IN CINEMAS: 5th February
RUNNING TIME: 102 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Zach Cooper and his mother Gale move from New York to the town of Madison, Delaware. Zach takes a liking to their neighbour Hannah, but her father Mr. Shivers warns him to keep away. When he hears the two of them arguing and Hannah screaming, Zach calls the police, but Shivers convinces them that nothing’s wrong. The next night, Zach tricks Shivers into going to the police station for further questioning while he and Champ, a socially awkward student Zach has befriended, search Shivers’ house. They find a shelf containing dozens of Goosebumps manuscripts, all of which are locked. Zach grabs a key nearby and unlocks one of the books, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Guess what materialises….
I can’t imagine for the life of me why Goosebumps, which came out in the USA last October, has taken so long to come to the UK, especially as it was a hit. Almost filmed in 1998 with Tim Burton as director, it would have been a perfect Halloween release, and probably deserves a full length review on this website though I don’t really have the time. Maybe I’ll do one for the Blu-ray release. Possibly the best horror-orientated family flick since Paranorman, and at times almost coming across as a melding of The Monster Squad, The Burbs and Waxworks, it could easily pass for an 80’s movie if it wasn’t for the CGI, the odd reference to things like Tinder, and the occasional bits of frantic camerawork during the action scenes. It even has some of that old school charm, especially in the early section, most notably when Hannah takes Jack to an abandoned amusement park, the lights go on and they climb up the ferris wheel. The scene has an innocent sense of simple childlike wonder in a seemingly different world from our digitally-dominated one. The story soon settles into a series of run-ins with a variety of monsters and much rushing around to save the day….and when I say variety I mean variety, the monster lover in me having fun spotting all the different kinds of creatures, some of them only briefly seen, even if I’ve never read a Goosebumps book. Unfortunately the CGI is a bit variable, with a giant praying mantis and a werewolf especially not looking too good, but the set pieces are exciting and well staged. An attack by garden gnomes especially sticks in the mind. The monsters are led by Slappy, “a ventriloquist’s dummy with a Napoleon complex”, and he’s a memorable villain, both scary and funny.
Rather than adapt a single book, screenwriters Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have concocted a story involving the real life writer of the books who creates all these monsters because he’s lonely….and then discovers that they’ve become real. The plot has a few holes, and a twist happy ending, just after a moment of sadness which seems to conclude one subplot in a rather touching fashion, seems somewhat tacked on, but the story is driven along at a tremendous pace while taking time to deliver some well placed chuckles which commendably steer clear of becoming crude in nature, and just a bit of pathos. Jack Black, who I’ve been finding rather annoying of late with his irritating manner, and especially in his previous collaboration with director Rob Letterman, that ghastly version of Gulliver’s Travels, is the best he’s been in ages as the author E. L. Stine, and his young co-stars are very capable. Goosebumps overall is very good fun for all the family and I’m rather glad that a sequel is being mooted.