Goosebumps sequel brings more laughter than fear

Goosebumps sequel brings more laughter than fear

Review: Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween

(PG) Jack Black, Madison Iseman, Caleel Harris, Jeremy Ray Taylor

For the fans of the children’s horror/humour book series, this is an opportunity to reconnect with more of some of the main characters in the famous author’s books.  Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween opens the next chapter in R.L Stine’s world of fear in suburbia. Taking audiences to the novelist’s former residence in Wardenclyffe, New York, where the journey into the dark realm began. His writing makes terror literature accessible to the youth of the world with a unique combination of horror, humour and fantasy. Ari Sandel (The Duff) directs a new cast of humans as they experience an adventure that is reminiscent of many of the 80’s iconic horror/comedies it attempts to emulate.

Halloween is a bizarre celebration of the darker sides of the human imagination and spirituality and each community in America enjoy the traditions of trick or treat. In the small town on Long Island, the Quinn’s are merely getting on with life as the rest of their neighbours take this holiday to new heights of revelry. Sonny Quinn (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, Sam (Caleel Harris), have just started a new business of removing junk from people’s properties in the community and their first job takes them to the former Stine residence. They manage to find a secret room that holds a chest with an unfinished manuscript of the famed writer inside.

Upon opening the locked book, they manage to release the evil ventriloquist dummy, Slappy (voiced by Mick Wingert). Using his magical powers to help the boys and the Quinn family, but once they realise his wicked intentions for Halloween, the close-knit family attempt to stop him. The vicious doll manages to release The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, and the lawn gnomes from Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes upon the innocent community. The only way to stop his evil plan is to reach out to the man who wrote all of these creatures into existence, R.L. Stine (Jack Black).

Despite being based in the adolescent horror genre, Sandel manages to keep the fear factor to a minimum and lift this series to a family-friendly realm. Unlike The House with the Clock in the Walls, which was too dark for those with discerning tastes or parents of small children. This film will suffer from an inevitable comparison due to Jack Black’s involvement but despite the predictable nature of the screenplay, this is by far a better option for families during this Halloween season. The creatures are presented in a manner that is unsuitable for young children, but will cause more laughter than fear for teens and their parents.

No one involved with this project will win any awards, but similar to the first chapter in this franchise, it proves to be an enjoyable holiday romp.

Looking Deeper

After reading the books or seeing the film based on the Goosebumps book series, there are many opportunities to talk with children about fear or even humour. Yet, a fascinating element that continues to be mentioned in these humour/horror stories is ‘the twist.’

R.L. Stine states that the twist provides the critical component that defines the story and offers some of the best lines in the film.  It is not something that is new to writing, but some of history’s best stories have unique twists that determine the fate of the central characters and make the story endearing.

This can even be said of the story of Jesus’ life and death, that it was the ultimate twist in human history. Even though this story arc is telegraphed throughout the first part of the Bible, his resurrection still is the defining ‘twist’ in life. It is the one event that continues to surprise and influence society today and is the twist that is worth considering.

  1. Are there such things as ghosts and spirits? (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:11)
  2. What do we do about things that scare us? (Isaiah 41:7; 2 Timothy 1:7)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger 


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