'Goosebumps' movie is nostalgic, only slightly cringey

R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” novels are classic for so perfectly appealing to oddball kids with its “diet” horror. The new film adaptation isn’t groundbreaking or even necessarily great, but any fans of the series will still be happy that it happened.

It’s a fun movie: campy but (for the most part) not too campy and starring Jack Black but (for the most part) not featuring too much Jack Black.

I take Black to be a talented figure who tends to come on just a little bit too strong. His fictionalized character of R.L. Stine isn’t really the protagonist of the film, but the combined star power of actor and author together certainly make him the most prominent.

Our “Stine” comes on too strong at times but it works. It’s the premise of the character, and (to put it as concisely as possible) he doesn’t come on too strong too much.

Comically speaking, the movie is okay. It’s got a funny moment or two, and there aren’t any parts that try really hard to get a laugh and then fall flat so that the entire audience has to collectively cringe.

The “horror” qualities of it might give goosebumps to kids and extremely fainthearted mothers but for the most part it’s campier and more eccentric than it is horror. 

I don’t like teenage hero Dylan Minnette’s presence. He’s simply not as immature (and not in the right way) as a hero in a “Goosebumps” story should be. It would take a wider-eyed kid to make the fantastic premise more buyable.

And the prevalent romantic subplot between Minnette and the girl next door is far too heavy-handed. It’s terribly done by the actors. It’s just that its inclusion is too “young-adult novel,” too “John Green.”

The movie’s very premise, as far as book-to-movie adaptions go, is strange, with liberal sprinklings of camp. It takes a world in which the “Goosebumps” series exists, and monsters are escaping from their manuscripts. It’s just a little too much for me at 20, but the same oddball 10 year-old I was when I read the books would probably be super into it.

This is a weird situation that’s becoming increasingly common for Millennials: the movie I wanted 10 years ago, the continuation of a children’s series whose original fans have since grown up.

It’s hard to not think of the upcoming Netflix series adaptation of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and the “Artemis Fowl” movie to be directed by Kenneth Branagh.

It’s a tense situation. It’s melodramatic to think that a crap movie can actually diminish the brilliance of a great book, but it can be a painful disappointment after years of patience. And patience is even harder to come by when your inner 10 year-old is involved.

“Toy Story 3” and “Monsters University” were both late continuations of already perfect children’s movies that managed to brilliantly bring back old fans and new. Pixar of course, is loved and respected for their ability to consistently make damn good movies that work for kids and adults. But it’d be extremely unfair to expect every studio to be Pixar.

And it’s even weirder and more tense when “Goosebumps” is in play. To be completely honest, the books aren’t all that perfectly put together. They’re really sort of pulpy. They don’t really hold up to adult audiences (unlike, say, “Artemis Fowl” does).

But the “Goosebumps” aesthetic in that medium of books was extremely groundbreaking. It was pulpy, but it was that right level of scary to maybe give a kid some nightmares without actually traumatizing them. It was something that was hard to otherwise come by.

With movies however, monsters and suspense and thriller lite are huge in fantasy for kids already. The “Goosebumps” movie is simply nothing new. It’s not great. It’s an adequate film for kids. But for the returning fans, it’s not worth getting hopes up.


Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.