‘Goosebumps’: Kid Film Will Your Skin Crawl With Satisfaction


Reader Beware. You’re In For A Scare!


After losing his father, Zack and his mother move to the quaint town of Greendale, Maryland, in hopes of a new start and a better life. After Gale gets a job as the assistant principal at the town high school, Zack tries to integrate himself into the local scene to make his new home more tolerable. He does so by meeting Hanna. Only, Hanna’s father turns out to be the verbally abusive, not to mention best-selling Scholastic author, R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, and Zack vows to save her from her life of cruel captivity. But when a freak accident causes Stine’s infamous literary creatures to come to life and wreak havoc on the town of Greendale, Zack must ban together with a few new friends, including Stine’s own daughter Hanna and the ever awkward Champ, if there is any hope of stopping the creepy-character invasion. Reading on an Amazon Kindle is hard enough. The paper copy might kill you. Welcome to Goosebumps.

‘You just released every monster I’ve ever created!’ -R.L Stine


I remember growing up and being obsessed with R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series. If you grew up in the 90’s, and wasn’t living under a rock, you’ll recall how culturally significant the children’s book series truly was. Goosebumps was a page-turning phenomenon. The property eventually spawned a highly successful Fox television series which ran from 1995-1998 and was a staple of my childhood. In fact, The Haunted Mask episode still holds up today as a genuinely unsettling experience and packs a mean punch. So when I heard a meta movie was being produced about series’ mastermind Stine’s creatures coming to life in the real world, I knew I had to check it out.. While I was skeptic, the trailer looked solid, and I figured why not. It’s a decision I’m glad for because this movie rocks. So let’s all move to a new city,  accidentally release a few fanged freaks, and check out some spooky stories from the latest Stine creation as I review the 2015 meta-monster creature feature, Rob Letterman’s Goosebumps.

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The acting in Goosebumps isn’t the most solidly spooky export of the entire children’s film, but that’s saying something in a film so competently written and directed.

Jack Black stars as the famed author and inspiration for the meta-screen tale, R.L. Stine. While he didn’t seem like the best possible choice at first (my money would have been on Eugene Levy), Black makes quick work of making the audience forget that he isn’t, in fact, Stine.

Jack Black in Columbia Pictures’ “Goosebumps.”

What’s most impressive about Black, in the genre blending meta-big-screen adaptation of the Goosebumps book series, is the actor’s ability to make us basically hate the character, but extremely care for him by the film’s conclusion. Black, who is also stellar in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock (2003), really brings the thespian goods to the town of Madison. It was a character arch which tested the audience to a self-satisfying result.

Dylan Minnette is also great as the strapping new kid-on-the-block, Zach. Zach’s an interesting character. He’s a kid that follows his own instincts and refuses to be a follower, regardless of his good looks. He could be the school jock, but he befriends a doofus and does his own thing. It takes a decent actor with social knowledge and awareness to organically pull this off and Minnette really rises to the challenge. His chemistry with Hanna, portrayed by the equally talented actress Odeya Rush, is solid and effective as well. Look to the film’s climax for examples of both performers’ acting chops.

Then there is the doofus himself, the insufferably comedic Champ. Played charmingly by Ryan Lee, who turned in work in J.J. Abrams; Super 8 (2011), Champ is a loser but one that I most related to in the film. Bursting on the scene like a rabid Rodney Dangerfield, Lee is worth the ticket price alone as his comic timing is too good not to enjoy. Effortlessly chewing dialogue next to screen veteran Black, the young actor really enhances each scene and steals them with ease in Goosebumps. (B+)

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Rob Letterman directs Goosebumps with the glee of a school-yard youth— so much so, I would be surprised if the filmmaker wasn’t a massive fan of the Scholastic source material. You can see the energy in each shot, often colors coming off the screen like cinematic crayons from a creepy coloring book.

While Letterman moves his camera, mostly in moments that emphasizes the set pieces, the film’s composition is crisp and effective. Which was a relief as it’s a great way to get the most out of big character moments in the narrative. It’s hard to complain about the camera movement, not to mention a lacking sense of cinematic language, when the composition is this sharp.

That’s not to say Letterman never moves his camera. During one the film’s better set pieces, while there are a few, an awesome pull back shot is featured. The shot starts on a monitor, the scene takes place in a supermarket, and displays on the monitor an image. The camera then pulls back to reveal what was happening on the monitor to be directly in front of it. The result is highly effective.

Goosebumps, due to Letterman’s direction, also features exciting set pieces which amplifies the strong script. (B-)


Darren Lemke’s script, Goosebumps, is a fresh jolt of lightning for anyone looking for that cinematic electric slide. Not only is the film a faced paced thrill ride, imploring a quick action-packed second and third act, but the script’s ripe with comedic value.

Only it’s not the kind of comedy you’d expect from a film generally aimed at adolescence. In Goosebumps, the comedy comes not from situations but the characters; reactions to them. Lemke’s handling of the scenarios doesn’t make fools of his characters but lets the dialogue enhance them. I laughed a few solid times during the film. Genuine, well earned, laughs.

Then there is the casting of the film’s villain. If you are anything like me, a 90’s kids with a deep running passion for Goosebumps, then you no doubt have many memories of R.L. Stine’s creations. Lemke uses the perfect foe from the book series as the film’s main antagonist to a result that is fantastic. I won’t ruin it, fright fans, but I geeked in the confines of those dark theater walls.

Above all else, the film has a hearty amount of well executed character moments due to Lemke’s intelligent scripting and handling of authenticity. There are many great set ups and pay-offs in the script that feel like real characters, experiencing real situations, with real human emotions. It’s a solid script which makes you value your own life after viewing, which was surprising in a kids film about book boogeymen coming from the pages of an elementary school novel. (A-)


Rob Lettermen’s Goosebumps is wonderfully yarned kid film with a lot of love for it’s source material and an amazing amount of heart. Its a roller-coaster of a script, features solid performances (both dramatic and comedic), and showcases some well-constructed set pieces. It’s a film that kids will love, and adults can find themselves enjoying easily as well— especially if you grew up on R.L Stine’s legendary Goosebumps series and now have a little one of your own. So go now, and don’t forget to get a little monster’s blood at the theater concession stand.


Goosebumps is currently in theaters from Columbia Pictures. It’s been out for a while, so see it asap or it might be gone, Fright Fans!