The Goosebumps book and TV series, for many, were an introduction to horror that none forgot in a hurry. Responsible for many sleepless nights, the quirky, but spooky, tales never failed to both terrify and amuse at the same time. The new film captures this perfectly, with strong leads and fun dialogue that keeps the film moving. It may be a kids film, but it has some punch.

When Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves into a new seemingly boring neighbourhood, he has no idea that his new neighbour is none other than R. L Stein (Jack Black), author of the Goosebumps series. But Stein is a recluse, locked up with his daughter and 100s of Goosebumps manuscripts – manuscripts locked shut to keep the horrors within from entering the real world. It will come as no surprise that these books do not remain locked for long. Very quickly, all hell breaks loose as all those childhood terrors take over the town. Thankfully, this is NOT a straight adaptation of any one of the various books. Instead, this focuses on author Stein’s battle with his fictional creations come to life. This allows for a number of meta moments, most enjoyably references to Stein’s biggest competitor, Stephen King and his, arguably, better received books.

Perhaps where Goosebumps succeeds most, is in catching the essence of the original book series perfectly. With a quirky mix of horror and comedy, the film manages to venture successfully into both genres more successfully than most. Of course, it’s a Goosebumps film so, as with the books, the true stars are the array of beasts and monsters that are unleashed. Fans of the books will be delighted to learn that reoccurring book villain, Slappy the Living Dummy (voiced by Jack Black), is the central antagonist, leading the monstrous hordes against Stein, his wise-cracking nature from the books transferring fantastically to the big screen, able to amuse both young and old audiences. Accompanied by werewolves, ghouls, giant pink blobs and The Invisible Boy to name just a few, the monstrous army is something to behold, showcasing the best of the Goosebumps franchise. This being said, on the human side, Jack Black is fantastic as Stein, managing to develop from creepy, slightly sinister weirdo to something of a hero, whilst never losing his comedic edge. His relationship with Champ (Ryan Lee) is particularly enjoyable to watch, and allows Champ’s particularly annoying and cowardly character to become ever so slightly less annoying.

The most surprising element of the film (and one that, to some, may feel slightly out of place) is a deceased father sub-plot that frames the main plot line. Offering an unusual level of depth and emotion to what is otherwise a spooky romp, the look at loss and grief did help to elevate the film beyond your standard children’s spook-fest. Though not offering anything particularly incredible, Goosebumps far surpassed my expectations and was actually thoroughly enjoyable.

The Verdict:
Though Goosebumps never offers anything ground-breaking, fans of the original series will be very pleased with this latest big screen outing. For a supposed ‘kids’ film, it offers some adult-sized scares.

Henry Stanley

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Images sourced from Goosebumps, Sony Pictures.

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