Fans of the 1990s children's horror series Goosebumps will be thrilled with the first film adaptation of author R.L. Stine's popular series. Briskly paced, it also retains the balance of comedy and creepiness from the books.
Those new to Goosebumps get a great introduction to the series, with the film based on its own premise rather than any one book, allowing director Rob Letterman to throw in a multitude of computer-generated, otherworldly monsters.
Our hero is Zach (Minnette), a teenager who moves with his mum from New York City to Madison, Delaware, after his father's death. Zach isn't excited about their fresh start, not helped by his mum (Amy Ryan) being the deputy principal at his new high school.
Life looks up when he meets girl-next-door Hannah (Rush), who is homeschooled by her over-protective father. That's Jack Black playing the author himself, who keeps his manuscripts locked up - until Zach and mate Champ break in and open The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena which brings forth the creature from the book - a rather vicious, chocolate-loving yeti.
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That's just the start, with all of the the prolific author's characters unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens of Madison and Zach, Champ, Hannah and Stine there to round them up.
As Zach and Champ point out, Stine's books don't make you sleepy, they're the kind that keep you awake. So while Goosebumps is not a terrifying film, this is something to consider before taking preschoolers along.
There are scary-looking creatures, a few good frights and twisted moments, such as axe-wielding gnomes being destroyed by bear traps, but the action is rounded out by fun banter mocking successful authors, and sarcastic barbs between teenagers. There's even a little space for romance.
Goosebumps feels like a tongue-in-cheek kids action adventure from the 80s - such as Gremlins or The Goonies - and deserves to sit beside them in the genre. But now the throw-everything-at-them introductory film is complete, let's hope for a sequel that gives us a bit more time to get to know Stine and his characters better.
Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush
Director: Rob Letterman
Running Time: 103 mins
Rating: PG (Scary Scenes)
Verdict: A fast, funny and frightful family horror