Anyone who grew up with R.L. Stine’s horror series Goosebumps will delight at this re-imagining of the classic 90s monsters, most noticeably the Abominable Snowman and ever-terrifying Slappy the Dummy. Your favourite monster is sure to make an appearance in between The Werewolf of Fever Swamp and The Haunted Car. Although on the surface the film may appear to be aimed at a younger audience, the myriad of flashbacks to the original books makes this a real tribute to millennial nostalgia.
Jack Black’s mysterious-but-goofy portrayal of the enigmatic R.L. Stine is by far the highlight of the film. An eccentric loner, Black manages to remain the wittiest and most engaging character in the face of a pun-loving dummy and giant praying mantis. The characters all master the brief, dad-joke dialogue making for an amusing and fast-paced plotline. Bonus points to whoever picked up on the School of Rock parallels when R.L. Stine meets the high-school’s new drama teacher.
The action is chaotic and tongue-in-cheek. A full-on fight scene involving garden gnomes sets the scene for this silly, spooky flick. While it is hard to believe our main heroes – lead boy, girl next door, and token nerd – have any chance against the comically over-threatening monsters, each time a new Goosebumps nightmare is resurrected, the imagination and detail is enchanting. The chaotic monster sequences capture all the childhood magic of reading under the covers and bumps in the dark. In a noticeable effort to propel Goosebumps into the 21st century, perhaps to distance it from the laughable special effects of the 90s Goosebumps TV series, CGI is used to the extreme. Combined with 3D, the action sequences have a tendency to come off as over-processed and fake.
However, the story itself is playfully reminiscent of corny 80s blockbusters Ghostbusters or The Monster Squad. Twists right up until the end will keep you guessing, if you don’t think too far ahead.
Goosebumps is an entertaining watch, with several genuinely funny gags and a charmingly self-aware storyline. Bring a child as an excuse to watch this film guilt-free, or bite the bullet and go with grown-ups: your inner child should suffice.
Image: Vagueonthehow; Flickr.com