The Film (4/5)
Goosebumps was one of the biggest of the young adult book series of the 1990's, and if you were a child whose horror fandom was obvious from a young age, the series, and it's more mature counterpart Fear Street was a godsend. The Goosebumps books were written by R.L. Stine formerly a staff writer on the Nickelodeon show Eureka's Castle, between 1992 and 1997, and totaled 62 books. He would go on to do other series of Goosebumps years later.
The Goosebumps books were perfect for young children getting into horror, and sneaking them past one's parents. They were considered safe, as the horror contained no violence or death. They also had a strong pervasive sense of humor that helped to keep the horror from being overly striking. The Goosebumps books would be adapted to the small screen in the late 90's and early 2000's, the short length of each book would make it remarkably easy to adapt the books to a half hour television format.
Now we have the feature film, Goosebumps starring Jack Black. As the TV show had adapted most of, if not all the Goosebumps stories it would have been crazy to just adapt 1 or 2 for a feature film and call it a day. The creators of Goosebumps, the movie did something quite a bit more interesting, that in a way that indirectly channels David Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch.
The film stars Dylan Minnette as Zach who along with his Mother (Amy Ryan)just moved to the small town of Madison, Delaware about a year after the death of Zach's Father. While unpacking Zach meets Hannah (Odeya Rush) the girl next door, whose Father (Jack Black) wants to keep her trapped inside the house, and away from the prying eyes of the outside world. One night after hearing Hannah let loose a blood curdling scream Zach, and his new best friend Champ (Ryan Lee) concoct an elaborate scheme to get into the house to investigate. While searching they find a bookshelf full of old tomes that are bound by lock and key that are making noises. When curiosity gets the better of the pair, they take a key from Hannah's fathers desk, unlock a book and unleash The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena on to the streets of their town.
It turns out that Hannah's Dad is none other than R.L. Stine, and that his imagination is so powerful that each original text version of the Goosebumps books must be kept under lock and key, or else the monsters contained therein will break free, and escape over into the real world, and wreak havoc. After the first monster is let loose, other books begin to open most by Slappy the Dummy one of Stine's most iconic and creepy creations. Now the town of Madison is overrun by Goosebumps Monsters and it's up to Stine, Hannah, Zach, and Champ to put things back how they were before the town becomes the monsters playground.
The screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karasewski manages to create something that feels like an original Goosebumps story, while paying homage to the original Goosebumps stories, and utilizing those iconic creations of R.L. Stine. The film is a playful and fun affair with enough scares to keep children hiding behind the couch, but excited enough to keep peeking out for more. Because of the sheer volume of characters the film will probably be worth repeat viewing with some children to catch favorite characters, and of course get them to go out and read the original books.
The performances across the board are completely solid with the core teenage trio of of Minnette, Rush, and Lee having an excellent chemistry with one another, and creating something that feels like a reasonable relationship. Jack Black plays a nicely exaggerated version of R.L. Stine, and is a hysterical comic foil to the horror surrounding the main characters.
My own personal Goosebumps phrase was but a quick flicker, before I started grabbing at Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels in the same year I found the R.L. Stine books, still I found watching the film with my youngest was a thrill seeing him get excited, laugh, and scared in equal measure. The film certainly fills a niche in the market for horror films directed solely at children, and does so with style.
Goosebumps is presented by Sony in a 2:39:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer in the films original aspect ratio. The transfer looks and sound gorgeous with colors practically popping off the screen, blacks being inky and deep, and flesh tones being accurate. There is some minor softness, but nothing to really complain about.
The audio is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track in English with dialogue, score, and effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the track.
Not much of substance here. There are deleted scenes, alternate opening and closings, a few short featurettes, trailers, and galleries. This should appeal to the film's target audience, however.
Goosebumps was a surprisingly refreshing take on the nearly 20 year old series. It didn't adapt any particular story, rather it brought the whole universe of R.L. Stine's series to life in a very fun manner. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, and though the extras are slim, this title is RECOMMENDED.