Whilst you might think that the target demographic for the big-screen adaptation of the Goosebumps novels would be strictly children, that’s not entirely true. In fact, as someone who is about to turn to twenty-eight-years old, I can’t help but feel that this was made for me.
Not only am I of an age where I can appreciate the source material and can remember, quite vividly, reading the popular series of books whilst in school – especially Night of The Living Dummy, whose main antagonist, Slappy, features heavily here, I’m pleased to say – but I’m also of an age where I can appreciate the 1995, Robin Williams-starring Jumanji; a film with which Goosebumps shares a lot of the same DNA.
Rather than take what could be considered the easy way out, by simply adapting one of R.L. Stine’s original stories, this has a high concept. The author – who is played by a scenery chewing, top form Jack Black – is central to the narrative, as his monsters are accidentally unleashed on a small town community by his daughter and the new neighbour.
The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, the Werewolf of Fever Swamp and the Invisible Boy are just a few of Stine’s creations which need to be re-captured and sucked back into the books from which they came; the film cleverly playing out like a ‘Goosebumps greatest hits’ that will be sure to please any fan of the books.
Considering its poor marketing had done nothing to inspire my confidence, Goosebumps is full of surprises. Not only was I shocked to find myself laughing loudly and consistently from beginning to end, but I was pleased to see that it had a darkness and bite that I really wasn’t expecting at all.
I freely admit that it made me jump on a couple of occasions, with the film’s scarier tone being pitched just right for adult and child alike. As well as having a squelchy, gungy feel to proceedings, efforts to develop Stine’s character by drawing a Batman-Joker relationship between him and his most famous creation, Slappy, are a welcome if slightly ridiculous addition. The fact that the writers have at least tried to do something clever is at the very least admirable.
No new ground is broken – except when zombies rise from the grave and literally break the ground – and it does lose its way when it gives in to its mawkish, eye-rolling sentiment. However, as a whole, Goosebumps is frightfully entertaining family fun which put a huge smile on my face and made me feel like a child again. In this instance, I can’t ask for much more than that.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.co.uk