Director: Rob Letterman (2016)
Magical mayhem materialises when book bound monsters come to life in this entertaining horror comedy.
It runs away at a decent pace, has fine performances from an attractive cast, isn’t short of laughs and tries hard to make you jump out of your seat.
The spooky fun is based on the massively popular Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine.
And as Stine says, it’s full of twists, turns, insights and some personal growth for the hero.
He appears as a character in the film and is played by Jack Black in one of his stronger performances.
Black abandons his frequently smug demeanour for a more acerbic and angry persona, and he’s all the more entertaining for it.
In a quiet suburb the reclusive Stine home-schools his teenage daughter Hannah, claiming it’s for her own protection.
A tentative romance begins when handsome high school student Zach Cooper moves in next door. Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush share a sweet chemistry as they sneak out at night to an abandoned fair ground.
But Zach inadvertently unlocks one of Stine’s books, releasing an evil ventriloquist’s dummy, called Slappy, also voiced by Black.
The marvellously malevolent Slappy frees a multitude of fantastical fiends from Stine’s shelf of manuscripts and burns the volumes, preventing the creatures from being caged again.
The leaves the town at the mercy of aliens, zombies, killer clowns and in a spirited homage to the sci-fi monster movies of the 1950’s, a giant praying mantis.
Steven McQueen’s drive-in classic The Blob (1958) is also a key reference.
The film’s best scene is the emergence of the garden gnomes. It combines the comic violence of the job interview from The Full Monty (1997) and the creeping horror of the doll attack from Barbarella (1968).
Amanda Lund briefly steals the film as an overly enthusiastic police trainee and I wish we’d seen more of her.
The suitably scary score by Danny Elfman works hard to gloss over the less than groundbreaking special effects, which themselves are used to pad out at least a couple of scenes.
It’s probably too scary for very young kids. But everyone else, even big kids like me, are guaranteed the goosebumps of a good time.