Direction: Rob Letterman
Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette
A throwback to the creature features popular with pre-teens back in the 1980s (Gremlins; Ghoulies; The Goonies), this is an action adventure that attempts - with varied success - to blend humour and horror.
Cobbled together from the children’s book series by RL Stine, Goosebumps (notice that this title too begins with a G) is a family-friendly fantasy about an author’s fear of his own creations. Aiming to lure the elementary-school set, director Letterman (Gulliver’s Travels) stays true to the scary-but-not-too-scary storylines of the source novels.
The spotlight is on a teenager (Minnette) who, along with his widowed mother (Amy Ryan), moves from a big, bustling city to a quiet little town. The new kid has barely unpacked his bags when he meets cute with his next-door neighbour.
As it turns out, she’s the shut-in daughter of the reclusive writer (Black, going through the motions with a manic grin) who has penned the titular fright-mares. Believing that she is being held captive by her father, the well-intentioned lad breaks into their house only to discover a bookcase full of locked Goosebumps manuscripts.
When he inadvertently unlocks one, a flood of CGI nasties is unleashed onto the real world. The rest of the narrative is a non-stop chase across the besieged town, with Stine and the youngsters striving to drag the monsters back into the pages of the books from which they have been freed.
Predictably, the film allows the computer-generated creatures to take centrestage at the expense of its human characters. From the Abominable Snowman to a giant praying mantis and kill-happy garden gnomes, most of the monsters Stine conjured up are present and accounted for.
The film’s creepiest creation is the arch-villain, a ventriloquist’s dummy voiced in appropriately menacing tones by Black. At best, Goosebumps is a campy pleasure.