- RatedPG /GenreAdventure, Comedy
Like the title suggests, don't expect big scares from this horror film.
Firmly targeted at kids and tweens, the movie taps on the horror books by author RL Stine that was popular in the 1990s will likely only set some hairs tingling but never screaming for fear.
In this movie, Jack Black plays Stine, but he's not the main focus. That belongs to newcomer to Madison, Delaware Zach (Dylan Minnette). His mom, Gale (Amy Ryan), has just taken up a job at the high school.
Zach meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), Stine's daughter, and the two have a connection. After a long setup to get the pieces in place, Zach accidentally opens up one of Stine's books, releasing a creature resembling the Abominable Snowman.
Soon, all of Stine's monsters, which were imprisoned in locked copies of his books, are released, and it's up to Zach and the rest to bring the monsters back.
Black steals the show in the role of Stine, while his role doesn't involve interacting with too many people, there's a running joke about him getting angry whenever Stephen King is mentioned.
Jack Black, Odeya Rush and Dylan Minnette in 'Goosebumps' | Photo: GV
The rest of the mostly young cast do their little bit, and the relationship between Zach and Hannah is quite sweet. Minnette is unable to carry the film, but his supporting cast, particularly goofy buddy Champ, played by Ryan Lee, helps ensure things don't become too slack.
Naturally, the other attractions are the monsters. The visual effects aren't as polished as other films but they are passable. Director Rob Letterman seems to believe in quantity, throwing monsters at the screen, rather than really distinguishing them.
The biggest knock against the movie is that it rarely does anything innovative or interesting, relying on old tropes. So you get zombies and werewolves, but they're not really utilised in an original way. Surely Stine, in his 100-odd books, had some intriguing creatures that could have been better employed?
The film is at its best when it has unconventional ghouls, such as the garden gnomes that give off a ‘Gremlins’-like vibe. The film could have used a lot more of that, rather than generic monsters that also need to be less gory and bloody than in other movies.
There are also a few that are undoubtedly annoying. There's far too much of the group closing doors or shutting them.
If Stine is so afraid of people why is he staying on a street where he has to deal with pesky and nosy neighbours? You'd think that after selling 400 million books he could afford some mansion far away from any human contact, especially since he denies his daughter any contact with folks her age. The film also tries a little too hard to tie up loose ends and finding happy resolutions for all the characters, including Stine.
Monsters come alive in 'Goosebumps' | Photo: GV
The scares are lightweight, and most of the monsters are there seemingly just as a matter of record. The nasties talk a game, particularly a ventriloquist's dummy that's the main villain of the film, but there are no actual deaths and hardly any blood.
All in all, ‘Goosebumps’ isn't likely to please horror connoisseurs who are used to more blood and gore, but is a passable and reasonably enjoyable introduction to the genre for young kids.
‘Goosebumps’ opens 29 October 2015