Ginger Nuts of Horror
delivers a performance, that even though it would never be classed as finessed, it is at least measured
Goosebumps is a bit of an odd film to review as the milage that any viewer will get could be subject to the affection that they have with the source material. The R.L. Stine books that the film is based on have. over the many years since the first book was published, become a mainstay and an initial step on the path to horror films and horror fiction for more Americans that I would ever care to count. In the UK I don't think that the books ever had the same level of impact. Certainly this reviewer has never read any of his books, so with that in mind I can come into this film with afresh unbiased set of eyes....
Upset about moving from a big city to a small town, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door. But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach's comes when he learns that Hannah has a mysterious dad who is revealed to be R. L. Stine (Jack Black), the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series. It turns out that there is a reason why Stine is so strange... he is a prisoner of his own imagination - the monsters that his books made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it's suddenly up to Stine, Zach, Hannah, and Zach's friend Champ (Ryan Lee) to get all of them back in the books where they belong.
Goosebumps is a strange film, it feels hampered by a number of factors, that's not to say its a bad film, it is an entertaining film and when the action kicks off we are treated to a kid friendly action horror film that will enthral children of all ages.
It has a great retro feel to it that I would imagine captures the spirit of the books perfectly. There is a great small town under threat feel to it that at times reminds you of such classics as Gremlins and Small Soldiers however it is probably more akin to Mars Attacks in overall feel, where the scares are replaced with more kid friendly thrills and spills. As with those two films there is a great sense of self referentialism and a nice line of sly humour, particularly from the main villain Slappy The Puppet. Slappy is a great villain full of menace and great one liners all wrapped up in a mini RKO bad guy personality. You could just imagine him bothering Stanley Clements in some foggy alley way.
The cast is great and the presence of a great number of some great comic actors lifts the film up when it feels it is beginning to sag. Now I am no fan of Jack Black, in general his over acting style generally grates, but for once he reigns it in and delivers a performance, that even though it would never be classed as finessed, it is at least measured and free from his usual annoying characteristics. The rest of the cast turn in some great performances, especially the two young leads.
As for the monsters, this what we are all here for isn't it? Well they are simply fantastic, from the wonderfully realised werewolf, the brilliant giant ant, right to the amazing psychotic garden gnomes. The monster that get any air time in this film are rendered extremely well and are sued perfectly on screen.
Now this would all seem that the film is brilliant, which sadly isn't quite the case. As I mentioned at the start the film is hampered by a number of things, chief among them is the history involved. Te film at times feels as though it is drowning in its own past. The filmmakers should have pulled back on the number of monsters and allowed those that they kept to breath more on the screen, it felt as though they were scared of a backlash if they missed out on a fan favourite.
It also suffered from not being totally sure of its audience, the PG rating would suggest that they wanted todays kids to go and watch it, however the source material would have been better served if the went for a higher rating and gave the legions of older fans a film that they could fully immerse themselves in.
A slightly over long initial act where nothing happens other than us being introduced to the main characters also hampers the enjoyment of the film, however over all this film is an enjoyable way to spend an evening, the mix of action, thrills and laughs while not always on the mark, on the main works very well, and any film that makes me cry at the end, must have made me care about it.