R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps were a huge part of the childhoods of now thirty-somethings across the globe. The stories got a generation into reading like few other books have managed. Hours spent reading and re-reading the creepy tales tore us away from Sonic and Mario and remained the staple literary diet for tweens until a certain Mr. Potter came muggling onto the scene.
So, it has been with rapt anticipation that many of us have been awaiting the long-coming Goosebumps movie. After the lost script penned by George Romero almost twenty years ago never surfaced, a ripple of excitement spread across the internet when it was finally announced that Jack Black would be starring in “one story with every monster ever crafted”.
The film begins in typical Goosebumps style; Zach (Dylan Minnette – Let Me In, Scandal) moves to a new town with his recently separated mother, soon meeting a sassy neighbour girl (Odeya Rush – See You in Valhalla, The Giver) and her reclusive father (Black). Of course, as the trailer somewhat preemptively showed us, the father just so happens to be the one and only R.L. Stine, who is currently keeping his creations locked in their respective books up in his dusty attics. When the abominable snowman breaks loose from his tome, he sets of a domino effect, leading living dummy Slappy (also Black) to rally the monsters in a revolt against their creator. To save the day, Stine must create a new tale of terror before his beasties can take over the town.
For fans of the original books, there are plenty of trips down memory lane, from the momentary appearance of the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, to the chills of delight that run down the spine as we first glimpse the abandoned theme park that must surely become Horrorland. That said, anyone with a relative familiarity to the series will guess the film’s biggest twist within moments of meeting the “girl” next door (see title of book ten for confirmation), and it’s something of a shame that there are only about half a dozen creatures that fans from the first time around will recognize, with the rest coming from Goosebumps 2000 and Goosebumps Most Wanted.
As such, the question arises of who exactly the film is for. Is it a nostalgia fest for fans of the originals, or is it for the rather more select group of readers of present. Original fans are surely not yet old enough to have kids of the age ready to get into the books (unless there was a spate in teen pregnancies amongst Goosebumps readers), and thus it seems this film is either a couple of decades too late or a few years too early to really boost book sales.
That said, it’s still great fun, with a cracking performance by Mr. Black, and Danny Elfman providing a creepy-as-ever soundtrack. If you were a Goosebumps fan as a kid, or ever if you just like downright silliness, this is family-friendly treat which hopefully will encourage kids of the iPad generation to pick up one of those dusty paper things on the bookshelf. Just so long as no giant praying mantises escape!
Dir: Rob Letterman
Scr: Darren Lemke
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee
Prd: Deborah Forte, Neal H. Moritz
DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe
Music: Danny Elfman
Run Time: 103mins
Goosebumps is out now in cinemas nationwide.