Another Spooktacular Slice Of Halloween Madness
After its surprising success two years ago, Goosebumps returns to the big screen for another spooktacular slice of Halloween madness. Despite splashes of 90s nostalgia and charm that nails the tone of Goosebumps, the story sticks too closely to the first film, emulating the same plot mechanics right down to the magical books. Despite its lack of originality, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween manages to deliver a fun, family friendly film with a fast pace and plenty of action, even if it can’t quite match up to the charisma the first had in abundance.
The story has slight differences to the first but predominantly sticks to the same basic concept. Two kids, Sam (Caleel Harris) and Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor), are cleaning out an old house when they uncover a strange book. After unlocking its contents, a creepy ventriloquist dummy turns up and the boys, like so many before them, read the magical words in Slappy’s jacket pocket that bring the mischievous dummy to life. From here, the plot follows a similar trajectory to the first, culminating in all manner of nastiness being brought to life as Slappy looks to fulfil his mission. Unless the kids, along with sister Sarah (Madison Iseman), can stop him of course. The story is about as conventional as you could get with this sort of film but Haunted Halloween does well to continue the lighthearted horror vibes that made the show and books so endearing in the 90s. If you go in expecting more of the same and enjoyed the first film, you can’t really go wrong with this follow-up.
Unlike the first film though, Haunted Halloween tones back the number of monsters brought to life from the books, presenting a handful of creatures with Slappy leading the charge once again. Those expecting another exhaustive list of creatures and references to the books may be left wanting but the creatures that are showcased do a good job establishing themselves as a viable threat. If you ever wanted to see gummi bears exacting revenge on their eaten comrades, look no further. This particular moment is a fun injection of action and very reminiscent of the lawn gnomes scene from the first film.
Although the kids do well with their roles, injecting the right level of over-acting and melodrama into their performances, Slappy is the real star of the show. The deliciously evil doll is as charismatic as ever and seeing him swagger around town giggling maniacally certainly suits the mood and tone of the film, as well as the character itself. It’s disappointing then that Jack Black’s charismatic portrayal of R.L Stine is reduced to a cameo appearance this year. His camp, over the top persona helped anchor the show to a common theme in the first film and although this helps the spotlight shine on the kids, his absence does take away from some of the enjoyment.
Still, Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween is a fun, enjoyable thrill ride from start to finish. The plot may not be wholly original but the overall tone of the film nails the familiar Goosebumps vibes the first managed to achieve. Jack Black’s absence as R.L. Stine for vast periods of the run time is a little disappointing with the stripped back number of creatures from the books likely not to be to everyone’s liking either. There’s a distinct charm with Haunted Halloween though that lives and breathes the familiarity of the Goosebumps universe and for that alone , it’s well worth checking out.