"A good story is always composed of three parts. The beginning, the middle and the twist"
Heading into this, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect; the trailer itself isn’t too over the top like some others have been and it didn't have me overly convinced of the quality, however within the first 30 minutes my fears had been dismissed and I was able to enjoy what was a thoroughly good family film with some mildly scary elements for younger viewers.
From the opening scenes you wouldn’t exactly think this is going to be a horror(ish) film, with our main character being uprooted from his surroundings to go live in the suburbs with his mum after his father dies. It’s a tried and tested formula with a few deviations but it can be overlooked as, with any film, there has be a set-up. Dylan Minnette plays our protagonist Zach (you may recognise him from Scandal or Awake), who, whilst settling into his new life and new high school, initially finds it hard. His new surroundings are made harder by his mother being a member of the faculty. It’s around 20 minutes into the film the real story starts, with Zach meeting the mysterious girl next door (played by Odeya Rush) and her seemingly overbearing, overprotective father. To explain further would give away the main jist of the movie and as someone who was a huge fan of the original show that just won’t do.
Jack Black's role feels perfect for him: somewhere between heartfelt and slightly over the top but great within the tone of the film. Perhaps my only criticism with the main cast is that of Zach's friend Champ (played by Ryan Lee) who at times comes off rather annoying and plays up to the cliché of the ‘friend scared out of their wits at everything’.
What I will say is the film feels like a slice of nostalgic awesomeness and a quasi-love letter to the Goosebumps books, which most twentysomethings grew up reading in their younger years. Sure, most - if not all - of the monsters are tropes and whilst there isn't anything new or ground breaking they are what a lot of film monsters fail to be: ENTERTAINING! For long time fans, one of the protagonists from the book series which it seems gave kids of the late ‘90s so many nightmares is back with a vengeance - this is, of course, Slappy the ventriloquists doll! To a certain extent I can’t believe I’m about to write the following statement, but Slappy is written brilliantly and will surely remind everyone just why he gave them nightmares as a kid.
It also wouldn't be a R.L. Stine story without a twist or two, and for a change one isn't telegraphed but will make sense once you've seen it. The conclusion feels satisfying and there's enough in its solid narrative that it can be enjoyed as a standalone film as well as a semi-continuation of the books/TV show.
To quote R.L.Stine, "A good story is always composed of three parts. The beginning, the middle and the twist", which is exactly what we get with this film.
It’s worth noting also that the Goosebumps TV show has just been added to the Netflix UK line up and can be viewed at your leisure, perfect timing with the film being released on February 5.