I remember the Scholastic book fair touring at my school. Even back when I was a kid, I was a horror hound. While my classmates were running for action/adventure books or Baby Sitter Club entries, I was walking away with Clive Barker’s The Thief Of Always as well as any entry I could get my hands on from, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. Reading Stine’s books were always a good time. They balanced the line between humor and horror. Not all of them were great but for the most part they did manage to scare my young mind into a couple of sleepless nights, or at least nights where I wasn’t able to sleep without the lights on.
When I heard there was going to be a Goosebumps movie I assumed the best case scenario. There were a ton of ways that they could go, and plenty of the canon to pull from. I imagined a sort of The Monster Squad or The Peanut Butter Experiment (look it up it is awesome and features a horrifying ventriloquist dummy). You know, something that scared but also entertained a young audience. Instead we got a half-thought out movie that somehow manages to not recognize the tone of the very thing it is based on.
When young Dylan and mother Gale move into a brand new home, Dylan discovers that he lives next to Hannah, a girl he immediately forms a crush on. Hannah’s father R.L Stine forbids that she sees Dylan anymore for unknown reasons.
Dylan and his nerdy pal, Champ break into R.L. Stine’s home after they hear screams coming from inside. When bumbling around inside Stine’s home, they accidentally unleash characters from Stine’s books, who had been trapped in their respective original manuscript. Once, ventriloquist dummy, Slappy is released, he begins to free all of Stine’s monsters. It ends up being in the hands of Stine and the kids to put the monsters back into their books in order to save the town.
Goosebumps wastes so much potential by writing itself up a tree with no way down. While they could have focused on one of his stories or made an anthology, they instead decide to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. The addition of all of Stine’s monsters cheapens the experience and makes each of the popular characters feel superfluous and not very fleshed out.
While the books managed to be scary and funny, this movie only does goofy and it doesn’t do that very well. They really didn’t try to make anything even halfway scary, everything is a big meta joke and the audience enduring it is the punchline.
This is one of those films that kids under 8-years-old will love because they are too young to want something scary and probably don’t know what Goosebumps was to an earlier generation. Otherwise, there is not much to really dig into and it certainly isn’t anything that will give you goosebumps or a decent time at the movies.