Goosebumps (2015) Review: Go Read A Book
The films we see today are usually based on some other medium; whether it be comics, a TV show or based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Regardless, these films are the ones that get put under the closest scrutiny as fans of the original source material automatically rally behind that age old battle cry, “the book was better”.
Trouble is though, I’m not sure we should be comparing the two. Yes, the film adaptation takes its cues from the book but a true adaptation should be celebrated in its differences. We should look to the film version to see what it did differently and why it worked for the change in medium. Not only that, why would you want to have the same thing twice? That seems to be a set up for disappointment because no adaptation is ever going to match the imagery of your own imagination.
‘Goosebumps’ tries to circumvent that mess of fan expectation by not adapting just one of R.L Stine’s classics, but instead crafts a subpar picture about the ‘Goosebumps’ craze. Main character Zach is a city boy who has trouble adjusting to his new small town life. Thankfully though, Zach has a bonafide Sam Raimi Spider-Man, girl next door, love story in cute girl next door Hannah.
After Zach assumes Hannah’s father is a danger to her, he sneaks into their creepy house and accidentally knocks down what seem to be harmless manuscripts for old ‘Goosebumps’ novels. However, once these are opened, the monster within the story is unleashed to wreak havoc on the unassuming population. One thing leads to another and soon our heroes must set aside their differences and band together to defeat the evils of when fantasy becomes reality. As the tagline suggests, the stories are alive.
If only the movie could have reached that point sooner. By the time the movie kicks off with the conflict you’re introduced to one annoying side character after another, each one with their own zany type of “humour” that goes from being mildly annoying to groan inducing. It’s not so much that ‘Goosebumps’ isn’t funny, it just doesn’t have very many jokes. What it has is one note characters that give you the same joke, just with a different set of parts to it. The film always wants to make sure you get the joke by hammering you over the head with it repeatedly.
I know that not many people like him, but thank God for Jack Black. He’s the only thing in this movie worth a damn. His devotion to an Orson Wellian R.L Stine is fun to watch. Essentially Black gives a charismatic villain-like performance as one of the movies heroes. The only drawback to watching him is that every time he’s away from the screen (which is quite a bit since he’s just a supporting role) all the other scenes go back to feeling ho hum. However, since some of the monsters in the film do have his voice, seeing as they were creations of his character, Black’s presence is felt even when he himself is absent.
At times, ‘Goosebumps’ feels like it’s trying to be a movie that pays homage to classic horror tropes and cliches. Sort of a ‘Cabin in the Woods’ for kids, which is perfectly fine and sounds like a great movie. The trouble is, it doesn’t really have that essence of fright that you’d expect. You don’t get anything scarier than say your average Mystery Inc. villain.
This is partially because the CG models for the creatures never convinces you, and the lead actors feel like they’re playing off of a green screen. You’re never engaged in the scene that you’re presented. Not only that but the score is abominable. It’s done by Danny Elfman who you’d think would be perfect for this given his work on Tim Burton movies, but all the bad parts of Elfman are here and it almost feels like a parody of his discography.
While every R.L. Stine novel has the potential for it’s own adaptation, there is a certain level of ingenuity to how the story is approached here. However the creativity seems to stop there as ‘Goosebumps’ is a film that fails to hit the marks it tries for. Its attempts at humour are awkward at best, and there aren’t any true frights here to speak of. Instead, what you’re left with is a 100 minute movie that starts you off with a good idea but only manages to bore and disappoint you. Sure, kids will like it, as the ones in my theatre did, but there are literally one or two scenes that made me laugh and one or two scenes that might scare you. Other than that you’re just gonna be wondering when the credits will roll.
Rating: Read A Book