Straight-arrow teen Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his
widowed mom Gale (Amy Ryan) move from New York City to the small
Delaware town where his intrusively helpful aunt Lorraine (Jillian Ryan)
lives. The house is next door to that of a pretty girl named
Hannah (Odeya Rush), who quickly catches Zach’s eye. But her father
(Jack Black) is an ultra-possessive sort, rudely telling the boy to keep
off their property. When Zach witnesses an argument between father and
daughter, however, he concludes that he’s done something to her
and—after the useless intervention of the goofy local cops—breaks into
the house along with Champ (Ryan Lee), the class geek who’s glommed onto
him in search of friendship.
There they discover a cache of manuscripts of
the Goosebumps books, all strangely locked; and when one is
accidentally opened, it releases its subject, the Abominable Snowman of
Pasadena, into the world. Before long creatures from the remaining
books are on the loose as well, all up to no good under the direction of
Slappy the Dummy, the malevolent puppet from The Night of the Living
Dummy and its various sequels.
It turns out that Hannah’s father is none other than R.L. Stine, the Goosebumps author who’s turned into a reclusive grouch precisely to
prevent his destructive creations from escaping into the real world.
Now he and Hannah must join forces with Zach and Champ to prevent Slappy
and his army of critters from turning their town into a ruin as a
prelude to taking over the world.
The result is an escalating chain of frenzied action sequences in
which the heroic little band of misfits must confront the spooky
creatures and put a stop to their misdeeds, sometimes one-on-one but
often in groups (including a big final showdown). They face off against
the snowman on an ice rink, for example, and a werewolf in a super
market; and the local high school predictably becomes a war zone, with
students trapped in the gym where a dance is being held. Naturally some
adults—Lorraine, the cops—get involved as well, but mostly for
slapstick purposes. A few of these encounters are mildly amusing, but
essentially they’re just a mess of kid-friendly chases and special
effects of variable quality.
Technically Goosebumps certainly trumps the cable TV series
previously made from Stine’s stories, but quite honestly it’s not appreciably better in overall quality. As a
Halloween movie this qualifies as more trick than treat.