Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Ken Jeong
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While not the equal of its predecessor, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a worthy follow-up…
2015’s Goosebumps was a delightful family flick surprise, an amusingly meta take on the hugely successful series of horror novels for young readers by the prolific R. L Stine. In a winning concept cooked up by scenarists, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon, Big Eyes), and co-writer, Darren Lemke (Turbo), Goosebumps put Stine himself (excellently played by Jack Black) at the centre of the action, as the monsters and villains from his many books broke forth from the page to terrorise a small American town. The results were wildly funny and entertaining.
The arrival of the sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, should justifiably excite fans of the original, but it should also set a few alarm bells ringing. None of the creative team behind the first film has returned, and neither have any of the cast members. With the charming Dylan Minnette, Odessa Rush and Ryan Lee sadly gone, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is set in a different town and focuses on three new young protagonists in teenaged Sarah (Madison Iseman), her younger brother, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and his best pal, Sam (Caleel Harris).
Their first interactions with an old manuscript stashed in a supposedly haunted house, and the reappearance of the first film’s scene stealing evil ventriloquist’s dummy, Slappy, at first suggest a ground-up re-take on the mythology set up in the first film, but as the film progresses, the connections happily become much, much clearer. It’s soon revealed that the old manuscript is actually the first, unfinished Goosebumps story by R.L Stine, who just happens to be a former resident of the town. The book’s reopening brings forth another smalltown apocalypse as Slappy takes another run at world domination, backed by a horde of werewolves, aliens, ghouls, witches, and other unsavoury critters.
While the screenplay by Rob Lieber lacks the pep and charm of the first film, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween has more than enough good ideas to keep proceedings well and truly bubbling over, with just the right mix of humour and (family friendly) horror. The young cast is engaging, though the characterisations are a little slight. They’re more than a little shadowed, however, by Wednesday Addams-style breakout character, Slappy, who is afforded far more screen time than he was in the first film. And though he might not appear on the film’s posters, there is also a very, very welcome extended cameo appearance from one of the first film’s major players. While not the equal of its predecessor, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a worthy follow-up, and fares well in a far less jam-packed creative sandbox.