‘Goosebumps’ is a frightening good time

“Goosebumps” is not what you might expect. Then again, it is what you might expect from the R. L. Stine bestselling book series that has now gone to the big screen (Oct. 16). There is one thing for sure that you count on from the Sony-back film and that is you must be prepared to be chilled to the point of being scared out of your wits.

Going to see a screening of “Goosebumps,” I really didn’t know what to quite expect. Humor? Dark fantasy? Ghoulish manifestos? How about all three. But the best part of the movie is actor Jack Black going Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” I expected “Goosebumps” to be light-hearted and fun. That it is. But the real makeup of the film has a much darker edge to it that it will make Halloween aficionados proud.

Halloween is all about monsters and scary things that go bump into the night. There’s plenty of that going on in “Goosebumps.” Halloween wouldn’t be what it is without monsters, ghouls, zombies and other creatures tapping you on the shoulders and frightening the heck out of you. I am not usually moved by scary movies, but “Goosebumps”  sure as heck had me looking back over my shoulders a couple of times.

This is good stuff. You can thank Black for help making it all come to life with his portrayal of the mysterious Stine and voice-over stint as “Slappy the Dummy.” It looked to me that Black had a great time doing the film because just about everything he does in the movie he gets right.  Not only does he gets the Stine role right, he believably puts sinister into the creepy “Slappy the Dummy” character.

When the creatures from R.L. Stine’s (Jack Black) Goosebumps series come to life – including the Abominable Snowman (pictured) – it’s up to Stine to team up with three teenagers to get these figments of Black’s imagination back in the books where they belong and save the town. Date Added 9/28/2015 1:45:00 PM Addtl. Info ©2015 CTMG. All Rights Reserve
When the creatures from R.L. Stine’s (Jack Black) Goosebumps series come to life – including the Abominable Snowman (pictured) – it’s up to Stine to team up with three teenagers to get these figments of Black’s imagination back in the books where they belong and save the town. ©2015 CTMG. All Rights Reserve

Actually, Black made “Slappy the Dummy” so real that the next time I run into a ventriloquist I just might have go run and hide. If you’re expecting a couple of screams here, some creepy moments thrown in with a few comedic zingers from Black-this is not “Goosebumps.”  Instead, what you have in “Goosebumps” is light moments tossed in with “Fright Night.”

Stine (Black) is an evasive character who wants nothing to do with meet and greet opportunities with his new neighbors. He also doesn’t want this daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), flirting or having anything to do with the other gender, especially with the boy-next-door Zach (Dylan Minnette). But teenagers do what teenagers do, and ignore their parents’ advice. Teenagers do the opposite of what their parents instruct them to do.

That usually leads to consequences. So likewise, Hannah and Zach are sort of attracted to one another. Eventually. Stine forbids Zach from coming around Hannah (typical dad or we think). This leads the curious Zach to see what the heck is going on with his new friend. So he invites his pal (Champ) to go with him as he commits a breaking and entering crime into Stine’s house. He gets more than what he bargained for when he discovers Stine’s collection of monster books.

 L-r, Ryan Lee, Jack Black, Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush star in Columbia Pictures' "Goosebumps." ©2015 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.
L-r, Ryan Lee, Jack Black, Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush star in Columbia Pictures’ “Goosebumps.” ©2015 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.

Stine’s books are accidentally opened, unleashing all the demons you might imagine. This sets off a wild and crazy spurt of four of the main characters in the film who try to keep the monsters from doing a take over as they jump out of the pages of Stine’s books to real-life sociopaths. This is the sort of stuff that teenagers and young adults will eat up.

A lot of the usual suspects are here: Werewolf, The Invisible Boy (Black), Praying Mantis, the Abombinable Snowman, and of course, Mr. Creepville himself, Slappy the Dummy. The zaniness of “Goosebumps” has Slappy the Dummy” operating as a gang leader in orchestrating the monster takeover.

Like a monster character all wired up, Slappy the Dummy is obsessed with sticking it to Stine, and wants to make his life a ball of burning inferno as he trails his creator like the “Nightstalker.” In the meantime, Stine, Zach, Champ and Hannah all get together on the same page to try to stop this demonized dummy. Unleashed is a lot of chaotic fun. As you might imagine, there are a lot of frightening chill and spill moments.

Black, in his role as Stine, gives off one of his best performances as an actor. Instead of the usual comedic rouse we get from Black, we get a dark, tense, and times, a lot more serious character wrestling with his own inner demons. Black makes the movie with his triple threat characters.

As reclusive as Stine appears to be, Slappy the Dummy is just as dangerous. Probably more so. He is a madman with such frightening recklessness to destroy that it would probably scare Frankenstein. Just as those characters are, it is equally important that Minnette, Lee and Rush mesh their roles with the young adult audience that is sure to come out in strong waves to see the 1 hour, 43 minute movie.

If you want to see a great Halloween flick, “Goosebumps” is the one. But you might come away with a nightmare or two.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1057 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.