Goosebumps – Film Review

In this screen adaptation of the famous R.L. Stine novels, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) moves from the Big Apple to a quieter town. His dull move becomes interesting when he befriends the beautiful girl next door, Hannah (Odeya Rush). However, Hannah’s father (Jack Black) is a hostile man who warns Zach to stay away. Zach ignores his warning and one night, when he and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) sneak into Hannah’s house, Zach accidentally unlocks a manuscript of a Goosebump novel and soon the town is filled with ghouls and monsters that have been brought to life.
Goosebumps certainly presents its viewers with quite a chunk to digest: aliens shooting blasts of ice at innocent civilians, a giant praying mantis and a teenage basketballer werewolf trying to eat anything that they may find appetising, trigger happy garden gnomes, the whole lot; all of them spurred on by a demonic dummy who undeniably has more than one screw loose.
This chaotic mix makes for a very eventful movie; yet sadly, the strength of the overall plot may be as noticeable as the Invisible Boy. For although there is much terror in sight, the danger feels as threatening as a mosquito bite.
The 3D effects are quite disappointing too. Up until the end credits roll up, where the screen displays some brilliant graphics, you might forget you are even watching a 3D movie.
And though it is obvious that the film makers were quite literally trying to bring the horror stories to life (well, as literal as a movie can get), the nearly two-hour adventure managed to send chills down my spine at only two events. Perhaps I might have felt it more if Zach and his mom were the only humans in a town full of zombies, or if Zach had tried to escape after being stuck in the Horrorland Amusement Park. In other words, the adventure would seem more threatening had it been a little more direct.
Unfortunately, not much can be said for the main actors either. This is my first time watching Odeya Rush on screen, but as one of the leading roles, Rush’s character, Hannah, is too simple to give much indication whether her delivery as an actor was strong or not. She is really adorable, though, with enchanting eyes.
And let me not even get started on Jack Black. His contrived attempt at playing R.L. Stine was just so unpleasantly awkward. Initially I thought he would have made a better match as one of the villains; perhaps an evil clown. Upon finding out that Black was, indeed, the villainous one-liner dummy, Slappy, it became evident that the only place Black truly has in this film is being comically creepy. His performance as R.L. Stine is confusing: are we supposed to fear or love the grouchy man that lives next door? Evidently, this role presented way too much depth for Black to handle.
Dylan Minette does a tiring job at playing the lead character, Zach. But again, I doubt I can judge his acting fairly because Zach is probably the dullest character of the movie. If you ask me, Zach can be more accurately described as a glorified dunderhead. His hubris is out of place, being such a persistent and imposing teenager, but also a dimwit.
The only character I truly enjoyed watching was Chump. For me, he would have fared better as the main character. Although a tad cheesy, I think his outbursts present a more natural reaction to the creepiness that looms ahead. I got quite a few laughs out of his antics.
Movies tend to make the main character daring and courageous, but how much more interesting would it be for a character to have a more visceral response to things and still conquer the day?
My favourite thing about watching Goosebumps, however, is the way the story is filled with the wisecrack puns and goofy interjections that you would find in a typical teenage comedy. If anything, that is what made watching this movie enjoyable.
Sadly, what was an attempt at bringing the story books to life became instead a wave of characters and monsters that washed out the strength of the story almost entirely. And although I do not see why anyone should want to watch a horror film, let alone children, I do think the story could have been more pungent. Next time Rob Letterman and his writers try to concoct a chilling story, they need to stick to the golden rule; too many ghouls spoil the plot.