• Film reviews

    #587 – Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

    Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

    Film review #587

    Director: Ari Sandel

    SYNOPSIS: Teenager Sarah Quinn is struggling to write an essay for her college application. Meanwhile, her brother and his friend find a mysterious book at an abandoned house, which when opened releases Slappy, an evil dummy, to appear. Slappy is more than just a dummy though; he is alive, and sets about unleashing all sorts of monsters just in time for Halloween. It’s up to Sarah and her brother (and his friend) to stop Slappy before he unleashes pure chaos on the town…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a 2018 film and a sequel to the 2015 film Goosebumps, based on the series of horror stories written by R.L. Stine. Set three years after the first film and in a different location, we see teenager Sarah Quinn trying to write her college essay, but is constantly distracted by her Mother wanting to babysit her brother and his friend, who is stopping with them over Halloween. The plot revolves around Slappy, the evil dummy who was the villain the previous film, being released from one of R.L. Stine’s unfinished books, and does what he does best: unleashes monsters and horrors of all sorts to terrorise the town, leaving Sarah and the others to stop him. The plot is very similar to the first film, but while the first one managed to offer a twist that made things interesting with the Goosebumps books themselves forming part of the story, here that little unique twist is absent. The film revolves around an unfinished story by R.L. Stine called “Haunted Halloween,” which apparently was an early book that was very rough and unfinished, so the monsters that are unleashed have that feeling of being unpolished. This does, however, have the feeling of making the film also rough and incomplete, with the story feeling very weak and uninspired. There’s certainly a way to make the premise work without it bleeding into the quality of the film itself, but as it stands, the film ends up being feeling underdeveloped, and desperate in needing a good rewrite or two.

    The characters are all fairly unremarkable: while the first film was the same, it had Jack Black as R.L. Stine to bring everyone together and inject enough energy to keep things interesting. Here, we get no such thing: Jack Black does appear in a scene halfway through and at the end to somewhat explain everything, but in teasing him in this way without actually doing anything probably hurts the film more than anything. While Jack Black was such a prominent role in the first film, here, it would probably have been better if he wasn’t in it at all, if all he does is show up at the end and explain everything, leaving a feeling of disappointment you’re not going to see him do anything interesting. The whole subplot about Slappy wanting a family wasn’t something that was a part of the first film, so it just feel like it comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t further his character in any way. Overall, Goosebumps 2 is a very unpolished film that fails to get going in any way: the enjoyable elements of the first film are gone and we are left with a predictable, low-stakes story that offers nothing that the previous film didn’t.

  • Film reviews

    #586 – Goosebumps (2015)

    Goosebumps (2015)

    Film review #586

    Director: Rob Letterman

    SYNOPSIS: Zach Cooper moves with his Mother to the town of Madison, Delaware, where he learns he has a strange new neighbour. Things take a twist when Zach learns that his new neighbour is none other than R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series of books, and the monsters from his books have accidentally been brought to life…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Goosebumps is a 2015 film based on the series of horror books by R.L. Stine. The film starts up in a very typical way, introducing teenager Zach Cooper and his Mother moving to a new town and having to get used to a new school and all of that: a situation you’ve seen in films plenty of times. Fortunately, the film doesn’t linger too long on it, and it’s somewhat necessary to provide the grounds for the film’s twist. Zach learns that his odd neighbour is none other than R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series, and the creations in his horror stories are very much real; as he finds out when the monsters are released from their books to terrorise the town. The meta-twist of the film, making R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black) a character and referencing the actual books is implemented well, and provides a good way of incorporating the different characters from the books. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll appreciate the different monsters that appear, but even if you’re not familiar with them, it doesn’t impact the experience in any way.

    What the film does well is – when it kicks off with the monsters being unleashed – that it keeps up an unrelenting pace and energy as it moves along without any real lulls. The different parts of the film aren’t really anything unique, but it never slows down enough to make it boring. Part of this is due to Jack Black’s portrayal of R.L. Stine, as he brings his usual energy to the role and to basically steal every scene he is in. If you’re not a fan of Jack Black, maybe you’ll have an issue with the film, but otherwise you can certainly enjoy the ride. The rest of the cast is fairly uninteresting and don’t really develop beyond their typical roles, but again it’s not that much of an issue since they aren’t really the ones driving the plot.

    Overall, Goosebumps overcomes a predictable setup with a self-referential twist that works well, with a constant energy and entertainment that doesn’t give you a chance to get bored. Like the series itself, it is horror for kids, so there’s no real scares or frights to be had, but again, it focuses more on the action and self-referential humour that make the film work in it’s own right. Not perfect, but entertaining enough, particularly if you’re a fan of the franchise.