Clinging on to the past for dear life isn’t always a good thing. Unfortunately, Hollywood has been increasingly ignorant about this in recent years, and nostalgia forms the central theme of Goosebumps. The film is loosely based on the 90s children’s books of the same name: Jack Black plays the series’ author RL Stine, whose original Goosebumps manuscripts have the power to literally bring to life the monsters they describe. His daughter falls in with the new kid at the local high school and through a convoluted tale of sneaking around, all the Goosebumps monsters are unleashed at once.
It’s hard to deny that, on premise alone, the film’s plot evokes many an Amblin Entertainment classic and the execution is far from sloppy. Although it never even attempts credibility and the script is so awkward that it could’ve been written by teenagers, it manages to maintain a sense of subtly terror-tinged fun, which is well within the spirit of the novels. Subtlety is entirely lost on Goosebumps, even the references for grown-ups are pretty overt and the younger cast members don’t exactly help that. Jack Black, however, whilst trying his hand at being the relative straight guy, is surprisingly watchable and brings a sense of the overly theatrical, without excessively showboating in his usual fashion. He’s a long, long way from Oscar territory, but it’s an experiment that nonetheless pays off.
Unfortunately, there are many trappings of the previous millennium that Goosebumps could probably do without, from the amateurish effects to each decidedly archetypical character, including Stine. The film also proves itself to be both predictable and highly noncommittal in a thematic sense, although this critic has a particular soft spot for stories about stories. If nothing else, Danny Elfman finally has the chance to score the film he was born to score, his spine-tingling soundtrack the perfect accompaniment to more spooks and scares than ever before. This is not high art, but it ticks all the boxes for a fun day out at the cinema.
Goosebumps is released nationwide on 5th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Goosebumps here: