After moving to a small town, Zach Cooper (Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets next-door neighbor Hannah (Rush), the daughter of best-selling Goosebumps series author R.L. Stine (Black). Stine is very mysterious and a prisoner of his own imagination - the monsters that his books made famous are real, and he protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their manuscripts. When the monsters are accidentally unleashed and begin to terrorize the town, it's up to Stine, Zach and Hannah to get them back in their books where they belong! (from Sony)
When you hear the title "Goosebumps," the popular teen horror book series from the 90's is mostly likely what would first come to mind. While many studios -- especially Sony -- are interested in cashing in on popular franchises and brand names these days, it comes as a bit of a surprise still that it's taken this long to bring a film based on Goosebumps to the big screen. For this first big screen adaptation, comedian Jack Black embodies a fictional representation of Goosebumps author R.L. Stine as he tries to make a life for himself hiding under the name of "Mr. Shivers" (Although that's not the most subtle fake name for a horror book author to hide under). Like the family-friendly creature-driven adventure films before it, Jumanji and Zathura for example, Goosebumps aims to capture that kind of fun, thrilling and scary vibe--and succeeds.
Most teenager-driven movies like these have a tendency to over stylize the real-life high school experience, or populate the world they exist in with youngsters who seem to know a lot more than the adults, who often get dumbed-down. Thankfully, Goosebumps strikes a fine balance, leaving the "dumb adults" kept to just a pair of quirky and genuinely funny smalltown police officers and Zach's kind-of-annoying weird aunt. Amy Ryan (who I loved as Holly Flax on The Office) is great as the school's new VP and Zach's mom. She brings a lot of the fun of that role to her character here and it works nicely. Zach is played by Dylan Minnette (who starred in 2014's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and has also been seen in shows like the final season of LOST and Scandal), who is dealing with having recently lost his father and having to move from New York to a smalltown setting. Add "creepy neighbor" to the "new kid" status and Goosebumps begins to take shape. Mr. Shivers' daughter Hannah strikes up a friendship with Zach, while the dorky Champ at school latches on to this possible new friend, and the three band together once the mayhem ensues.
Like how the Jumanji board game would unleash monsters into the world, Stine's books are literally kept under lock and key to keep the horrors he had written from coming to life. But one of Stine's greatest adversaries in his literary works is a ventriloquist dummy named Slappy, and when the puppet accidentally gets free, he sets the other creatures free as well. Stine and the kids then must fight to round up and capture these creatures once again -- and survive in the process. The creatures are mostly pretty creepy, with Slappy, a werewolf and a graveyard of zombies being the more unnerving of the monsters. The Abominable Snowman is pretty cool, while an evil army of murderous garden gnomes is equal parts funny and sort of creepy. The foursome come across quite a few baddies throughout the story as well -- all inspired by things from the real R.L. Stine books -- and it's a fun ride to go on with them.
The content isn't too bad. Aside from the occasional "Oh my G-d" or "Oh G-d," the only real content to be concerned with is how intense the movie could be for younger viewers. The werewolf is pretty scary-looking and I'd imagine the ventriloquist dummy could disturb some folks. There are also quite a few jump moments, but they're minor and usually psych-out moments. But although it's relatively mild overall, I'd imagine the littler ones will be pretty creeped out by it.
I was surprised to find myself really enjoying Goosebumps. It's not perfect, and I actually liked it better than Jumanji (for several reasons), but it has a classic monster-movie feel, with the film even making a couple blatant nods to The Blob, and rightfully so. If you like your horror on the lighter side, Goosebumps is for you.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 1/25/16)
All About Slappy (4:44) - After the credits roll (or you can watch it separately via the bonus features menu), is this little video hosted by the puppet Slappy. It talks about his origin in the books and then shows how he was made as a prop for the film.
Cast Blooper Reel (3:08) - This amusing blooper reel consists mostly of the cast goofing around or messing up their lines. (1 "My G-d" and then at least 4 "d*mn" in a song playing as a soundtrack to the bloopers)
Alternate Opening (3:28) - In the alternate opening scene, we see two moving guys packing up stuff from what is clearly Stine's previous residence. As they drive away--at night--a box of Stine's books falls over in the truck and they hear a scary sound. They then go investigate and find Slappy in the back of the truck...
Deleted Scenes (12:39) - There are 7 deleted scenes. The first is a group of them that show Zach meeting Taylor and other kids on his first day of school. It's in his first meeting with Taylor that her jock boyfriend paints a proverbial target on Zach. In his next class where they're doing a science experiment, the jocks rig Zach's experiment to explode in his face. After that, the football coach tries to be friendly when he sees him in the bathroom and just asks him to talk him up to his mom for him. Later, as Zach sits and reads in the bleachers on the football field, some of the jocks try to pick a fight with him. Overall, it develops the other characters a bit more who randomly appear throughout the film. But it also feels a bit cliche too. Next is a short scene where Zach spazzes out to his mom while worrying about Hannah's safety. The third scene shows Stine going to the police station after a prank call. The fourth scene shows Lorraine finding Zach's room empty after he snuck out. We then have a cut scene of Stine driving with Champ, Hannah and Zach and we're given several outtakes as well of Jack Black delivering several improvised lines. Next we see the jock who picked on Zach getting cornered by The Abominable Snowman (with unfinished effects) and then an Alternate Ending with Zach meeting a girl named Anna and Stine finding the typewriter spelling out "Slappy's Revenge" instead of "The Invisible Boy..." Overall, they're worth watching to fill in a couple little insignificant gaps, but I see why all of this was cut.
Beginner's Guide to Surviving a Goosebumps Creature (5:47) - This featurette is a playful one that briefly covers the main creatures featured in the movie, with a quasi-"guide" on how to survive an encounter with gnomes, werewolves, a haunted car, the Abominable Snowman, and a giant praying mantis. They also give a little bit of history on some of the creatures.
Strange Things are Happening... On-Set (3:30) - A couple of the cast share how fun it was to be on set, and then Dylan pretends to get very serious and reveal that real unexplainable supernatural phenomena had started happening on-set. It's all a big joke, however, with elaborate pranks having been staged -- from vandalism in the hospitality tent to a make-up team member pretending to be a zombie.
Creaturefied! (8:56) is actually a pretty neat featurette where two of the film's make-up artists show how to make fake blood and then a mummy costume. They then bring in Dylan and Ryan and have Ryan sit in a chair so they can make a homemade mummy costume for him. It's pretty cool and great for Halloween ideas.
Screen Test Gallery (7:16) is a series of videos that feature Jack Black, Dylan and Odeya running through random scenes prior to filming.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 1/25/16)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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