Rant and Rave: Goosebumps

Nostalgia from the 90s is the name of the game in the new Goosebumps film. Equal parts funny and creepy, the adaptation of the classic horror series gives viewers the old thrills and chills they once felt when they picked up their first, their tenth, or even their fiftieth copy of a book from the beloved series.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Goosebumps is the story of Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), a young teenager who moves to Madison, Delaware, with his mother Gale (Amy Ryan). There, he meets his curious next-door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush) and her irritable and excessively guarded father, “Mr. Shivers” (Jack Black), who is eventually revealed to be the famous Goosebumps author, R.L. Stine. Together with his newfound high school friend Champ (Ryan Lee), Zach, Hannah, and Stine team up and quell the threat that inadvertently goes out of hand when monsters start coming to life straight from the old manuscripts of the titular series—a premise quite fitting for the Halloween season.

Typical Jumanji treatment aside, the film puts in various comedic moments reminiscent of the lighter chapters in the original books. The monsters are an interesting mix of campy and terrifying, bringing to life old childhood fears. In addition to its light-hearted and slightly suspenseful nature, Goosebumps also makes sure to provide some character development for the four main characters. However, there are some instances when the film’s pace abruptly goes a bit frantic, leaving viewers wondering how the characters ended up in new places all of a sudden.

Black’s performance as author R.L. Stine is endearing, gracefully transitioning from cranky recluse to awkward yet progressive friend. Minnette as Zach is just as expected from an adaptation of a children’s horror fiction book series, channeling just the right amount of teenage angst and confusion to appeal to audiences. Lee as Champ is wacky and dorky, the ever-present Ron Weasley to Zach’s Harry Potter. However, Rush as Hannah is one of the low points: the ultimate token girl, Hannah’s character falls quite flat in comparison to the other three male cast members, sadly serving as nothing more than mere decoration and love interest for Zach. The script did not give Rush enough room to show her full potential as an actress, leaving her character flat and one-dimensional.

The biggest flaw that can be seen in the film is that it parades itself as a horror-comedy that gives all the coolest monsters of our childhood their time to shine—unfortunately, this isn’t the case at all. Too much screen time with Zach and Hannah showing various forms of teenage attraction to each other almost makes this film a date movie instead of one well-suited for Halloween. It’s as if the romantic scenes were intentionally thrown into the film in order to attract female audiences, which is off-putting. Goosebumps uses the monsters and phoned-in jump scares to distract the audience from its real star that is the tween romance, but the more discerning viewers will definitely be able to spot this inconsistency.

Goosebumps is, overall, visually entertaining and substantially humorous. Jack Black pretty much carries the entire cast, and also accounts for much of the humor and comedy that the movie can boast of with his trademark snarky style. His facial expressions, witty comebacks, eccentric air, and nervous ticks give viewers much to laugh about. Sadly, the presence of a romantic angle in the movie’s story dampens the entire premise as well as the purity and spirit of the film. While the monsters come in a wave of creepiness, laughter, and nostalgia, especially for fans of the original book series, the romance in the film just feels completely out of place and forced. The film would have been better off holding true to its actual genre, instead of attempting to profit from non-fans or couples.

Rating: 1.5 / 4.0

Nicole Wong

By Nicole Wong

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