• At any time of the day, a good movie with popcorn or beer is a welcome pleasure.

    Goosebumps (2015): Movie Review

    "Not the expected creepy Goosebumps story but surprisingly funny and engaging.” 

    After selling 400 million copies worldwide, one of the most popular young adult horror fiction series is finally adapted to the big screen. Goosebumps, directed by Rob Letterman, follows a fictionalized version of the book’s author R.L. Stine and the wondrous powers of his imagination.

    After the untimely death of his father, clean-cut teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minette) reluctantly moves from New York to the small sleepy town of Madison, Delaware. His widowed mother, Gale (Amy Ryan), accepts a job as a high school vice principal and hopes that their relocation will be a fresh start for them. Zach has still no friends but geeky student Champ (Ryan Lee) soon befriends him at school. Zach also strikes an interest with his vivacious next door neighbor named Hannah (Odeya Rush). Unfortunately, Hannah’s overprotective dad (Jack Black) is not thrilled with their friendship and orders Zach to stay away from his daughter.

    In the nights that follow, Zach observes mysterious screaming and fighting in his neighbors. Wanting to protect Hannah, Zach enlists Champ’s help and raids the next-door house. To their disbelief, Hannah’s father turns out to be R.L. Stine. Worse, they discover that the monster he wrote comes to life if the original leather-bound manuscripts are unlocked. After the the “Abominable Snowman of Pasadena” is accidentally released, the notorious “Slappy the Dummy” leads a rebellion and goes all over town conjuring Stine’s monsters. Working together, Zach, Champ, Hannah and Stine rushes in to save the town from complete annihilation.

    Instead of adapting a single book, Goosebumps takes on a more inventive and wiser approach in realizing Stine’s nastily delightful world. Here we are presented with “R.L. Stine” himself as one of the lead characters. Three youngsters tag alongside him as he battles not one but all of his monsters. It is a busy, noisy and chaotic treat but equally funny and energetic. It is an endless and tireless chase as the gang is constantly up against Slappy’s squad which includes the giant praying mantis, wolfman, man-eating creepers, vampire poodle, demonic gnomes, blob and aliens with freeze rays. Some sequences are also brilliantly-designed monster-specific setpieces like the showdown with a snow man in an ice rink, the invasion of the kitchen by the gnomes, the police precinct raided by alien counterparts, and the rise of the dead at the cemetery.

    The film is never too frightening but suspenseful enough to make us jump off our seats. The horror is “child-friendly” that we know no one is ever in real danger. In essence, the movie is more of an adventure fantasy than a horror feature. Inarguably,  the special effects are awe-inspiring and overwhelming, and a right blend of both CGI and practical effects. Plus, there are several references to horror royalty Stephen King and his works.

    As Stine stated, there is always a necessary twist to his stories. In a heart-warming fashion, the movie also has a twist that heralds the power of imagination and everyone’s inherent need to connect with another person.

    The cast is enthusiastic, perfectly matching the film’s energy and wits. Black does not physically resemble Stine in real life; nonetheless, he infuses humanity and relatability to the celebrated author. He also strikes a comic chemistry with Lee. Minette is a good-looking and promising star but his character is just too insipid to inspire. Rush seems the breakout star here with her strong presence and mystic delivery. 

    Goosebumps is bold when it crams in all of Stine’s monsters. It pays off and despite its messy narrative, the film in general is dynamic, hilarious and slightly moving. 

    Production companies: Sony Pictures Animation, LStar Capital, Village Roadshow Pictures, Original Film, Scholastic Entertainment 
    Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage, Timothy Simons, Ken Marino, Amanda Lund, R.L. Stine 
    Director: Rob Letterman 
    Screenwriter: Darren Lemke 
    Producers: Deborah Forte, Neal H. Moritz 
    Executive producers: Tania Landau, Bill Bannerman, Ben Waisbren, Bruce Berman, Greg Basser 
    Director of photography: Javier Aguirresarobe 
    Production designer: Sean Haworth 
    Costume designer: Judianna Makovsky 
    Editor: Jim May 
    Composer: Danny Elfman



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