of their hate and rage, which allows it to mutate its victims as they become more and more hate-filled.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Turns out the cartoon version of the Appleman is actually Rory's father.
- Mad Scientist: The Appleman in the cartoon, who plans to spread the virus all over the world through his mutants.
- Mental Time Travel: When Rory gets infected by the virus, he always mentally time-travels back to the day of the bus-accident.
- Monster of the Week: The various mutant monsters created by the virus. Whilst more prominent in the cartoon, the books have a different horror in each book, with only the Slobberers returning more than once.
- No OSHA Compliance: The old refinery, in both the books and the cartoon.
- Revive Kills Zombie: While not undead per se, the Appleman's virus in the cartoon can be killed off by using things like cleaning detergent and medicine. In an episode, the Appleman is defeated by being knocked into a puddle of herbal home remedy, which causes his skin to sizzle like it's burning.
- Stock Footage: The animated series would recycle animation a lot, possibly to save on time and money. It's especially noticeable whenever The Appleman falls into a pile of thorns in an episode and they end up using the same "Appleman pulls thorns out of his face" scene for that episode's ending.
- We Can Rule Together: The Appleman tries this with Rory in the cartoon. It doesn't work.