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Review: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

Directed by: Ari Sandel

Premise: A sequel to the 2015 film. A group of teenagers discover an unfinished manuscript by author R.L Stine. Once it’s opened, an evil ventriloquist dummy is unleashed and brings all sorts of Halloween monsters to life.

What Works: Goosebumps 2 has a likable core cast. The movie centers upon a high school student, her younger brother, and his friend, played by Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Caleel Harris. The young woman played by Iseman struggles with her college application essay, Taylor’s character obsesses over a school science project, and Harris plays an ambitious entrepreneur trying to get a business off the ground. Each of the central characters has their own defining interests and Iseman and Taylor have an authentic sister-brother rapport. Viewers who enjoyed the 2015 Goosebumps film ought to be entertained by the follow-up as it offers a similar mix of fantasy and adventure.  

What Doesn’t: Goosebumps 2 is an example of “the same but different” approach to sequel making. This is the same movie all over again. As in the first Goosebumps feature, a young person reads one of R.L. Stine’s manuscripts and releases supernatural creatures that wreak havoc on a suburban community. There’s very little that’s new about this version and there’s a whole lot less imagination to it. Many of the creatures are the same and none of them are very threatening. In fact, one of the only differences between this film and its progenitor is the absence of Jack Black as R.L. Stine. He’s in the movie but Black doesn’t show up until about two-thirds of the way through the picture and he doesn’t really participate in the action. Black’s presence was key to the first movie and he is sorely missed here. The new actors are well cast and they do well in their roles but the filmmakers cannot think of anything interesting to do with them. The premise is forced and ludicrous. The older sister is enlisted to babysit her younger brother and his friend but the guys are at least middle school age if not early high school. The very idea that they need a sitter is absurd and it’s a canned scenario intended to teach the sister cliché lessons about family and responsibility. But the film doesn’t even do that very well and the lesson is forced and inauthentic. Goosebumps 2 feels less like a feature film and more like the kind of made-for-television Halloween specials that air on the Disney Channel throughout October. It is shot and lit like a television sitcom and there’s no spooky atmosphere to it. It errs on the side of being too kid friendly and it’s unlikely to scare anyone, even the youngest viewers.

Bottom Line: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a limp imitation of its predecessor. It retreads the 2015 movie without adding anything new or creative and when it hits home video no one will be able to tell the difference between this and a made-for-TV Halloween special. 

Episode: #721 (October 21, 2018)