Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday Review: Goosebumps

There are a ton of topics I want to cover in this review. To keep myself from getting too disjointed, let me get a few out of the way in bullet-points:

  • I read a few of the Goosebumps books as kids, but I was and remain far more familiar with the television series.
  • I was excited many years ago when this movie was originally announced as an anthology, featuring multiple original Goosebumps stories. While I know horror anthologies have always been a hard sell, I personally would have preferred that route.
  • Would anyone be satisfied with a Harry Potter movie that consisted of Harry coming out of the books and having an adventure with J.K. Rowling? Then why is it a suitable way to adapt Goosebumps?

Those out of the way, however, I liked this movie far more than I expected to. I was surprised to realize that somehow this movie managed to get all of Goosebumps' usual weaknesses right, while completely dropping the ball in the areas where the series usually shines. The protagonists were spunky and likable, and the plot fairly straight-forward, and devoid of any plot-twists that were face-palmingly stupid. However, the villains really suffered from all being crammed together into a single story-line, with most of them barely squeezed into the background.

The story-line, for those of you who missed the trailer, is that a boy named Zach believes that his neighbor's daughter is being abused. Breaking into the neighbor's house, Zach discovers that the neighbor is none other than Goosebumps author R.L. Stine, who has gone into hiding because his monsters were coming to life, and he was forced to trap them in their original manuscripts. Zach accidentally releases Slappy the Dummy, who begins releasing other monsters, burning their books so that they can't be recaptured.

Jack Black as Stine really steals the show. Black has said that he met with Stine, but decided that the real Stine's personality wouldn't work for the film, so he just fictionalized the character. I suspect he may have been inspired by Garth Mereghi's Darkplace and it's titular character. He hams it up and has the time of his life.

Zach and Hannah are both active, brave protagonists, and the cast is rounded off by Zach's friend Champ, a nerd with extensive knowledge of Goosebumps. They handle their scenes well enough, and all of the protagonists contribute to the narrative effectively. They can't compete with Black, but they still make even the scenes without him entertaining.

As I said, however, the villains do suffer. Nowhere is this more evident than Slappy. Firstly, Slappy now seems to have the ability to teleport, and for some reason all the other monsters accept him as leader without question. Powering him up does not make him scarier, since he no longer has to be clever or cunning.

I'd even say that the move completely misses the reason Slappy was scary. In the film he has a singular goal: kill Stine so he can't lock the monsters back up. In every Slappy story I'm familiar with he was focused on enslaving humans, specifically children. Slappy actually gets scarier as you get older, and realize the sexual undertones of the character. This Slappy isn't a pedophile, he's just a generic evil Mastermind.

Overall, I say see it. It isn't especially scary, but it isn't the cash grab everyone was expecting either. It's clear that everyone involved in this project gave their best work. I suppose I'll just have to hope the film leads to a revival of the show, so I can't get some new stories. And if it did, I would love to see Black hosting it.

No comments:

Post a Comment