What it's about:
Upset about moving from a big city to a small town, teenager Zach Cooper finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl living right next door, Hannah. But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah has a mysterious dad who is revealed to be R. L. Stine, the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series. It turns out that there is a reason why Stine is so strange… He is a prisoner of his own imagination – the monsters that his books made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorise the town, it’s suddenly up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah to get all of them back in the books where they belong.
What we thought:
My love for horror movies can be traced back to the first time I started reading the Goosebumps books as a kid, having to convince my mother despite the scary illustrations it is a kid’s book. When it was adapted to a TV series, I religiously watched it every Friday on the long-gone KTV, and I admit it gave me some terrible nightmares, but I couldn’t give it up.
R.L Stine is a great children’s writer, and as he advised the filmmakers when they made the film adaptation, he knows how to be scary without traumatising young minds. On the big screen, the producers understood that rule very well and brought the books (literally) to life in a way that can be watched by young kids. Even the adults who grew up on the books can enjoy the film’s homage to your childhood terrors.
Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mother move to a sleepy town after the death of his father. He befriends the girl next door (Odeya Rush), but is warned many times to stay away by her overzealous father (Jack Black). Fearing she might be in trouble, Zach and his goofy friend (Ryan Lee) break into the house and discover locked Goosebumps manuscripts. Unwittingly they open one, unleashing the monsters trapped between the pages.
I was quite sceptical about this adaptation, as anyone is when a childhood favourite gets a bash on the big screen, but I was pleasantly surprised by clever scriptwriting, unique characters and impressed with the producers ability to capture the essence of Goosebumps. As an adult, I would have liked something a little more bloodcurdling, but one has to understand it’s a scary story for young kids, but I still cracked up at some great Jack Black-esque jokes.
Jack Black movies border on Adam Sandler movies – they used to be great but have become outdated – but I still like his jokes and although he can be very over the top, his comedic style can still make you crack your ribs. He seemed to devour every line and scene, and it was evident that he had a real passion for his character and the story, as if he’s a fanboy whose dreams of being in a Goosebumps story came true. In Goosebumps though, Black’s performance was perfectly matched with his young co-stars, Minnette and Lee, who kept up well with the veteran’s comedic timing and performed great execution of one-liners.
Interestingly, these two were also in the television adaption of ‘R.L Stine’s The Haunting Hour’. Credit should also be given to the writers who kept the dialogue fresh and didn’t fall into the ‘surly teen who hates life’ trope. Even before the monsters escaped, many references were made to classic horror movie tropes like walking into a scary forest and hearing a noise behind you, all of which makes you feel like you’re in one of R.L Stine’s books. (Also look out for a small cameo from the man himself.)
One thing that seemed a bit pasted on was the character of Hannah, who plays the writer’s on-screen daughter. It felt like they needed something to help pull some loose strands of the plot together, but ended up with a very placid character, with no real character development. Also her part in the end was very much a cop-out to a happy ending, but then again one should remember this is for kids and they like their happy endings.
Slappy the dum… puppet is enough to keep things creepy.
For the parents, the monsters in the film are pretty kid-friendly and they stuck more with the big monsters than the ones that can scar you mentally (although I will never trust gnomes again). A little scare on Halloween weekend is good for the brain, life is more traumatising than any monsters trapped behind a big screen.
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