October 26, 2015
Family Film Blogging: Goosebumps
Posted by Christine Hurt

Our whole family finally was together for a movie night this weekend, and we went to see a movie we had been waiting for since viewing the trailer:  Goosebumps.  What attracted us about the trailer?  Two things:  the Goosebumps books and Jack Black.  I have to say as a disclaimer thought that I have never read a Goosebumps book; however, I have been forced to read aloud another R.L. Stine series, Rotten School.  If gross were a genre, Rotten School would win that category.

So, in case you (also) don't know, the Goosebumps series contains many short-ish books aimed at older elementary school children that are slightly creepy.  Sort of like how Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys are slightly mysterious.  Not creepy enough to scare kids away or make parents throw the book out, but just creepy enough to make kids feel pretty cool for reading them.  In the 1990s, these books were wildly popular and made Stine a bestselling author.  (In the movie, the character Stine brags that he has sold more books than Stephen King, and that seems to be true from Wikipedia at least).  There was a TV series based on the books, and my second grader has been watching it (completely unsupervised) on Netflix.  But, how do you make a full-length movie based on scores of short books?

The answer is both creative and fun.  Cute teenager Zach moves to a quiet Delaware town with his mom.  His father has recently passed away, but Zach and mom seem pretty well-adjusted and caring with one another during this move for a change of scenery.  Zach soon spies pretty teenager Hannah next door, but Hannah's single dad (Jack Black) tells Zach in no uncertain terms to stay on his side of the fence.  Of course, Zach and Hannah do not do this and fall in love.  One night Zach becomes convinced that Hannah's dad has somehow hurt Hannah to punish her and so decides to break in the house with his new friend, Champ.  (The movie competently walks a fine line here -- Zach calls the police to report a "domestic disturbance" and then tells Champ that he thinks the dad "locked Hannah up."  At no point would little ears worry about some sort of child abuse scene being played out.)  Inside the house, Zach and Champ find the original manuscripts to all the Goosebumps books, which are locked, with the key kept under glass on a desk.  Unfortunately, they open one of the books and the abominable snowman literally leaps off of the page.

If that was all that happened, then our heroes could deal with one sort of clueless monster.  However, one of the Goosebumps with Slappy the Dummy has also been opened.  Slappy was instantly recognized by my kids.  He is by far the creepiest Goosebumps villain, and he continues his villainy in the movie, using the key to open all the manuscripts, thus letting loose all the villains.  The horde of monsters, zombies, and freaky things wreak havoc on the town and the high school dance.  To stop the horde, Stine, Zach, Hannah and Champ will have to work together to come up with a global solution.  Stine says at the end of the movie that every great story has a "beginning, a middle, and a twist."  There are enough twists in the movie to keep anticipation high, but enough light moments to keep kids from getting too frightened.  The scariest scene involves zombies in a cemetery, but it is very short and over before it begins.


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