Goosebumps is a 2016 family horror film. Directed by Rob Letterman (Monsters VS Aliens) and starring Jack Black (School of Rock, King Kong), Dylan Minnette (Let Me In, Prisoners) and Odeya Rush (We Are What We Are). The film is based on the popular children's books by R.L Stine and 90s TV series.
The film starts off with a familiar Goosebumps setup. Zach (Minnette) is the new kid in the neighborhood and has moved in next to Hannah (Rush). The only problem is Hannah's overprotective and weird dad (Black), who seems intent on keeping her locked up in the house. This is where it starts to get meta. After Zach and his buddy Champ sneak into the house, they discover that, not only does Hannah's dad own a collection of Goosebumps books, but that he is R.L Stine himself! Unfortunately they learn this after accidentally opening one of the books and unleashing a menagerie of monsters on the unsuspecting town. The only way to get them back in? For Stine to write a new story that ends up becoming the plot of the film itself.
Goosebumps captures the feel of the original series (including a Danny Elfman score) and puts it through the Cabin in the Woods (2012) filter to freshen it up a little, with some Jumanji (1995) mechanics thrown in for good measure. Jack Black is surprisingly good as the semi-fictional version of Stine and even better as the iconic Slappy the dummy, who is perfect as the leader of the monsters. There is a good selection of monsters on show including the abominable snowman, the wolfman, a giant preying mantis and an assortment of gnomes. However, I still felt that there could have been more and sometimes they focused on the slightly more generic beasties.
The only part that let the film down a bit was the over reliance on cgi effects for the monsters, which were not of the highest standard (although they were dealing with a lot of different characters). Slappy was the only character rendered with practical effects (perhaps appropriate if he’s the leader) and a lot of the other monsters felt like they weren’t quite as alive as they should have been (particularly the gnomes who had lost a lot of their sinister qualities since the TV show). I also felt the romantic sub plot was somewhat unnecessary and bolted on and Hannah's character twist was pretty cheesy.
My expectations were fairly low for what is essentially a glossy, big budget reboot of a cult TV show that played such an important part in many horror fan’s childhoods. But, all things considered, this is probably as authentic a Goosebumps experience as could be expected in 2016, and on such a large scale. There might be an over reliance on CGI effects but that goes for the movie industry as a whole. Campy B-movie fun that the whole family can enjoy but unlikely to make the same impact as the original series.
*** 3 Stars
What did you think of Goosebumps? How does i compare to the books and TV show?