Review: 'Goosebumps 2' Will Win Over Burgeoning Horror Fans But Disappoint Franchise Fanatics

For decades, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series has set the standard when it comes to kid-friendly horror, thanks to the dozens of books in the series. A film based on the property debuted in 2015 and became enough of a success to warrant a sequel, Goosebumps 2, which makes for an entertaining and thrilling adventure that's fun for the whole family, though it will leave older audiences of devout Goosebumps fanatics wanting more.

goosebumps 2 haunted halloween slappy
(Photo: Sony Pictures)

The film focuses on two best friends (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) who make some extra cash by disposing of junk, which sometimes leads to surprising discoveries. After unlocking an old manuscript, Slappy the ventriloquist dummy emerges, with his magical powers bringing Halloween decorations around the small town to life and wreaking havoc. The duo are forced to call on some unlikely assistance to stop Slappy for good and put their town back to what it once was.

One of the joys of the Goosebumps series of books was its various incarnations of horror, whether it be vampires, ghosts, or villainous masterminds. While Goosebumps 2 makes good on its diversity of henchmen acting out the orders of Slappy, there's little connection to the source material otherwise. The first adaptation had a similar premise, though it utilized recognizable monsters from the series' history, as well as featured Stine in the film itself, played by Jack Black. Other than name-dropping a handful of titles throughout the narrative and the appearance of Slappy, fans would likely want to see a stronger connection to elements of the franchise to live up to the movie's title.

Rather than bringing familiar faces to the forefront, one sequence depicts Slappy in a grocery store casting a spell to bring a horde of generic ghouls to life to carry out his bidding. For any kids who grew up deciding what they would get dressed up as for Halloween by perusing whatever mask they could find, you'll appreciate the film paying respects to all those nameless, off-brand entities that are finally given their shot at success. While some kids may have always hoped for a "Yeti" costume, seeing a "Snow Monster" come to life will remind you that the joy of a costume relies on the wearer and not the packaging an outfit comes in.

Despite the lack of connection between the film's title and the actual series, there's still a lot to like about the endeavor. The overall tone of the experience embraces the frights and the fun of the series, never going too far with its horrors while also not dumbing down the premise. While gummy bears with sharp teeth coming to life might not be entirely intimidating to a viewer, there are other more effective monsters that easily fit within the premise, potentially allowing younger viewers to merely close their eyes for the more intimidating sequences while older audiences will appreciate the character design.

goosebumps 2 haunted halloween monsters slappy
(Photo: Sony Pictures)

The lack of Black's Stine is felt, as he is such a compelling performer, though the young cast manages to keep your attention and invest in their journey. Plot-wise, there are multiple obstacles that our heroes encounter that don't entirely lead to a fulfilling resolution, whether it be a cheating boyfriend or a reliance on Nikola Tesla, ultimately leaving the audience hoping for a more efficient storyline.

Wendi McLendon-Covey, Chris Parnell, and Ken Jeong are welcome additions to the ensemble as they inject their comedic skills into every scene. A possible romance between McLendon-Covey and Parnell is also the most charming ancillary plot point in the film, endearing us even further to the characters. But it's not quite enough to carry the rest of the film.

More than being a Goosebumps film, it's possible the movie could have been an even bigger hit with audiences had the connections to the brand been avoided, as there are countless charming scenes that remind viewers of the joys of Halloween. We won't be surprised if this film becomes a staple of holiday viewings, even if the audiences old enough to have grown up with Goosebumps aren't impressed by the attempt.


Rating: 3 out of 5

Goosebumps 2 is out now on Digital HD and lands on Blu-ray and DVD on January 15th.