Goosebumps (2015)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Contains spoilers.

Yet another in a Hollywood's fetish for adapting written material instead of taking a chance on something original, Goosebumps doesn't stop at using the name and tries desperately to be a fun and nostalgic ride for both kids and adults.

Dylan Minnette stars as Zachary Cooper, who's just moved to Madison, Delaware with his mother, played by Amy Ryan, because it's the only place she could find a job as a vice principal, as we learn from the expertly written expositional information. Their new neighbors are secretive and keep to themselves, with Hannah (Odeya Rush) being homeschooled by her father, who's played by Jack Black. Zach starts to worry about Hannah after overhearing yelling from their house and, after the local police fail to properly investigate, decides to call his first newfound friend, Champ (Ryan Lee), and break into Hannah's house to see if she's okay. He picks the lock to the basement door and Champ follows him into the house. They look around and see a bookcase of manuscripts that they discover are Goosebumps books, except the books are all locked closed. Champ wonders why and Zach unlocks one, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, and a massive Yeti flies from the pages and becomes a living, breathing creature. After following Hannah through the neighborhood as she tries to stop the abominable snowman, she explains how to stop the creature, but all three end up rescued by Hannah's father, who they discover is R.L. Stine, the author of the books. When the return to the house they discover another book has been unlocked from falling off the shelves. The new character that's escaped, Slappy the ventriloquist dummy from the Goosebumps series Night of the Living Dummy, is intent on getting revenge against Stine, so he takes every single book, unlocking them in turn to mess with the city and with Stine.

I'm sure that Jack Black was utterly enthused by this project, possibly imagining a critically triumphant return to the screen... Unfortunately the performances in Goosebumps are fairly laughable, with no one providing anything of quality.

The story is unbelievably trite, being entirely unoriginal. In that sense Goosebumps captures the written spirit of the books, but as a movie that means everything feels tired and incomplete. The start of the movie is laced with character development and background information that I can only describe as infantile, so poorly written that it's hard to believe such a screenplay was ever green-lit. The movie quickly speeds up and the pace becomes unrelenting, with a bevy of random "monsters" springing to life. Slappy is intended to be the primary villain but has almost no screen time, so the only thing we know about him is that he resents being stuck inside of his book for so long and doesn't like being called a dummy.

The cinematography is almost as unfortunate as the story. They CG is so inconsistent, with some monsters looking cartoonish and other realistic, that it's a wonder that Sony Pictures Animation finished the movie at all. Sony Animation isn't known for it's realism, but rather for their cartoonism, so I'm not sure what the producers were thinking when Sony Animation was picked up for the CG. They don't do an entirely bad job but they certainly could've done better. Likewise, the photography from Javier Aguirresarobe is nothing to be proud of. One scene in particular looks like it was filmed by an amateur with an iPhone. There's really nothing attractive or artistic about the look of Goosebumps.

The movie is fun and full of fantasy and imagination, but that doesn't make it a good movie. For instance, I don't remember ever reading the Goosebumps books, but as far as I know they're meant for the horror genre [for kids] or at least to be a little creepy, hence the name of the series. But Letterman's movie isn't scary in any way (even though the tiring soundtrack tries ever-so-desperately to say differently) and ends up being more like a fun fairy tale with fairies and rainbows as the characters run around trying to stop the monsters through the power of the written word, because R.L. Stine was bullied so much as a child that he created these monsters to keep him company. 


Goosebumps tries to be an adult movie made from childish material, with adult humor and a more mature environment, but it fails splendidly. It can't get past it's youthful roots. The humor is hit-or-miss, but far more misses than hits, with some more mature wordplay and references that kids won't get. And there's other gags and more frantic humor, like near-slapstick, that feels like it's just inserted to pacify the children for whom the movie's intended.

The movie's mostly fun and entertaining, and in that sense captures the importance of the original books. But it's never scary, never creepy, and the romance is unoriginal and forced. The production feels lackluster and overall disappointing.


TL;DR: I never read any of the Goosebumps books and, to be fair, I wasn't honestly expecting them to be some higher form of literature, but if this movie is any indication then the books are probably equally disappointing. Unless you're a child, then maybe it'll spark some imagination. But overall, the photography is boring, the story is uninspired despite trying to be inspiring, the acting is mediocre, but it manages to still be mildly entertaining.

  • Acting – 4 / 10
  • Story – 2 / 10
  • Cinematography – 4 / 10
  • Soundtrack – 2 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 6 / 10
  • Fantasy/Comedy – 3 / 10
  • Other – 19 / 40

Grade F = 40 / 100