Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

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.

Friends Sonny and Sam end up at an abandoned house where they find a manuscript. The unpublished “Goosebumps” manuscript unleashes Slappy the Dummy, who once again re-emerges to seemingly befriend the pair. But his good fortune bestowed on them sours when he begins revealing his true motives for the pair, and this involves using magic to bring to life his army of monster pals. Planning a monster apocalypse for Halloween, and overrunning the pair’s small town with various creatures, Sonny and Sam team up with Sonny’s big sister and their neighbor to help stop Slappy and save Sonny’s mom.

“Goosebumps 2” loses a lot of the heart that made the original film so great, and even manages to waste Wendi McLendon Covey. This is a hilarious comedian whose mastered playing the doting mother on screen, and here she’s kind of a glorified walk on role who never quite comes in to effect the way Jack Black should. As for Black, a lot of his role is diminished, with what is in the film obviously re-shot for the purposes of bringing in a bigger audience. I’m not sure why the producers thought to under utilize such a big name draw like Black, but suffice to say his role, while bigger, is also pretty paltry. His RL Stine character is reduced to a glorified walk on role, with Black playing Slappy and little else. There’s not a lot of explanation as to why RL is a recluse, and what happened to his daughter. Also if RL spent most of his time guarding his manuscripts in the original, why would he so recklessly leave one behind in an abandoned house?

“Goosebumps 2” should have improved on the flaws from the original, as in advancing the monsters that RL Stine honed so perfectly in his novels. I would have loved more of the monsters given a bigger chance at screen time, and be allowed to be a bigger threat or personality. But the writers basically just feature one or two of Stine’s monsters, while a majority of the monsters featured are basically just in the vein of Stine, and nothing else. The movie is very much about featuring Slappy center stage, and celebrating the idea of Halloween, and kind of misses the point that Stine’s books are pretty great on their own. And it’s sad that the writers basically just recycle the first film, when they very well could have given us a feature film version of “The Haunted Mask,” a “Goosebumps” tale set on Halloween! The producers very clearly want to turn Slappy in to some kind of horror icon for kids, but the movie suffers greatly for that.

He’s given more of a central role, while the human characters are poorly developed and never quite as complex as the ones we saw in the original. To show prove botched this sequel is, the ending doesn’t make a lick of sense and breaks the rules established in the first film. So what, RL Stine has been a fictional character all this time? Who wrote him? Did Slappy reverse engineer the manuscripts or has he been in the real world long enough to have an imagination like RL Stine’s? Are there other writers that have this ability? And if Slappy can break out of the manuscript doesn’t that mean RL can, too? “Goosebumps 2” could have gone anywhere in the RL Stine universe, but it chooses to basically retread ideas for the sake of Slappy’s run away success and that’s a shame. It’s just a disappointing, half baked follow up that could have aimed higher.