Mostly everyone remembers the timely classics of the Goosebumps series from R.L. Stine. While the books were meant to be enjoyed by a younger audience with bits of Horror peppered throughout, the premise seemed like a perfect recipe for a film, or many films. The first feature film, Goosebumps, released in 2015, grossed at approximately $150-million against its estimated $84-million budget, making it a relatively big hit. Now, with Ari Sandel (The Duff 2015, When We First Met 2018) in the director’s chair and Rob Lieber reprising his role as the writer, the sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, arrived to theaters on Friday, October 12, 2018, thanks to Sony Pictures Releasing/Columbia Pictures.
Titled after an actual book in the series, the plot follows two young boys, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Trip 2015, It 2017) and Sam (Caleel Harris: The Loud House series, Castle Rock series), who want to start up a junk business. In the process of looking through the random items they have found, they stumble upon a manuscript which accidentally releases Slappy Mick Wingert (Arrow series, Avengers Assemble series), the ventriloquist dummy. While at first it seems like a cool idea to have a doll that can walk and talk, Slappy’s cruel intentions prove he doesn’t have anyone’s best interest at heart.
To add to this nightmare, other notable Goosebumps monsters make their way into the town of Wardenclyffe, causing an unfortunate wave of havoc and destruction that Halloween night. The boys ultimately decide to team up with Sam’s sister, Sarah (Madison Iseman: Beauty Mark 2017, Jumanji 2017), and their teacher, Mr. Chu (Ken Jeong: The Hangover 2009, Transformers: Dark of the Moon 2011), to find the manuscript that Slappy has appeared from and to hopefully put an end to Slappy’s wrath.
In enough words, this is a really cool, kid-friendly version of Ash Vs. Evil Dead plot-wise, and is inviting to both kids and adults along for a family-friendly ride of subdued scares and humor throughout. While the cinematography and special effects look very much like that of TV show production quality, for children and families, this should not pose too much of a problem, as the acting keeps this from being too noticeable to an audience.
In fact, the acting is arguably one of the high points of Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, with smart and charming performances from Iseman, Taylor, and Harris that really seem to pull this film together while Chris Parnell (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy 2004, 21 Jump Street 2012) does a great job as store clerk Walter. Additionally, the strong performance of Wendi McLendon-Covey’s (Bridesmaids 2011, Blended 2014) as as the work loaded mother Kathy also adds a real comedy flavor to the role. Her unique characteristics as an actress really breathe life into her character and mesh well with the younger actors.
One also cannot deny Wingert’s ability to bring to life Slappy the ventriloquist dummy, making him shine as one of the most important characters in the film. This was important in many ways, as Slappy was one of the greatest things about the first film. Originally voiced by Jack Black (School of Rock 2003, King Kong 2005), who returns for an uncredited role as Stine in this new film, Slappy is a captivating character that really sucks the viewer into the plot.
Although, while Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween has both hilarity and tamed Horror throughout, at times, it lacks a true visual impact to make it memorable to an audience or fans of the book series. However, it does provides a great theme suggesting that reality will always be more terrifying than fiction. Because of this, more stories, fictional or otherwise, will be built off the backs of some form of reality.
Just in time for the Halloween season, this a film that will be both an entertaining and fun experience for kids and adults while also providing a metaphorical meaning that many young and old will appreciate. While the film could have afforded more of a presence to Jack Black, besides his cameo appearance as Stine, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is fun and a satisfactory sequel to the 2015 film. That is why CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.