Goosebumps Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Sony Pictures
Directed by Rob Letterman
Written by Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski and R.L. Stine
2015, 103 minutes, Rated PG (UK)
Released on 5th February 2016
Jack Black as Stine / Slappy / Invisible Boy
Dylan Minnette as Zach
Odeya Rush as Hannah
Ryan Lee as Champ
Amy Ryan as Gale
Jillian Bell as Lorraine
Halston Sage as Taylor
Goosebumps is back and for those familiar with the novellas/TV series written by R.L Stine in the 90s you won’t be disappointed. The movie screams fun and monster madness as the story takes you down a willowy path of child-friendly surreal and supernatural horror.
In classic Goosebumps style, the story opens with teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mum Gale (Amy Ryan) who’ve recently moved into a suburb in Madison, Delaware. The autumnal setting is perfect for the folly which follows, and quite quickly, as Zach gets acquainted with Hannah, the girl next door and her angry father R.L Stine (Jack Black) who immediately orders him to stay away. After hearing Hannah scream one night, Zach is convinced there’s a family domestic and breaks into Mr Stine’s house bringing along his new best friend Champ (Ryan Lee). While trying to locate Hannah, they stumble across a shelf full of Goosebumps manuscripts where each book is sealed and locked. They soon realise they’re in the house of the ‘mysterious writer’ R.L Stine who disappeared years ago. Excited by this discovery, they open one of the books only to have Hannah come in and tell them "My dad is going to be so mad!". The book suddenly comes to life as a whirlwind expels from its pages and the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena rises from the torrent. Unluckily for them, The Night of the Living Dummy book is also opened and sociopath dummy Slappy makes his return, unlocking all of the other books to avenge his creator R.L Stine.
The film pays homage to Stine and his Goosebumps series, but also parodies his notarial reputation for being ‘Stephen King for kids,’ highlighting the fiction-based rivalry throughout the movie.
With over 200 Goosebumps books, you can roughly account for monsters, ghouls, ghosts and blobs above this figure and many of which you’ll recognise in the movie. The Revenge of the Gnomes returns five times more sinister, terrorising everyone in the neighbourhood. Impressive CG effects cater for some fantastic action sequences although very Gremlin-esque. Hopping in between the madness you’ll spot the little girl from The Haunted Mask, known to be one of Stine’s favourite stories. Horror wouldn’t be horror without a wander through a graveyard with ghouls from tale Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls. A favourite of mine, writhing in its botanical glory is Dr Brewer’s plant clone from Stay Out of the Basement! You can also expect killer bees, Mummies, a giant preying mantis, evil pumpkins, the blob monster and Stine’s trademark amusement park.
Jack Black plays the writer as a grumpy narcissist whose insecurities have led him to exorcise his personal demons through his writing. But his character is assassinated by the likes of evil dummy Slappy and lines like "I know you Stine, I created you. Or is it the other way around? I always forget", which suggest that R.L Stine’s character is a sociopath-borderline-psychopath. Of course, it also shows you that every writer has demons and writing is like therapy.
Although Goosebumps is enjoyable for adults, it’s still very much a kids movie. Trio Zach, Champ and Hannah bring to life what we all remember from the TV series: fun-loving, curious, innocent kids. On screen performances are so natural that you feel like you want the kids to combat evil and succeed. Among the weird we have stories which promote family values, love, friendship and morals. It’s probably why Stine’s books were so popular, because everyone loves a happy ending and nobody really dies.
Goosebumps could be the revival of the ‘90s-kid movie’ which we all loved. It’s much like Jumanji and even The Addams Family with the magical book scene where Uncle Fester unleashes a hurricane in the house when trying to rescue Morticia Addams. The score by Danny Elfman is equally reminiscent of movies Flubber, Edward Scissorhands (and let's face it most Tim Burton movies) and Men in Black. It pulls together everything we remember from movies of that period and it’s such a breath of fresh air because the it has a healthy balance of live-action, special effects and CGI. Goosebumps isn’t heavily reliant on VFX like a lot of kid’s movies today.
It just goes to show keeping it simple creates more of a sentimental movie. All you have to do is ask yourself what is your favourite kids movie, and then check the year. More often than not, it’ll be from the 70s, 80s or 90s.