Goosebumps became popular a little late in the day for me. I missed the whole thing really, and while I knew about the books, I was older by that point and reading other things. I was, however, familiar with R.L. Stine and had read some of the books he wrote in the 1990’s for the Point Horror series of titles in which various authors penned short novels and novellas in the horror genre tamed down for a younger audience. I really enjoyed the Point Horror books I read back then, and would have likely enjoyed the Goosebumps books had I been into them at the right time.
I remember, as a kid in the 80’s and early 90’s, there being lots of horror themed books, movies and television shows made specifically for younger viewers. It was a time where networks and publishers seemed more open to scary stories aimed at children, and I was a huge fan of it all. It perhaps lead to my long-standing admiration for the horror genre.
Goosebumps, the popular Stine book series, was given a television series too. I didn’t watch that, either. I guess I’m not exactly the person that the film was aimed at, then, but the trailer looked like a lot of fun and so I decided to check the film out when it hit Blu-Ray and DVD.
Directed by Rob Letterman, a man used to the family film genre after working on animated film Monsters vs. Aliens and the Jack Black fairytale flick Gulliver’s Travels. Based on Stine’s book series, stories by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and a screenplay penned by Darren Lemke (Turbo). The film tells the story of teen Zach (Dylan Minnette) who is new in town and finds himself living next door to the mysterious and somewhat creepy author R.L. Stine (Jack Black). When Stine’s books are opened and the characters they contain accidentally let loose upon the town, it is up to Zach and Stine’s daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), to try to stop things from going from bad to much worse.
It’s an adventure story and it reminded me a lot of the family adventures of the 90’s such as Jumanji, and I imagine has many similarities to the television show. I didn’t feel like my lack of familiarity with Goosebumps caused me to feel confused. The story is one we’ve heard before in many ways and it is a nice little introduction to Goosebumps while also providing nods and references for the existing fanbase. It’s good fun, basically, and I liked the old-school race-against-time adventure feel to it all. The cast do a fine job and Black is decent as Stine. Jack Black is an actor who, to me, is always just Jack Black under another name. I never lose myself in his performances, and here it is no different. It’s okay though, Goosebumps isn’t a film that attempts to be deep or complex and it is aimed at a young audience that can just sit back and enjoy some quality entertainment. That’s what this movie is. Unapologetic popcorn entertainment for the whole family, and it does what it sets out to do very well.
As someone who this film is obviously not aimed to please, I enjoyed this flick. I could see it being the first in a series, for sure.
3.5 out of 5