The first “Goosebumps” movie was a big surprise for me. While I was against it being a fluid narrative and not an anthology or adaptation of one of the books, it ended up being a great, heartfelt, and genuinely fun horror comedy. And Jack Black as RL Stine was such a nice little addition that helped what was essentially a love letter to RL Stine’s imagination. It pains me to say that, like a lot of others, I just did not like “Goosebumps 2.” It’s not only the fact that it tosses out a lot of what made the original film so much fun, but it also completely recycles the premise from the first film with a monster apocalypse… except, you know, on Halloween.
It is Halloween and Drew is ready to dress up as her favorite superhero and collect candy. It’s her favorite night of the year but her best friend Walker has no desire to go out for the holiday. That’s also because there’s been a string of mysterious disappearances over the last month, with four people gone without a trace. After successfully convincing her parents to let her go out at night, Drew convinces Walker to go out for Halloween, now that her friends from her old neighborhood Shane and Shana have come to town to pay her a visit.
What “Goosebumps” accomplishes, is not just paying homage to the joy of “Goosebumps,” but to the joy of reading and writing as well. It’s not many movies that can convey the idea of writing as something purely magical, and “Goosebumps” pinpoints how books can be a portal in to something entirely otherworldly, especially if you’re a fan of the world RL Stine has built for his fans since the 1990’s. More of a meta-horror comedy than an actual series of tales, “Goosebumps” is set in Delaware where Zach and his newly widowed mother are preparing to start their lives over. With Zach trying to adapt to his new school, he meets the gorgeous Hannah (Odeya Rush), a neighbor who is home schooled by her reclusive and strict father.
I don’t know how they keep recruiting these Disney stars to headline the RL Stine movies. Disney always seems to have such a tight grasp on them. In either case, “Cabinet of Souls” is the very definition of an RL Stine story, except with a much longer format. It surely sports the same mold and aesthetic with a small town, teen protagonists, and evil villains that seek to ruin their innocence somehow. It stumbles on occasion, and there’s a clear lack of wit that you can usually find with Stine’s yarns, but it’s a pleasing movie; especially if you’re a fan of Dove Cameron, Katherine McNamara, or Ryan McCartan.
When it comes to children’s television, networks and studios tend to get weird and air specials out of desperation. Often times it’s to test for a potential audience, which is why we got “Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers,” and other times it’s apparently to fill dead air; which is why we got “Ghosts of Fear Street” in 1997. I remember a lot about 1997, and my Friday nights typically was devoted to the scattered remnants of what was once ABC’s TGIF line up. For those final years we didn’t have much save for the last death gasp of “Boy Meets World.” Say what you want about the series, but those last seasons are terrible. There seems to be no record of “Ghosts of Fear Street” ever having existed. Save for some TV listings, and occasional screen caps, this isn’t even included in the resumes of its cast that include the lovely Azura Skye, and Alex Breckinridge, and the always odd Red Buttons.
“Have you Met My Ghoulfriend?” comes off like it’s the fourth film in a movie series, when it seems to only have come after the somewhat bland “Mostly Ghostly” from 2008. Only Madison Pettis comes back for the follow-up, which involves a pair of ghostly teenagers, their human friend with a ghoul fighting ring, and an evil ghoul named Phears intent on consuming their souls, or possessing them, or–something to that effect.
Often these days whenever I’m talking with other horror geeks, I hear the common response that they never read RL Stine when they were children. They were instead reading Stephen King. Well, for some of us who went to middle school, the folks that ran it often felt King was beyond the comprehension of most of its students. That never stopped me of course from reading “It” and grabbing amazing books like “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” That book, while touted to children, was grotesque, disgusting, gory, and featured some truly scary stories that I continue to remember fondly. I’m mad at myself for not keeping my original copy which was pretty worn out by the time I was in middle school.
Sure, by today’s standards, and with my current age, R.L. Stine isn’t so scary anymore. But in case many of you don’t know the name, R.L. Stine is very recognizable to the folks like me who grew up around the time Stine resided in book shelves all over the country. For horror geeks like me, Stine was a gateway drug, he was that first introduction into the horror genre before you came into the hard stuff, and I loved it all. For the teens that could get away with it, he brought us “Fear Street,” a creepier, mature, and violent series of books that had actual stories to them.