‘Goosebumps’ Review: The Books Come To Life

Posted in Screening Room by - October 21, 2015

As we near the end of Horrortober, I felt it necessary to take a respite from the tried and true horror and look at a recent entry into the genre: Goosebumps. I was particularly excited for the film as I had recently gone through the entire backlog of Goosebumps TV shows, along with being a huge fan of the books. That being said, the new film is a tribute to the original books/show but with a meta twist that is characteristically modern.

In the film, the Goosebumps books are real and the original manuscripts must be kept under lock and key because, if opened, would unleash the monsters upon the real world. R.L. Stine, played with aplomb by Jack Black, is also real and has disappeared off the public radar since the success of his books. Along with his daughter Hannah, he now lives in Madison, Delaware, keeping a low profile and raising her. All that changes when the Coopers move in next door and Zach Cooper begins to fall for Hannah. One evening, while trying to save Hannah from what he thinks her overbearing father, he opens one of the Goosebumps manuscripts on Stine’s shelf, unleashing the monsters contained within. 

The performances in the film are quite good, with most of the praise going to Jack Black as Stine. Black, known for his frenetic comedic energy, is more subdued than usual in the film but it works. There is also some internal struggle that he exudes since he has hidden himself away from the world as a result of the success of his books, another welcome dimension to his performance. Along with portraying Stine, Black also voices Slappy, the evil ventriloquist dummy and mastermind of evil plan, with darkly comedic glee. He is menacing in a fittingly comedic way, and it only makes sense that Black would voice his own creation. His turn as Slappy is easily the highlight of the film.

The real reason, along with Black’s performance, to check out the film is to see all of the Goosebumps monsters come to life. While the 90’s television show did a serviceable job of showing off Stine’s creations, the modern use of practical effects and CGI fully realize the cavalcade of monsters. Along with Slappy who is created aside from one or two scenes with practical effects, the monsters that get most focus are the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, a giant Praying Mantis, killer garden gnomes, and the Werewolf of Fever Swamp. They are all created in full CGI and, as a fan of the originals, it was really awesome to see them interacting with the characters on the big screen. I was a little disappointed that aside from the aforementioned monsters, the others are merely there to take up space in the crowd shots of the monsters wreaking havoc.

While Goosebumps is about as scary as going back and rereading one of Stine’s classic books now as an adult, the film does have great effects and two standout performances from Jack Black. It stays true to the Goosebumps name while also doing something unique with the source material in a less conventional way. The meta take on the novels is a really cool way to introduce the Goosebumps universe to a new audience, and with a sequel in the works, I am excited to see where they go from here.

Final Say: Watch It


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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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