Film Review – Goosebumps (2016)

goosebumps car

When the question arose at Sony headquarters which of the newly-acquired Goosebumps franchise would be adapted for the screen, some bright spark appears to have put forth the idea: “Why not just do them all at once?”. Consequently, Goosebumps is a slightly scattershot mess, resembling a horror movie version of Jumanji. Not content with focusing on a single story, the movie dumps dozens of the series’ best-known characters and monsters into something resembling a creepy-looking stew.

Following an impromptu and unwanted relocation across the country, Zach (Dylan Minette) finds himself neighbours with a mysterious and standoffish bloke determined to keep him away from his daughter (Odeya Rush). The reasons for this guarded behaviour become obvious when it transpires that he is famed writer RL Stine (Jack Black), the creator of the Goosebumps book series, and in possession of a collection of stories able to wreak havoc on the world. For reasons known only to himself, Stine’s stories have the ability to come to life. Naturally, Zach, in his boyish quest to get close to Stine’s daughter awakens many of the monsters including Slappy the possessed ventriloquist’s dummy (also Black) who has no intention of being returned to his book and causes havoc across the town.

What Goosebumps lacks in coherence it makes up for in enthusiasm and chaotic fun. The movie makes no secret of its intention to throw as much as it can at the audience. If you find yourself somewhat underwhelmed by, for instance a werewolf, you can rest assured that you’ll only be five minutes away from a zombie or a giant praying mantis. In many ways it’s a totally jumbled mess complicated even more by some sense of inconsistency among the creations. But what the hell, the romping mania never takes a break and the movie remains resolutely generous with the chaos.

Black plays Stine with his usual sense of bluster and lunacy with some added pomposity for good measure. References to a long running feud with Stephen King raise a few laughs. A final act twist in the relationship between two of the characters feels confused and just about sums up the movie. You can never shake the sense that Sony didn’t really know what to do with the Goosebumps franchise and, on the strength of this, I’m not sure they ever figured it out. Not that it matters a great deal, this is shambolic fun.

Chris Banks

Adventure, Comedy | USA, 2016 | PG | Sony Pictures Releasing | 5th February 2016 (UK) | Dir.Rob Letterman | Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, R.L. Stine,