Goosebumps: Night of the Living Film Review
by Will Lindus
If you were a child during the mid-to-late 90s, then there’s a very good chance that you are already familiar with the Goosebumps franchise. The popular series of young adult horror stories, penned by author R.L. Stine, found a welcome home on the bookshelves and in the imaginations of many a youngster during that era, and its legacy lives on today. Capitalizing on the nostalgia for the classic series comes the film adaptation of Goosebumps starring Jack Black. Here at the Movie Bears Podcast, we didn’t have very high expectations for this film based on an initial trailer that positioned it as nothing more than hasty, heartless cash-grab.
We’re very happy to report that we were wrong in our assessment.
Yes, surprisingly, Goosebumps is a far better film that you might expect. At its core, the film is a love-letter to the book franchise, prominently displaying some of the more memorable ghouls, goblins, mummies, killer plants, and giant bugs from the series.
The genius of the plot is that it initially reads like a Goosebumps book itself; after moving to a new town, Zach (Dylan Minnette) befriends next door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush), who is under the oppressive thumb of her stern father. As luck would have it, the father (played by Jack Black) is R.L. Stine himself, who possesses the ability to literally conjure the monsters from his memorable books. When his creatures are set free and begin a rampage on the city, it is up to Stine and the teenagers to save the day.
This is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination; at times, the narrative doesn’t know whether it should play out like a familiar Goosebumps story or if it should veer into the territory of meta-critique. Either approach would be fine, and the film handles both angles well, but the inconsistency in tone does feel distracting at times. In the lead role, Jack Black feels strangely out of place, never quite coming across as believable as a stern father or as a creative visionary. That said, Black also provides the voice acting for another character in the film, one that we will leave intentionally vague for the purposes of this review. That character is a much more interesting and comfortable fit for Jack Black’s talents, enough so to justify the comedian’s casting in this film.
Goosebumps is a refreshing surprise, one that should be appreciated by both children and the young-at-heart. Fans of the book series will be endeared by the attention given to some of their favorite stories, especially during a few sequences that feel almost like the young adult version of the third act of Cabin in the Woods. Even if you are unfamiliar with the series, though, there are ample laughs and scares, and even a few tears, to be found in Goosebumps.
Goosebumps opens nationwide on Friday, October 16, 2015.
3 out of 5 Bear Paws