LFF 2015: Jack Black stars in a fun kids' horror romp based on RL Stine's books
Based on RL Stine's phenomenally popular YA novellas, Goosebumps stars Dylan Minnette as fresh-faced teenager Zach, who moves to Madison, Delaware and immediately develops a crush on his home-schooled neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush), whose mysterious father (Jack Black) keeps her under lock and key.
While attempting to rescue Hannah from captivity, Zach and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) discover that her father is actually horror author RL Stine when they stumble upon a collection of sealed Goosebumps manuscripts and accidentally break one open, releasing the Abominable Snowman into Hannah's living room. In the ensuing chaos, evil ventriloquist's dummy Slappy (voiced by Black) breaks out of his book and frees all of the monstrous creations, so it's up to Stine and the teenagers to stop the monsters before they destroy the town.
Rather than adapting any of Stine's individual stories, the filmmakers opt for a greatest hits approach, ensuring appearances from a host of fan favourites in a plot that recalls 1995's similarly effects-led children's adventure Jumanji. Fortunately, the creature effects are nicely handled (with a couple of great 3D moments) and director Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) orchestrates a number of enjoyable set-pieces, including a scary gnome home invasion, a car chase involving a giant praying mantis, the Abominable Snowman negotiating an ice rink, and a werewolf in a supermarket.
Black is on fine comic form as the egotistical recluse and the trio of teens make likeable leads, while Darren Lemke's script strikes the right balance between creepy and funny, without making anything too scary for young children. There are also plenty of good jokes for adults (such as Stine's jealousy towards Stephen King) and some clever, genre-savvy ideas, such as driving off a werewolf by biting it with silver fillings. This is a pacey and enjoyable kids' horror romp that stays faithful to the spirit of Stine's books and delivers a pleasing amount of both thrills and laughs.
Screening on Sat 17 and Sun 18 Oct as part of the London Film Festival 2015. General release from 5 Feb 2016.