Stine’s Goosebumps series of children’s horror novels spring open like so many paperbound Pandora’s boxes. From their flapping pages leap the Abominable Snowman of Peoria, the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, a giant praying mantis and assorted zombies, bugs and blobs a veritable three ring circus of terror that includes a nightmare clown, climaxes at an abandoned carnival and showcases Slappy the Dummy as its spooky ringmaster.
Introduced in 1992’s “Night of the Living Dummy,” Slappy is Stine’s most popular creation. Even in the context of this family friendly (or at least Addams Family friendly) supernatural adventure, the dummy demonstrates that ventriloquist’s dolls are uniquely eerie. pandora earrings Less creepy but just as fun are the living lawn gnomes that attack the heroes en masse, like lethal Lilliputians. Their ceramic antics make for the most memorable episode of a film that is crowded with noisy special effects and slapsticky action.
As the monsters overrun tiny Madison, Delaware, the chaos the chasing, the yelling, the crashing threatens to overwhelm the movie. Larry Flynt”). These creators insist that the characters pause from time to time to catch their breath, even with the hot breath of lycanthropes and yeti on their heels.
“Goosebumps” chronicles a couple of very busy days in Madison for a pair of newcomers, a mom (Amy Ryan) and her good looking teenage son, Zach (Dylan Minnette), transplants from New York trying to make a fresh start following the death of the family’s husband/father.
At school, Zach is befriended by a toothy goofball, Champ (Ryan Lee), but he’s more intrigued by his attractive next door neighbor, Hannah (Odeya Rush), a deadpan wit who is home schooled by her reclusive, hostile father (a bespectacled Jack Black, doing a nice job with a role that would have been ideal for Peter Lorre).
The script’s master stroke is that this father is none other than celebrated horror scribe Stine, custodian to a library filled with more than ordinary frights and wonders. When the first manuscript is unlocked, a chain reaction of escapes occurs, so Stine and the kids join forces to corral what Slappy calls Stine’s “children. coming out to play.” This is a crisis that should especially excite readers who grew up in the 1990s, when the slim paperback novellas of the Goosebumps series were a legitimate phenomenon, selling millions of copies a year, spawning a TV series and other spin offs, and producing scowls on the faces of adults who didn’t understand how the Hardy Boys had come to be superseded by “How I Got My Shrunken Head.”
Does the Goosebumps brand raise any hackles today? If so, perhaps wary parents can find reassurance in the fact that Sony Pictures Animation a company with credits that include “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is among the production houses responsible for this “Goosebumps.” Yet audiences who dislike cartoons needn’t worry: The digital animation in this live action film (an increasingly meaningless distinction) is no more or less pervasive than in a “Transformers” or “Avengers” blockbuster. If the movie is entirely conventional, from its I can do this in my sleep Danny Elfman score to its hey look here’s the high school crane shot, it’s also entirely agreeable. The vibe is old school Steven Spielberg, as if “Goosebumps” had followed “Goonies” and “Gremlins” as an adventure intended for both kids (who will dig the pratfalling wolfman) and adults (who will appreciate the Stine character’s vinegary wit). On the downside, a too clever revelation involving the admirable Hannah is a bummer, especially in these days of hot debate over the lack of strong role models for young female moviegoers.