Darren Lemke (Screenplay)
Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (Story)
R.L. Stine (Based on his books)
When news broke that a Goosebumps movie was being put into production for a 2015 release, many people were confused. Goosebumps as a book series has not been exactly relevant over the past few years, and many horror fans who grew up with the books and television series (myself included) were unable to comprehend how they could tackle the source material. For myself, the announcement of Jack Black in the role of author R.L. Stine only made things worse, as I can’t stand anything the man does that isn’t Tenacious D. But then something weird happened as the film came closer to release. Word of mouth was good, and the hype train appeared to be chugging along at full force, with the word that the film actually does the Goosebumps brand well. So, does the film live up to the hype?
Zach (Dylan Minnette) has just moved with his mother to Madison, Delaware for her to accept a job as the Vice Principal of the local high school. Zach briefly meets his new neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush) before finding out that her father (Jack Black) is insanely overprotective. Zach also meets his new sidekick, Champ (Ryan Lee) at school. After a shocking encounter where it appears that Hannah’s father is abusing her, he calls the police, who do essentially nothing. So he sneaks into the house with the help of Champ, eventually finding the manuscripts of several Goosebumps books that are all locked. They unlock “The Abominable Snowman Of Pasadena” and are shocked to be actually attacked by an unleashed version of the title character. During all the mayhem, the book for “Night Of The Living Dummy”, and good ol’ Slappy (who anybody who grew up with the books has to love) attempts to free all of the characters to get back at Stine for locking them up. To go into much more detail would be to enter spoiler territory and I would not want to ruin the film for anyone.
Despite the hype behind the film, I entered the theatre with tempered expectations. Whether or not this was influential in my view of the film can’t truly be stated, but I absolutely loved the movie. You sometimes hear that certain films will include moments as a love letter to fans (think of the original Evil Dead film playing on Nancy’s television in A Nightmare On Elm Street) and I can safely say that 98% of this movie is a labor of love dedicated to anyone who grew up on the titular book series.
The movie does not take very long to move into the main story, and the only real downside to the film is that towards the end it feels a little bit like they are dragging things out just to increase the running time, but it’s not an overly big issue as it still tries to remain in fun territory.
The cast, as I have briefly mentioned, is pretty fantastic across the board. Both Minnette and Rush do a great job essentially carrying most of the film on their backs, but the true revelation has to be Ryan Lee as Champ. His interactions with Jack Black as Stine almost always garnered laughs from myself and the audience. His performance gave me the same kind of feeling as Christopher Mintz-Plasse portraying McLovin in Superbad. If Hollywood doesn’t jump all over the opportunity to cast him as the goofy sidekick in any kind of film, it will definitely be a loss for viewers. Even Jack Black shines without doing his usual schtick, and the film is actually better for having him in the role of Stine, something I never thought I would say about Jack Black.
If you grew up with the Goosebumps, I implore you to take the opportunity to see the film. It feels like it has been forever since there has been a good horror movie that is also family-oriented and has succeeded in all aspects. I would say that it may be the best family friendly horror movie since 1987’s The Monster Squad, and any fan of the genre has to consider that high praise. Goosebumps just seems to hit every right note when it comes to the horror and the comedy. It’s never overly scary but it also doesn’t look down on the horror genre and its fans. It’s a film that embraces its own source material, and pays homage with respect. If even half the films based on iconic properties from our childhoods were as good as Goosebumps we would be all the better for it. But unfortunately, most of these movies are made to cash in on the properties. Goosebumps was made with love and pride towards the source material, separating it from all of the other films trying to bring back childhood memories.
Goosebumps is currently in theatres all over Canada and the US.