Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.
Written by Rob Leiber, from the books by R. L. Stine
Directed by Ari Sandel (The Duff)
Starring: Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno 911, The Goldbergs), Madison Iseman (Jumanji, Tales of Halloween), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben from It), Caleel Harris (Castle Rock)
Studio: Sony, 90 minutes. Rated PG.
Trying something a little new. Instead of simmering and planning: I’m posting my immediate thoughts review of Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.
Let me lead with the first Goosebumps film from 2015 was a delight. It had a surprisingly heartfelt backbone to the family friendly carnage with a set of well known actors giving it their full attention – no slumming around. Not to mention a fantastic way to adapt the spirit of the long running series. (My first was in 6th grade in 1992; I think it was “Say Cheese and Die”)
However, Goosebumps 2 is much lesser than first one. It feels like one notch above a TV movie. Think of the film you expected for the first film. The movie here is likely around the quality you expected. Since it’s a sequel, one expects to use what worked the first time and build in a different way. But this is very much the first one again with some details changed.
With being a sequel, it takes too long to get to the expected Halloween/Monster mayhem with a really sketchy set of scenes to get to it. Set ups that would work for a movie of the week but not so much on the big screen. Undercooked way to get to Slappy, and later to the monster fun. Odd as the mayhem starts about 20 minutes after it did the first time around. It’s a sequel, be bigger! When it does happen, the film is a blast with great production design for the creatures, including green orb head witches and a giant spider made from balloons. The sequence when Slappy gets the gang back together is amazing and gets the spirit going. There is a notable cheapness to the whole she-bang even when it goes as the film keeps finding excuses to exit the town getting attacked (I’m pretty sure there are piles of dead), ranging from “let’s talk in this alley” to “hang out with as annoying as normal Ken Jeong for a minute”. Jeong plays the character in a way that makes those who laugh just because he is there happy. Broad and groan-worthy. He does have the Halloween yard set up I want so bad though.
This all leads to a very rushed and easy ending. How convenient is it? It doesn’t feel done. Like there is about to be the next, real climax. But it doesn’t happen. Just wrapped up in a bow with really weird voice-over. And several subplots left unresolved.
On the plus side – the monsters look great, there is fun in the sequences you came to see. The design on Slappy is very well done – it’s not Black doing the voice this time but a reasonable facsimile. I’m pretty sure many of the extras characters straight up died. There is great report between the leads and some well-done humor and nods to horror franchises. I’m not sure if one bit was a direct nod to Halloween III: Season of the Witch or just a coincidence as I have Halloween on the brain (cough podcast cough) – and I’m watching Halloween III as I write this. We do get Jack Black on hand for a little bit, but almost feels like he’s added in when they realized he can stop by for a day during The House with a Clock in its Walls downtime.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is not a terrible movie. It’s just a disappointment after the first entry showed this concept can be done better. I personally hoped the sequel would be a Horrorland type thing instead of essentially the same plot. For family-friendly horror-fantasy on the big screen, go see House instead.