Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween review
A lot like how many people have read to be frighten by Stephen King stories, kids like myself used to read R.L. Stine "Goosebumps" stories in order get our first doses of fear. Having gone back to couple of them, they were not exactly scary. In fact, the tone is so campy that most could identify that R.L. Stine was going for something more comedic; a lot like a kids friendly Tales from the Crypt. Most of the books were copies of stories already told, but some were original like Monster Blood, One Day in Horrorland and The Haunted Mask did showcase some freaky monsters and scenarios that most children could relate to.
What I'm getting at is that this is the kind of kid I grew up as. I wasn't exposed to the harder stuff of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre until years later. When Goosebumps was released in 2015, it brought me back to my childhood as the film did a good job recreating that campy tone that the books and TV show carried before. I felt that a sequel could bring out more monsters and even let Jack Black play around more with R.L. Stine. Unfortunately, none of that is in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.
In Wardenclyffe, New York, hefty teenager Sonny (played by Jermey Ray Taylor) lives with his older sister Sarah (played by Madison Iseman) whose trying to get into Colombia. Sonny's family is looking after his friend Sam (played by Caleel Harris), while the latter's father is away. Sonny and Sam are running a junk business, but are also bullied. Things change when they are called to haul junk out of an old home, which contains a trunk. When opened, they discover Slappy the Dummy who doesn’t do anything at first. When a chant is read, he demands to be a part of the family.
At first, Slappy uses his psychic powers to help the boys. When they refuse to let him join the family, he escapes to a store to bring the Halloween decorations to life. Sonny, Sam and Sarah research the events in Madison, Delaware to find that Slappy did the same thing there. They try to get in contact with R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black), but he doesn't pick up. The teens realize that they need to get to Slappy and stop his magic before this Halloween lasts forever.
While there's a lot you could do with "Goosebumps", it's a shame that Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween does the bare minimum in terms of a sequel. Let's start with the story, which is just a repeat of the original movie. It's just more monsters going after people, and while I wouldn’t have an issue, most of them aren’t anything from "Goosebumps"; their just generic witches, ghosts, pumpkins, and other spooks from a Walgreens. What kind of director doesn’t take advantage of the heavy amount of monsters that R.L. Stine has created to go for something plain?
When talking about the monsters alone, they're just okay. While Slappy and some are still practical, most of them are animated CGI monsters that aren’t even rendered well. It looks like whatever budget the first had was cut in half. The good news is that most of the action is focused on Slappy and he does get some good scenes in.
The good scenes are not enough to adjust for the script problems. Along with being a repeat of the first, much of what these characters do make little sense. The monsters are invading, but Slappy claims to have an ulterior motive. Why? He didn't in the first movie. I'll bet that the script and even filming was rushed just to make it out to maybe make a buck. Everything about this feels lazy. The actings lazy, the filming is lazy, the writing is lazy, the effects are lazy. Even Jack Black does little to help. His scenes are so brief and unrelated to the story that you could have cut him and nothing would have been lost. I'll also bet his scenes were shot after principal production.
I'll give this one gummy bear out of five. At best, it's harmless for kids. It reminds me more of a Disney Channel movie of the month then a Goosebumps movie. If your curious, I'd say give it a rental, but it's nothing to rush out to theaters to see. If Goosebumps was like a happy meal, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is like all marshmallow cereal: nothing but sugar, fat and likely to give you a headache later on. Close the book.