Will It Give You Goosebumps Again?

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween Poster

 

The book series that got me hooked to reading many years ago has tried to keep its relevance as up-to-date as possible.  With the first installment doing pretty well, it’s no surprise that they made a second film and yours truly is ready to dive in and figure out what lies in the latest book of R.L. Stine.  Can this family friendly horror keep things spooky enough to warrant a theater visit?  Robbie K here with a review on the latest silver screen sensation:

 

Movie: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

 

Director:

Ari Sandel

Writers:

Rob Lieber (screenplay by), Rob Lieber (story by)  |2 more credits »

Stars:

Wendi McLendon-CoveyJack BlackMadison Iseman

 

 

LIKES:

 

Family Friendly:  The Goosebumps books have been a solid intro into the world of horror that brings kids into the fold of literature.  This movie sticks to those guns and adds that kid friendly element to warrant a try for a family outing.  Is it dark? Yes, but the studio managed to dilute the darkness to be manageable (for the most part) that kids should have a laugh at it. Case in point a three-year-old did very well in my viewing.

 

Good Pace:  Short and to the point, this movie was a quick, fun adventure that did little to slow the antics down.  From the get go, you’ll be immersed into the adventure at hand, as what can be describes Stranger Things, meets a Disney vibe and is executed well. The fact that time seems to fly by is a good sign that this will be fun for most.  Plus, 90 minutes is a good target goal in my opinion.

 

Creature Design: While certainly not as epic as Stine’s descriptions in his book, the crew in the movie studio have done some decent research.  The new creatures that inhabit the screen have got some flare to them, and while not the most realistic, at least have that same Stine vibe to them to still be easy for the little ones to handle.

 

The Use of Slappy: Slappy in the last film was not as utilized as I expected, reserved for a few jokes and that was it.  The sequel though really brought him out in spades, using him to establish a bit ,ore of the horror element, while also grounding the story down. Slappy was much more himself in this installment, his malicious side mixed with his deceitful antics bringing back memories of the horror that was Slappy in his books.  A solid antagonist to support the story, I enjoyed this character much more.

 

DISLIKES:

Under Utilization of Characters:  The kids get center stage and do well, but the older cast members not as involved as I was hoping.  Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ken Jeong were reduced to a few short sequences, still bringing their tricks to trade, but not getting involved in the story like I had hoped. As for Jack Black, he’s there, but not much more I can say .  They really diluted “Stine’s” part in this film and left me a little bummed with my Haunted Halloween treat.

 

Not as Much Nostalgia: Part of the fun of the last movie was all the references to the books and trying to find the cameos in their involvement.  Sadly, this film short sheeted us in this factor.  Yes, there are a few nods, but Haunted Halloween is trying to go a little more original than its predecessor.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s just I missed the find your childhood reference component from the first film.

 

More Creature involvement: Design might be good, but Haunted Halloween 2 didn’t use their creatures to their full potential either.  Many creatures get their kicks for a few seconds before being reduced to background images and occasional sound effect.  Such a step down in this design, Haunted Halloween didn’t have quite the spectacular impasses they wanted to bring in, and that left me feeling a little bored in terms of suspense.

 

Predictability/Trailer Spoilers:  My friend Tim has shared wisdom of be careful what trailers you watch.  These words are very applicable to this movie, as watch enough of the trailers and you have 80% of the movie.  Haunted Halloween has little in terms of grand surprises, and by watching these trailers, you can skip this film in the theater.

 

The Story Component: It’s not that the story was bad, but it was much less involved than the first installment.  Very straightforward, very cliché, and very piecemeal that it feels like an unfinished manuscript.  Slappy may have tied things together and made one heck of an antagonist, but their execution of his skill set was just missing something.  Some of the antics, gimmicks, and threats were very lighthearted, and due to the kid atmosphere, I feel they threw some punches to not go too extreme to leave nightmares.

