As someone who grew up buying virtually every one of R. L. Stine’s kids horror books for my daughter when she was growing up, I had a ton of fun watching the clever film adaption GOOSEBUMPS.
Dylan Minnette (Prisoners, Let Me In) is terrific as Zach, who has just moved to a new town with his widowed Mom, Gale (the stellar Amy Ryan) who also happens to be the new principal at Zach’s high school.
They move in next door to Stine, who keeps his beautiful teenage daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) practically locked inside his home like a prison.
Through a couple of next-door meetings, Hannah and Zach find sparks and budding romance as Stine fights to keep them apart. When Zach and his new friend Champ (a very funny Ryan Lee) stumble inside Stine’s home, they find a house full of curiosities that unlock all the evil creatures from Stine’s famous books.
This is where the film really busts loose with a ton of imagination, a real sense of fun and terrific special effects. The last half of the film is basically our teen heroes and Stine trying to get all the monsters back in the books where they belong.
It’s jam packed with evil garden trolls, werewolves, evil dummies, mummies, giant praying mantis monsters and the hilarious Jack Black as Stine. Black plays it close to the vest for the first half of the film and his manic panic blended with love for his daughter is a terrific mix, creating one of his best film roles.
Like some sort of cosmic mash up of “The Twilight Zone’, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” and a kids “Tales from the Crypt”, this sure-handed family friendly film is a blast, but way too menacing for the younger ones. Hell, I might have nightmares about Slappy, the worlds most evil ventriloquist doll.
There are some clever and emotion packed notes in the final scenes as an unsuspected twist is revealed that adds extra resonance to the conclusion. It never detracts from the fun, but adds a nice, deeper dimension for our characters.
GOOSEBUMPS is a laugh and suspense filled blast and gets a solid B.
(Watch closely for the REAL Stine pass Jack Black in the school halls near the films conclusion, referring to each other as Professor Black and Professor Stine in a quick & clever cameo.)