It was nearly impossible for any kids growing up in the ‘90s to avoid hearing of R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series of horror novellas. With weird tales about living dummies, walking scarecrows and everything under the sun being haunted in some way, “Goosebumps” has marked many childhoods and continues to do so even today. The film adaptation centers on a fictionalized version of the famous author, played by Jack Black, in which the monsters of his book series are more than just literary characters. Does the film adaptation of one of the most famous novella series of all time do the books justice, or does this film give us goosebumps for all the wrong reasons? Well …
The Plot: After moving to a new town to get a fresh start, teenager Zach Cooper notices that his next-door neighbor Hannah has a somewhat creepy dad. Things only get stranger, when it is revealed that Hannah’s dad is none other than R. L. Stine, who for some reason locks all of his books away. When one of the books opens, the audience realizes that Stine’s monsters are so real that they literally jump off the page. Things go from bad to worse as the film’s main antagonist, series icon Slappy the Dummy, decides he is done being locked away and it is time for him and all his ghoulish friends to take revenge on their creator for locking them away. The plot is decent: monsters come out to play, and it is up to the heroes to save the day. The movie stands out, though, due to the truly memorable cast of creeps that star in it.
The Characters: The film gives us fine heroes. Teenagers Champ, Hannah and Zach are all played decently, and Black’s portrayal of Stine is also unique, although at times does feel like it is not quite in the spotlight. Some of the most memorable characters within the film are the monsters, especially Slappy the Dummy, who honestly feels like a children’s version of Heath Ledger’s Joker. I wish we could have seen more of the monsters, as they carry a lot of the films delight. However, there is a subplot involving one of the main characters that does feel a little poorly handled when it finally comes to a conclusion, which I really can’t give away without spoiling the movie. And speaking of conclusions, remember: it is a “Goosebumps” story.
Final Verdict: With Halloween right around the corner, I could think of no better film for any boils and ghouls looking for a good light-hearted (or no-hearted) horror-comedy. If you’re a fan of Goosebumps, it would be a crime not to see this love-letter to the famous franchise. The original Stine even makes an appearance — be careful not to blink, or you might miss him.