I, like probably half my generation who came up in the 90s, absolutely loved the Goosebumps book franchise by R.L. Stine. At the mere suggestion that a movie adaptation was coming (and also queued by the question of influence on Confessions of a Reviewer), I dug through the dusty boxes to unearth my still intact paperback collection.
Simply smelling the tattered pages brought me back to my literary youth spent devouring these books in a single sitting. As I browsed over the familiar covers and explained to my daughter what each tale contained, I felt my juvenile mind swelling around me. I felt like that young girl with a mind full of twisted fantasy once more.
So I was excited to see what filmmakers would concoct for the motion picture. If nothing else, I was firmly convinced it would be superior to the various television adaptations, and I loved watched those even when they were atrocious. I was most curious to see how they would construct the plot to include multiple manuscripts rather than just tracking a single one.
The screenwriter did not disappoint in a creative amalgamation of my many childhood favorites. In the movie, R.L. Stine is a character himself, as the reclusive author of the Goosebumps books. When one of his manuscripts is unlocked and open, the characters literally materialize and jump from the pages. Ultimately, all of his creations are unleashed, and Stine has to face his demons.
I love that they made R.L. Stine an actual character in the movie. After reading so many of his works (Fear Street in addition to the Goosebumps series), I definitely felt some illusory connection with the author. I appreciated him being the ultimate thread tying the entire story together. I am glad they painted him as a rich character full of torment and humor.
Since the plot created its own multifaceted tangent, I did not have to worry about how loyal the film remained to the books. Each book cited is a glimpse, enough to ignite recollections and nostalgia. Then they all converge to create this new story.
As far as the Goosebumps characters showcased, they, unfortunately, were not my favorites. I definitely recognized most, if not all, of the monsters unleashed, and I felt a thrill each time I identified them. Yet, the books I felt a special connection with or remembered the most vividly from my youth were either skipped or mentioned in passing. I do understand the choices made. Most of my favorites were the more internal, psychological struggles (The Haunted Mask) or location-based (Welcome to Dead House) or a haunted object (Say Cheese and Die!).
The movie is very campy and heavily infused with humor. I also think many of the monster centerpieces were chosen to keep the tone lighter and less scary for young audiences. I would have preferred the film a bit darker and scarier, making me feel more like I did when I was reading the books at that age. Yet what was included in the movie definitely pushed the fear threshold of my preschooler, so I cannot complain too much.
The viewing experience was sheer nostalgia for me. Even though the movie seemed extra campy and a bit cheesy at times, I was so euphoric to be back in R.L. Stine’s world that I could not care. I laughed on multiple occasions, both at the jokes in the script and in spite of my youthful self I then felt like I was sitting beside. I smiled as I held my daughter as she jumped at the monsters of my youth.
Even if it was not the best movie I have ever seen, even if it was not the level of fright I wanted, I loved the Goosebumps movie simply because it conjures up all the love and enjoyment I found in the books those many years ago.