Synopsis: A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Greendale, Maryland.
Release Date: October 16, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
R.L. Stine has sold millions of copies of his Goosebumps series of children’s books, and a successful Saturday morning television show has been spawned off of the property. So, when the time came to make a movie of the series, how did the filmmakers think of a story that hadn’t already been done when all of the good books had been previously made into T.V. episodes? Goosebumps figured it all out.
Goosebumps is about a teenage boy named Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette from Prisoners) who moves to Madison, Delaware, from New York with his mother, Gale (Amy Ryan from “The Office”). Zach thinks his new town is a drag until he meets the girl next door, Hannah (The Giver‘s Odeya Rush). Their relationship is short lived, however, because her father, who is none other than children’s author R.L. Stine (Jack Black from School of Rock), forbids her to see him. One evening, Zach thinks he hears Hannah in trouble, so he and his new best friend, Champ (Super 8‘s Ryan Lee), break in to the Stine residence to check on her. They find original manuscripts of all of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, and not knowing what they are doing, they open one – and set loose the monster inside. Soon enough, all of the monsters are set free by Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy from Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy book, and begin to terrorize the town. It’s up to Zach, Champ, Hannah, and Stine to save the day by vanquishing the monsters back to their respective books.
Goosebumps was directed by Rob Letterman (Gulliver’s Travels) and the screenplay was written by Darren Lemke (Jack the Giant Slayer) from a story by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (the duo behind Big Eyes and 1408) that was based on the books by R.L. Stine. Yes, that’s a lot of cooks, but there’s kind of a lot of stuff going on in the movie. Thankfully, it’s not just a rehashing of Stine’s stories; Alexander and Karaszemski found a clever and resourceful way to take the Goosebumps mythology and inject it into an original narrative that stands on its own.
Even though it’s not a Goosebumps story, the characters from R.L. Stine’s books are all over the movie. Popular entries into his beloved series are represented in force, including (but not limited to) The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, Werewolf of Fever Swamp, and Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes. The monsters are brought to life through slick CGI visual effects, with Jack Black himself having a field day voicing a handful of the important ones, including their nefarious leader Slappy.
Whether you’re a fan of the Goosebumps series or not, the movie is enjoyable. It’s a little more fun when you can pick out the different villains from the various books, but that knowledge is not necessary to understand the movie; the writers have made the material accessible to all audiences, both uninitiated newcomers and hardcore fans. Goosebumps is just a fun movie, plain and simple, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything deeper than that.
A movie like Goosebumps would be cheated if it didn’t have a score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas). So, luckily, it does. Elfman’s music for the film is delightfully spooky and wackily playful, done very much in the same spirit as the Jack Lanz’s original theme to the “Goosebumps” television show. Elfman’s soundtrack is lighthearted and bouncy most of the time, yet gets dark and suspenseful when it needs to, creating the perfect atmosphere for the movie. And, best of all, it’s unmistakably a Danny Elfman score, which is good because he really is the only composer who could have done justice to the soundtrack for a Goosebumps movie.
Goosebumps is a laugh-a-minute movie. Much of the comedy is provided by Jack Black (who, in his multiple voice roles, is at his Jack Blackiest), but the kids get in on the action as well. It’s mostly verbal humor, the gags provided by quippy dialogue between characters, but there’s also some fun visual slapstick comedy as well. And, of course, the Lawn Gnomes that come to life from Stine’s Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes are hysterical. Best of all, none of the comedy in Goosebumps is potty humor – it’s all good clean fun, suitable for the target audience of children. Goosebumps is definitely more of a comedy than a horror movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s well done enough to keep children of all ages laughing hard.
Although it’s rated PG, Goosebumps is geared towards the same age range as the books: 8 to 12-year-olds. Because of this, there’s nothing too scary in it. There are loving winks and nods to horror movies like The Blob, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Car (among many others), but those are snuck in there for the parents more than the kids – an 8-year-old isn’t going to recognize a shot of the Werewolf of Fever Swamp scratching his nails on the side of a trailer as a tribute to Freddy Krueger, but the adult who brought the kid to the movie will. Goosebumps is full of monsters of all shapes and sizes, but they’re more cute and funny than actually frightening. It’ll only give nightmares to the most sensitive of viewers, and those are the types who won’t go to see it in the first place.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Rob Letterman
- Producer(s): Deborah ForteNeal H. Moritz
- Screenwriter(s): Darren LemkeScott AlexanderLarry Karaszewski
- Story: R.L. Stine
- Cast: Jack Black (R.L. Stine/Slappy/Invisible Boy)Dylan Minnette (Zach)Odeya Rush (Hannah) Ryan Lee (Champ)Amy Ryan (Gale)Jillian Bell (LorraineKen Marino (Coach Carr)Halston Sage (Taylor)Steven Krueger (Davidson)Keith Arthur Bolden (Principal Garrison)Amanda Lund (Officer Brooks)Timothy Simons (Officer Stevens)
- Editor(s): Jim May
- Cinematographer: Javier Aquirresarobe
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Judianna Makovsky
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Danny Elfman
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA