You needn’t have read RL Stine’s immensely popular kiddie horror series in order to enjoy Goosebumps, the new Jack Black film that it’s spawned. But it’ll help to know that the movie isn’t an adaptation of any of Stine’s individual stories – it’s a clever ‘horror comedy’ that brings to life the entire series, and many of its monsters, all at once.
New York teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette) is less than thrilled about having to move to a new town when his
mum (Amy Ryan) gets a job there. Things look up when he gets chatting with Hannah (Odeya Rush), a pretty young girl who lives next door. But her over-protective and unfriendly father (Jack Black) keeps her locked inside their home, and forbids them from becoming friends. While attempting to rescue Hannah from house arrest, Zach and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) discover that her dad is horror author RL Stine, when they stumble upon a bookshelf full of Goosebumps manuscripts and accidentally unlock one, releasing the Abominable Snowman in Hannah’s living room.
Director Rob Letterman delivers more thrills than chills, keeping the pace brisk and the tone never too scary so as to turn off the young ones. When another of Stine’s literary creations, Slappy, the evil ventriloquist’s doll, escapes from his leatherbound jail, he unlocks every one of the books and unleashes every monster the author ever created into the unsuspecting town. This is a cue for some cool set-pieces, including an attack by a seemingly innocent army of garden gnomes. There’s also a car chase involving a giant praying
mantis, and a narrow escape from a bloodthirsty werewolf.
evokes memories of the Robin Williams starrer Jumanji, in which wild animals escape from a board game to wreak havoc on the real world. The CGI and visual effects in this film are far superior, and Black strikes just the right balance between creepy and funny. There’s a great running joke about Stine’s contempt for Stephen King that slightly older viewers will get.
There’s nothing path-breaking about Goosebumps, but it never bores. There’s an old-fashioned playfulness to the ‘horror’ scenes, and frankly I thought there were more laughs than scares. I’m going with three out of five. It’s one of those films that the family can watch together. Not a bad way to spend two hours.