Those who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s will be well-versed in RL Stein’s collection of spooky and imaginative books, alongside the cheesy TV show of the same name, which brought many of these tales to the small screen to terrify its young audiences. While the episode titles of Disney+’s Goosebumps share the names of fan-favourite outings like “Say Cheese And Die!”, “The Haunted Mask”, and “Go Eat Worms”, this series is a different kind of beast. Instead of adapting stories into an anthology series, this reimagining weaves elements of them together to spin its own compelling horror story.
The plot follows a group of high schoolers who are met with their own terrifying experiences after attending a Halloween party at a haunted house. Star quarterback Isaiah (Zack Morris), for example, discovers a Polaroid camera that depicts terrifying things to come, while Isabella (Ana Yi Puig) becomes drawn to a creepy mask, which turns her (quite literally) into a monster when worn. United by strange circumstances, the teenagers work together to uncover the larger mysteries of their town’s past.
Despite taking a substantial chunk of the first episode for the main plot to get underway, the series does a mostly solid job of striking a balance between retelling Stein’s spine-chilling stories and being its own original tale. The show is at its best when its focus is on Stine’s family-friendly flavour of horror, which is still an absolute joy to watch. There are plenty of ghoulish frights to be had, with some moments of squirming body horror guaranteed to make younger viewers lose sleep over.
The wider plotline, too, succeeds in digging its claws into viewers thanks to a tantalising overarching mystery that progresses within each of the five premiere episodes. A dedicated performance from Justin Long as the weird new English teacher only adds to the show’s enjoyably campy nature. The fun only slows down to make space for some melodramatic subplots about a secret affair between two of the characters’ parents and relationship quibbles within the main group. Even in its more melodramatic points, the script nevertheless manages to pull off some genuinely touching moments.
Although far from perfect, this newest iteration of Goosebumps captures the spirit of its source material to deliver an entertaining horror outing this Halloween.
Goosebumps is released on Disney+ on 13th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Goosebumps here: