Growing up, I absolutely loved R.L Stine's Goosebumps novels. They sparked my love for reading and have inspired me ever since. So, of course, when I found out that a live-action adaption was being made, I was skeptical about it. However, I've now seen the film and the verdict is in. Here's my review.

When teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) reluctantly moves from a big city to the small town of Madison, Delaware, with his mother Gale (Amy Ryan), he finds a silver lining when he meets the mysterious, beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living next door. However, the problem is, Hannah's dad - who is later to be revealed as Goosebumps author R.L Stine (Jack Black) - is very overprotective and strict. Upon thinking that something is wrong next door, after hearing a scream come from Hannah's house, Zach, alongside his new-found friend Champ (Ryan Lee) go to investigate. When they find - and unlock - one of the Goosebumps manuscripts being kept in the basement, they unleash the first of many monsters that begin to terrorise Madison, with Stine's imaginary monsters in pursuit of the author, wanting revenge for him locking them all away in his books. Stine, Zach, Hannah and Champ all come together to save their town the only way they can, by writing a new Goosebumps novel featuring all Stine's infamous monsters so that they can capture them all again.
What made Stine's short stories so successful was just how much fun they were, all whilst spinning a unique twist on the horror genre, creating some iconic characters and really chilling its young audience whilst being very well-written and quite challenging too. The books played a big part in my childhood and my life growing up and they were the reason I loved reading as much as I did. The same could be said for a lot of people, the Goosebumps novels had a big impact on a lot of people. Now, director Rob Letterman could have quite easily just taken any one of Stine's novels and adapted it and cashed in on its succes. However, Letterman has taken his time and taken care with this film, making a great meta and self-referential love letter to Stine and Goosebumps and it's iconic characters, that captures the true heart and feel of the novels.

If there's one word that best describes Goosebumps and encompasses this whole picture, it's fun. This is a self-aware, self-referential and very meta film and Letterman understands this and understands the source material and just has fun with it. Stine's original novels were so much fun and the same energy is infused into this film, managing to recapture the tone and the atmosphere of the books. Another thing the novels did was creep you out and create a tense atmosphere and live up to its title and give you goosebumps and Letterman actually manages to create a fairly tense atmosphere - for a family film anyway - at times and there's one genuine moment that actually made me jump. It's a very funny film too and the majority of the jokes worked. It's a film that doesn't take itself too seriously and, as a result, is wildly entertaining and is funny and scary but there also a couple of really dramatic moments, when there needs to be, that largely hit they way they do because of how much we invest into these characters and this story. Darren Lemke's screenplay is wonderful and he has done a great job of encapsulating all of Stine's imaginsation and wonder and he has elegantly portrayed these characters with a lot of heart and sincerity.
The acting is all great too, bringing these characters to life really well. Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush bring a lot of charisma and heart to the roles and Ryan Lee brings a lot of wit to the role of Champ, taking the belly share of the laughs. They are a very likable trio of lead actors and really add a lot to the proceedings, all giving very solid performances. However, Jack Black steals the show here. The actor is a triumph in what is, arguably, one of his best perfromances in recent years. Although, it's a very different performance than we're used to seeing from him. It's a very subdued, angry performance and Stine is a very cold and reserved character but Black is perfect in bringing the renowned author to the big-screen. Also, Stine himself does have a very nice cameo in this picture too - towards the end - as the school's drama teacher, Mr. Black, which is very a tongue-in-cheek joke about the fact that Jack Black himself is an actor, here playing Stine, and vice versa. It's a nice touch.

Unfortunately, Goosebumps isn't without flaw, though. For starters, there are A LOT of monsters on-screen but, ultimately, there's not enough screen-time for all of them - aside from our main few - and things can seem a little too crowded at times. Also, these monsters are brought to life through a combination of practical effects and CGI and whilst the character of Slappy (also voiced by Black) looks very convincing and believable - seeing as how they used a real ventriloquist puppet for him - unfortuntaley the same can't be same for some of the other creatures we seen on-screen. The CG is very cartoon-y and very blatanlty obvious and contrived and I feel as though it takes away from the impact and the creepiness of this film. The action-sequences are big and full of visual flair too but, again, at times, it does feel all a little too contrived. It doesn't take you out of the experience too much but you can't help but feel that it just would have helped if things flowed a bit more seamlessy. In the end, however, Goosebumps is still a wickedly entertaining and very good film, nonetheless. It's funny, scary, heartfelt, fun and just an incredibly good time.

VERDICT:

Nostalgic and just tons of fun, Goosebumps is funny, endearing and grossly entertaining and honours the source material respectably.



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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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