The Goosebumps series held a special place in my life. They were a wonderfully creepy escape from a very isolated middle-school existence. I inhaled them so voraciously that my father’s previous promise of buying me all the books I could read soon became restrained to budget as I was clearly going to read us out of house and home. Sure, banking off of older millennials’ nostalgia can make a quick, big buck for studios, but recreating the magic is a horse of a different color. Being creepy, fun, and lacking any hint of condescension is what made the book series such classic and it’s what will make this film a Halloween tradition.
Like so many Goosebumps books, the film begins with Zach (Dylan Minnette) moving into a small town. He immediately meets the pretty and mysterious neighbor girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush) and her very strict, uptight father (Jack Black). When Zach believes he hears Hannah in danger, he breaks into the house attempting rescue her and gets distracted by her father’s mysterious library. He realizes all of the bound and locked books are old Goosebumps titles. Upon conveniently finding the key, he unlocks The Abominable Snowman Of Pasadena, releasing the monster within. Jumanji style, eventually all of the monster are released and take over the town, determined never to return to their paper prisons.
The film moves at frantic pace to make sure every monster released get some screen time, with classics like Slappy the ventriloquist’s dummy, evil gnomes, and the blob get their proper due. The tide of monsters swell into an epic tide that nearly destroys the town’s high school. Minnette, Black, Ryan Lee (Champ, Zach's friend), and Jillian Bell (Lorraine Cooper, Zach's aunt) make for a genuinely hilarious group. It is truly a shame that Bell and Black only share one scene together as their very different characters and comedic stylings blend incredibly well.
Unlike Crimson Peak, it’s Halloween release twin, Goosebumps is very bloodless in its horror. The monsters that creep and slither across screen do represent the painful past of characters, but it is still a kids’ movie. However, it is a highly engaging, thrilling, and charming film that I can easily foresee being aired annually in October.