Remember the one about the abominable snowman of Pasadena? If you do, you’re in for a treat when Jack Black, playing a gloriously pantomime horror version of real-life Goosebumps series writer R.L Stine, brings almost every favourite literary monster to life for the screen. For the uninitiated, Goosebumps is a children’s book series that ran between 1992 and 1997 with 62 titles – elusive writer Stine is purported to have written a Goosebumps novel every 2 weeks at its peak. Each Goosebumps book contains a monster appealing to the worst nightmares of children worldwide (see Night of the Living Dummy), which sparked a popular television show that every 90s kid will remember.
This shiny, Hollywood adaptation of Stine’s creations follows teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) as he moves from the big city to a small town and meets stunning next door neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush), the daughter of Jack Black’s creepy R.L Stine. Zach’s charming sarcasm and wit beyond his age puts the film in early danger of becoming a cheesy young adult romp, all fears are dashed when every monster ever written comes to life in incredible Cabin-in-the-Woods-for-kids’ style. The special effects leave a little to be desired but are sure to terrify younger audiences, while older ones will be distracted by the unshakeable feeling of nostalgia from films in a similar vein (think Gremlins and Ghostbusters).
Head baddie, Slappy the dummy (don’t call him a dummy), recalls childhood anxieties of evil, psychopathic dolls coming to life and speaks to the carnival-like nature of the film. Zach and Hannah exchange lines atop a big wheel on a beautiful abandoned fairground in the woods and some of the final fight sequences take place in a Funhouse, images that are sure to resonate with an audience who grew up with Stine’s view of nostalgic horror. A major down-point of the film comes in the creepy (but not in a good way) final ten minutes, which won’t make children flinch, but will raise a few adult eyebrows.
Absolutely the finest part of the flick is how perfectly it marries the spirit of each and every one of Stine’s novels: the ideal combination of horror and humour. The quips are far funnier than the 90s Fox TV counterpart with every moment that comes close to seriousness dissolved with a moment of comedy gold from the perfectly cast Jack Black. Its slapstick-goofiness-meets-pacy-hijinks will make the film a darling of the family-friendly, mini-monster fan purists and be sure to give you Goosebumps.
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures