RL Stine’s vision of keeping scary as not too scary is captured in an enjoyable trip for veterans of the series and newcomers alike.
The first thing to note is that Goosebumps is a movie for kids, a fun mix of horror and comedy appropriate for the whole family. Rather than focus on a single entry in the popular series, the film focuses on the series itself and the many scares it’s known for. Kicking off the atmosphere the way a goosebumps story should, we see teenage protagonist Zach (Dylan Minnette) who’s recently moved from New York to the small town of Madison, where his mother (Amy Ryan) has taken on the job of Vice Principal at the local high school. The chemistry between these too is very enjoyable, and makes for fun exchanges of one liners and sarcasm fueled humor. Zach happens to live next door to Hannah (Odeya Rush), a curious and straight forward girl who strikes up a friendship with Zach very early on in the movie. Hannah plays Jack Black’s daughter, referred to as Mr. Shivers at first but later on revealed as the master of horror himself, RL Stein, who is overprotective and unapproachable in a “stay off my property” kind of way.
The pacing of the film is very fluid and moves past introductions in a timely manner. Shortly after introducing the film’s comic relief and nerdy sidekick to our hero, a business card carrying student named Champ (Ryan Lee), the movie sees the protagonists breaking into RL Stein’s study where all his manuscripts are kept and accidentally, but ideally release all of his previously written horrors into the real world. Enter Slappy, front and center. The murderous du.. Don’t call him a dummy, but rather the film’s antagonist voiced by Jack Black. Whenever Slappy comes on screen, the atmosphere turns to a somber one where kids can feel the actual threat and eerie factor behind a talking doll who resents his creator for locking him away on a shelf, thus releasing every monster to terrorize the town of Madison.
The film features over a dozen monsters from previous goosebumps iterations, revolving around the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, Slappy, Will Blake from the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Lawn Gnomes, and a giant praying mantis from “A shocker on shock street” who not only makes for some very creepy scenes for the younger ones, it also happens to be its first on screen appearance. Other monsters in the film have some cameos or brief appearances, one of my favorite would have to be Fifi the vampire poodle from “Don’t feed the Vampires”, while the rest of the gallery of Rogues is only depicted in passing, it was certainly gratifying to try and spot characters like “The haunted Mask”, “The Mummy”, “Pumpkinhead”, and “the executioner” among others.
Jack Black’s portrayal of an antisocial RL Stein is perfect in the sense it doesn’t try to be too serious but never funny to the point it feels overbearing, his sudden outbursts had me laughing for the majority of the movie without taking away from the rest of the casts shot at humor due to the on-screen chemistry between every character being a balanced one.
Goosebumps is a movie that knows it’s meant for kids and doesn’t try to be flashy, I heard plenty of younger members of the audience asking to be taken to the nearby bookstore to pick up the goosebumps ‘Book’, and another girl explaining “Night of the living Dummy” to her parents. If Goosebumps can peak the interest of younger audience members into the world of reading then I believe it’s done right by the series. The soundtrack is composed by Danny Elfman who I am currently listening to in order to write this review and it’s making me want to watch it all over again.
Let us know what you think if you head out to the theaters this weekend in the comments down below or over @NerdworkTweets! Oh and try to spot Mr. Stein’s cameo in the movie, and if you haven’t done so yet hop on over to Nerdist.com and check out MF Bumps and Jack Black’s “The Bumps Gonna Goose Ya”