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.
Jack Black plays the big screen version of RL Stine, an author who now lives confined to his house with his daughter and forbids her to really associate with people, most of all Zach. When Zach suspects something fishy is going on at Stine’s house involving domestic abuse, he and his new friend Champ investigate only to learn that Stine and Hannah are actually gatekeepers to Stine’s supernatural manuscripts. Turned in to various “Goosebumps” books, the manuscripts take on a life of their own when opened, and from their pages emerge a slew of deadly monsters, including the megalomaniacal Slappy from “Night of The Living Dummy.” Rather than being a simple monster, Slappy is more an extension of Stine, who has plans to unleash his monster brethren and take over the world.
“Goosebumps” watches a lot like “Jumanji” meets “Gremlins” where our heroes have to out wit and out run a lot of the monstrous minions, all the while engaging in wacky circumstances that make the battle tougher than ever. What’s more is that Stine has to muster up the creativity to warp the monsters back in to their dimension, which is so much harder than it looks. Black pulls double duty as the author and the monster Slappy, enhancing the metaphor of duality between Stine and his heinous creation. They’re both essentially the same persona, except Slappy just works as Stine with darker and more evil intentions, in the end. He’s a colorful and creepy villain who will stop at nothing, and adds a dose of darkness in an otherwise entertaining family film.
Black is considerably restrained as Stine, but has a blast going off the rails as the psychotic Slappy. “Goosebumps” doesn’t stop there, enlisting myriad great performances from Dylan Minnette, Ryan Lee and Odeya Rush. Even Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell are used to wonderful effect in very strong supporting performances. Director Letterman and writer Darren Lemke understand writing and Stine, bringing his magic and appeal to the big screen, while also expressing the hardships and struggles that come with being a writer. “Goosebumps” is one of my favorite movies of 2015; it’s a fun horror adventure for the fans, that will also appeal to newcomers of Stine and the “Goosebumps” novels.