 

The Verdict:

 

            Goosebumps 2 has some fun little quirks that will be very appropriate for the family atmosphere of the movie.  With good creature design and pacing it shows some promise to being the horror movie for the young and young at heart.  However, the originality factor took a little from the adventure I enjoyed in the first installment, primarily at how disjointed this movie felt in integrating all its characters and creatures.  It’s a step back in quality overall, and you can skip this one due to the trailers, but not the worst movie to come out overall. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Family: 7.0

Movie Overall:  5.5

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R.L Stine’s Books Come to Life In A Fun, Simplistic Tale

Goosebumps

            Remember when you were a kid, and your parents told you to read something? Chances are you were like me and chose Goosebumps as your series, enjoying the juvenile horrors it brought. R.L. Stine’s band of ghouls, goblins, and dummies left me with chills many years ago, along with many memorable stories to enjoy. Now years later, following reprints, spin-offs, and more reprints a movie surrounding Stine’s creatures has emerged, and just in time for Halloween. What thrills, or chills, does this installment have for audiences? Read on to find out.

For those who grew up with the series, the main benefit this movie brings is a sense of nostalgia. Director Rob Letterman has placed iconic monsters (such as Slappy, Werewolf of Fever Swamp, and Lawn Gnomes) throughout the movie that will take you on an adventure that screams R.L. Stine. I felt the crew did a nice job integrating some of the characters into the story, providing plenty of “exciting” moments that young and young at heart will enjoy. Many of these scenes make a reference to a part in the book, be it in the form of a quote, iconic scene, or some other mark representative of our monsters. Unfortunately…they limited their monsters to only a few of Stine’s horror champions, reducing others to quick cameos that lasted mere seconds. I’m knew that it would be impossible to adequately provide all sixty four books proper screen time in 103 minutes, but was hoping for a few more appearances.

The second strength of Goosebumps is how fun the story is. It’s a very simplistic adventure that after a cliché’ opening gets pretty exciting. Chases through grocery stores, battling ceramic ornaments, and attempting to escape the clutches of massive mantis are just some examples of the bouts our heroes go through. The plot is of course obvious, but is certainly representative of an R.L. Stine plot. There are a few highly predictable twists in the film, but there are a few lessons that will hit home to audiences of all ages. Humor was injected into the sequences as well, mostly juvenile antics and over the top screaming that had little kids screaming in delight. However, there are a few witty puns and lines dropped at the right time that got some laughs from the older generation. All of the fun takes away from the “scariness” of Slappy and his crew, and wraps the whole film in a cute package.

Acting wise our cast has done their jobs of bringing the kids series to life. Jack Black was by far my favorite of the crew, capturing both the look and persona I envisioned of the famous writer. Black’s theatrical, overdramatic delivery works well in this film, building up the comedy in the scenes and adding some punch to the punch lines. He even does some voice acting in the film, bringing some humorous elements to Slappy and the Invisible Boy but still adding a little menacing atmosphere to the mix. Dylan Minnette’s performance as a struggling teenager was spot on, and was perhaps the most balanced character of the bunch. He held his emotions in check, and made for a relatable hero to latch on to. The lovely Odeya Rush helps ground the silliness and excitement, resetting the moment to keep the adventure fun instead of overbearing. As for Ryan Lee, well his role is the opposite of Rush’s, primarily escalating the scene to ridiculous levels with screaming, panicking, and more screaming. He was funny at times, but his characters antics got old after a while.

Filming wise the movie is has decent quality, in both special effects and camera work. The animation and design of the monsters is decent, personalized to mimic their expected natural movements. Slappy moves in a jerky, blocky, and somewhat stiff motion much like you would see in a ventriloquism dummy. However, the werewolf’s digital design is sleek, with fierce, fluid movements seen in wolves. The camera work is also decently stable, only going into a chaotic frenzy once or twice during the adventure. Our team maximizes the intensity and emotion in each scene, making sure to use the best angles to film the scene. There are numerous shots that are obviously designed for the 3-D version of the film, many of them involving something coming out of the screen to “terrorize” the audience. At this point I will say I don’t see a need for watching this movie in 3-D, but for the full cinematic effect you’ll need to spend the extra cash.

Overall Goosebumps is a fun Halloween adventure that families will certainly enjoy. Nostalgia runs deep in the veins of this movie, and fans like me will enjoy the adventure Hollywood has set up for us and be thoroughly entertained. Would I recommend a trip to the theater? For the special effects and fun, yeah I would recommend it, especially in the 2-D version. It is at least worth a NetFlix or RedBox rent whenever it joins their library in the future.

My scores for Goosebumps are:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5