DIR: Rob Letterman • WRI: Darren Lemke • PRO: Deborah Forte, Neal H. Moritz • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Jim May • DES: Sean Haworth • MUS: Danny Elfman • CAST: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee
Rob Letterman’s Goosebumps is a breath of fresh air. Sure, the film has some problems but overall it succeeds in its aim of being a fun adventure thriller that balances the nostalgia with snappy action, and never gets bogged down with contemporary references that would otherwise distract from the feel of the film. And for those of us who are tired of Hollywood trying to appeal to the youth of today by packing their films full of pop culture references that are obsolete within a year of the film’s release, it’s a relief.
Jack Black plays a fictionalised R.L Stine, real-life author of the ‘Goosebumps’ series as well as many other children’s horror series, with his own particularly brand of camp. Black’s overt acting style can often play against him (and grate on the audiences’ nerves), but here he strikes a nice balance between his character’s eccentricity and more subtle emotions.
Living secluded from the world in his carefully guarded home with his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), the odd family quickly attracts the attention of newcomer Zach (Dylan Minnette). Having recently moved to town with his mother after the death of his father, Zach is fascinated by the mysterious girl next door, but Hannah’s father seems determined to stop the two from getting any closer. Things only get more complicated when Zach and his friend Champ (Ryan Lee) break into the Stine house and accidently free the author’s most famous monsters from their bookish confines. A race against time ensues as the monsters wreak havoc on the town and the only way to stop them is for Stine to write an entirely new story involving all his most famous creations- in one night.
The plot moves at a brisk pace – maybe a bit too brisk. True, character development rarely extends beyond the ‘you-know-I-learned-something-today’ rigmarole in kids’ films, but anything too simplistic makes for a boring watch. This honestly wouldn’t be such a problem if not for the romance subplot. The action just stops at certain points in the film to allow these characters to swoon over one another but it feels incredibly forced and unsatisfying. A shame, really, because the film sans said romance would have had more time to focus on the action, which is by far its stronger element.
While no one above the age of ten will find the films jump-scares effective, all the monsters have solid designs and the CGI is surprisingly well rendered considering the productions relatively modest budget. The action sequences are also well shot. They have enough tension that we take what’s happening on-screen seriously, but just enough slapstick to keep it entertaining.
Naturally a lot of the humour is quite juvenile but not enough so that adults will find nothing to giggle to throughout the film. On a side note, it’s refreshing to see a film about teenagers where the characters are being played by actual teenagers. It’s difficult to take a character struggling with the worries of high school seriously when the actor is clearly twenty-five years old.
Overall, Goosebumps is a fun film for the family to enjoy together. Older fans of the franchise might not find it as enthralling, but nostalgic value alone should be enough to entice them.
103 minutes (See IFCO for details)
Goosebumps is released 5th February 2016