When it comes to R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books there’s a select generation who remember being kept up at night by the spooky stories.
From The Girl Who Cried Monster to The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb, the terrifying novels were a bookshelf staple for kids during the ’90s.
So when the idea came about to give the tales a new lease of life through a movie, who were director Rob Letterman and Stine himself aiming to attract?
Given that those who read the books are now in their late 20s or mid 30s, probably focusing on their careers rather than going to the cinema to reminisce about their childhood, this feature may have come a bit too late to be appreciated.
With a teenager called Zach (Dylan Minnette) as the protagonist its clear Goosebumps is aimed at today’s younger generation, especially as it focuses on him adjusting to life in Delaware after moving from New York with his mother Gale (Amy Ryan).
With his mum the new vice principal at his high school, and his annoying aunt Lorraine (Jillian Bell) living nearby and immediately commenting on how lucky it is that Zach is no longer ‘ugly’ upon their arrival, you’ve gotta feel sorry for the guy.
But things take a positive spin when Zach befriends his next door neighbour, the beautiful and witty Hannah (Odeya Rush). Sure, her overbearing and overprotective father (Jack Black) is a bit of a mood killer but the pair quickly bond after a date at an abandoned carnival in the woods.
Even her dad’s threats to stay away from his daughter aren’t enough to deter Zach, especially when he hears screams coming from their house one evening and calls the police.
Dumb cops seems to be a theme in kids’ films, and the two in this movie are as stupid and cringey as the rest, quickly dismissing Zach’s claims.
They do prove useful though when Zach prank calls Hannah’s dad impersonating a cop in a bid to get him out of the house, allowing him and his geeky friend Champ (Ryan Lee) to suss things out.
Things quickly escalate when they stumble upon a bookcase full of locked novels. “These are Goosebumps books!”
Champ excitedly points out, and soon all hell breaks loose when it’s revealed the characters come to life when the books are opened.
Turns out Black’s mysterious alter ego is R. L. Stine himself but even he can’t explain the happenings.
“One day they came to life!” he exclaimed, like the audience are meant to know how. Ventriloquist Slappy from Night of the Living Dummy – also voiced by Black – leads a revenge mission with the rest of the characters to kill Stine, because he’s angry at being imprisoned.
One thing for sure is that Goosebumps doesn’t waste any time getting into the action and there’s zero moments you’re left bored or waiting for something to happen throughout.
Sadly the plot is weak, and unoriginal – there’s an instant Jumanji vibe to proceedings, with the whole premise of Goosebumps being to get the characters back into their books… ring any bells?
Black’s accent is a little all over the place – he dips in and out of a stiff upper lip British inflection throughout and while he’s his usual comedic self, the funniest moment in the movie comes in the form of a cameo from Stine. “Who’s that?” Zach asks Black when he waves out to the elderly author walking through the school. “That’s Mr. Black, the drama teacher,” the actor quips.
Youngsters will undoubtedly enjoy this movie and all it has to offer – just don’t expect them to recognise any of the iconic Goosebumps characters.
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