It is rather surprising that it has taken this long for the creatures that dwell in the mind of R.L Stine to make their appearance on the big screen. After all, the Goosebumps books are hugely important for a number of reasons: the first is purely financial as the writings of R.L Stine are among the best-selling book series of all time, but for many young adults, myself included, the Goosebumps books were our gateway novels. The love of the macabre, the grisly, and although the Stine of the Goosebumps movie would detest this, a lifelong obsession with Stephen King all began with reading The Blob Who Eat Everyone or Night of the Living Dummy well into the witching hour each and every night. As well as the importance of the books there are few people my age who will not crack a smile at the mention of the Goosebumps tv show that aired on Fox Kids (ahh… Fox Kids. Pure Nostalgia). So after 23 years of waiting, we finally get the movie adaptation of Goosebumps that we have been waiting for. Is it the greatest adaptation of a novel ever? No, but it is great fun that manages to stick close to the spirit of the originals while adding a few modern touches.
As far as plots go this adaptation is hardly breaking any new ground, which is fine by me, after all, the books could never be mistaken for Victor Hugo or Cormac McCarthy. Dylan Minette plays Zach, a teenage boy who finds himself being moved from the big city of New York to the quieter, more rural location of Madison, a small town in Delaware. While exploring the outside of his house, Zach meets next-door neighbour and obligatory love interest Hannah (Odeya Rush) as well as her secretive, creepy father Mr Shivers, later revealed to be R.L Stine (played by Jack Black). Fearing that Hannah may be in danger from her father, Zach embarks on a rescue mission along with fellow school-loner Champ (Ryan Lee) only to unwittingly unleash the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena and a host of other monsters from the pages of the Goosebumps books including classic character Slappy the Dummy (voiced by Jack Black). From there the film is a love-letter to the creature features of the late 80s and early Nineties, including the potential love-interest for the hero, a host of monsters/ creatures to fight, and, of course, a high-school dance that will inevitably be disrupted.
This adaptation captures the spirit of the original books perfectly, I am aware that some people have complained that the film is not as scary as the books or the tv show, but this is a rather unfair criticism considering that the majority of us that grew up with the show are in our early twenties now. In fact there are moments in the film that are far darker in tone than anything that was shown in the show, including the creepy, vampire poodle as well as a violent moment involving Stine’s fingers being smashed by a typewriter. The performances in the film are also generally good, Dylan Minette and Odeya Rush have genuine chemistry as the leads who will eventually become an item, while Ryan Lee builds on his promising performance in Super 8 in the supporting role as Champ. Jack Black is hysterical in the role of R.L Stine, a role that he could have played as cartoonish and over-the-top, but instead is much more reserved in showing his comedic talent without becoming overly eccentric. Any members of the audience who are fans of Stephen King will delight in a hilarious rant aimed at the Ink-Slinger.
Fans of the original may be disappointed that the tone of this adaptation is not closer to Gremlins or much darker films, but I felt the film captured the mood of R.L Stines books perfectly. Add in some great performances by the cast and this is a really enjoyable film, even if some of the plot-lines do not make much sense. If the same characters return for the sequel then i would be glad to watch Goosebumps 2.