Ghastly ghouls, gnarly gnomes and all manner of monsters that go bump in the night - Goosebumps is a charming cinema adventure for kids to enjoy over the summer holidays.
The stream of Goosebumps novels that littered school libraries during the 90's were filled with all sorts of vicious nasties; books like Night of the Living Dummy, Monster Blood and Welcome to Camp Nightmare gave an entire generation of kids, myself included, no end of sleepless nights during their formative years.
In it, high school student Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mum Gale (Amy Ryan) move into a new home in the sleepy suburban town of Madison, Delware. Their next door neighbour is a reclusive weirdo called Mr. Shivers (Jack Black), but despite being told to stay away, Zach can't help but befriend Shivers' cute home-schooled daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush). After Zach mistakenly sets loose a huge abominable snowman from a magical book in Shivers' study, he's swept up in an adventure torn straight from the pages of classic Goosebumps novel - books that were penned by Shivers' famous author alter-ego, RL Stine.
Treading a fine line between chilling and goofy, Goosebumps offers enough genuine frights to scare kids without tipping over into straight-up horror territory. A good comparison is a film like Jumanji; back when you were 10, that film was seriously scary. Nowadays? Not so much. It's an inventive family friendly romp that gives you serious nostalgia vibes. 2016's Goosebumps works in the same way; it will delight and terrify kids in equal measure, whilst providing a suitable distraction for parents suffering with the prolonged summer break.
Black gives a great performance as the curmudgeonly grump next door turned author whilst Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell round out an impressive adult cast as Zach's mum and aunt.
The young talent are good also; Dylan Minnette is a little vanilla in the lead but his blossoming romance with the charismatic Rush gives the film a sweet hook for teens. The bulk of the laughs come from Ryan Lee who plays Zach's friend Champ; he's the scaredy sidekick who shrieks and squeals at all the shocks and squelchy creatures. This schtick did grow a little tiresome but I doubt it will register for kids - he's kind of like the human crossover between Milhouse Van Houten and Olaf from Frozen.
The breakneck pace is designed to satisfy youngsters and the film certainly delivers on that; all manner of monsters chase our heroes through a supermarket, a cemetery, a creepy basement and a high school. Once the ghouls have been unleashed, the film barely pauses to draw breath.
The Verdict: 6.5/10
Colourful action and impressive visual effects make for a pleasing family full of thrills and spills. The young cast are a little rocky and the frenetic pacing is a lot to take in, but on the whole Goosebumps is a pleasing distraction for families this summer.
Goosebumps is in cinemas across Australia now