I’ve been banging on about October and Halloween for ages now and I do apologise. But I’m getting into the spirit quite a lot this year. I’ve loved creating seasonal photos on Instagram and I’ve been using my TBT posts to watch some appropriately scary films. Well, not that scary. I’m not exactly a lover of horror films in general. It’s not the gore or the violence that get me. It’s the suspense. I’m one of those people who can’t stand being scared. I have no chill so I can’t cope with anything too shocking. Anything that relies on jump scares could, probably kill me. So I have to be careful at this time of year when it comes to my film viewing. I’m just lucky that children are catered for at this time of year. So, instead of watching the countless Netflix films about haunted houses, I decided to watch the sequel to a film I reviewed years ago. 3 years ago to be precise. It’s been so long since the first Goosebumps film came out so I tried to refresh my memory by reading my review. I discovered 2 things: number 1, it wasn’t a very good one and number 2, I made no real discoveries about the film itself. I kind of liked it but kind of didn’t. So not very helpful. It certainly didn’t get me more excited for the sequel.
The first Goosebumps film wasn’t exactly panned when it came out but I also wouldn’t have said that it was received well enough to suggest it as a likely candidate for a sequel. But when has Hollywood ever made sense? Obviously somebody up there figured that, no matter how much shit they’d thrown into the first one, there was still more story to tell. So we’re back but with an entirely new cast and a new setting. This time Wardenclyffe, New York where teenager, Sarah, lives with her mother and younger brother, Sonny. Sarah can’t wait to escape her home and head to Colombia university but first she has to write her dreaded application essay. It’s all about fear. So she’s in prime position for some scaring.
When Sonny and his best friend, Sam, discover a locked book they unwittingly release Slappy, the sentient and psychotic ventriloquist dummy. After being rejected by the family, Slappy decides to create one of his own and brings Halloween to life. He also kidnaps Sarah and Sonny’s mother and turns her into a weird puppet human. With Halloween taking over the town and causing chaos, the three kids have to find a way to get the characters back in the book they escaped from. And that’s it really. There’s something about a science fair project and a cheating boyfriend that don’t really add much so it’s basically just kids chasing monsters. Simple.
It’s not that Goosebumps 2 is a terrible concept but there is no doubt that the narrative is underwhelming. It’s a super obvious idea and has a kind of paint by numbers feel to it. As it goes, it’s not unlikable or offensive but it lacks something. Maybe it’s merely the absence of Jack Black’s weirdly charming ham or maybe it’s the direction but the sequel misses much of the warmth and fun of the first. You kind of feel like it was rushed to ensure it was released in time to still be vaguely relevant. At least the first film acted as something of a love letter to the writing of R.L. Stine. This one just takes one of his characters and sees what happens.
Although, there will probably be enough here to keep youngsters entertained. There is a surplus of spooky Halloween monsters that will appeal without a huge amount of terror on show. There is no real danger here but I guess that’s the point of these books anyway. The film basically becomes a dump of sometimes dodgy CGI just going mental on the screen. It’ll keep certain people entertained but it never reaches the sophistication of the adventure films it’s referencing. It certainly never reaches the magic that the first one managed to pull off. It just feels messy and obvious. On one hand, it’s too simple but, on the other, it’s too much.
It can’t quite match up to the original film, which succeeded only by being better than we thought it would be. This one fails to live up to those expectations and takes a lot of easy ways out. It’s just kind of dull and easy. Everything was about making it as quickly as possible. There’s no love here and it shows. I didn’t hate what was happening but I also didn’t want it to carry on for much longer. I was kind of hoping every scene would be the last. There is a slight lift with the last-minute reappearance of Jack Black but it’s not enough to save the film. If you want a decent kid’s horror film this Halloween you might as well just watch the first one.