american horror Story
his was not a hugely anticipated film, even for those who have grown up on R. L. stine’s teen horror books, but it was one of this year’s best surprises. Like The LEGO Movie, it takes puckish delight in mining nostalgia, and shows no compunction in throwing all the greatest hits at the screen at once — in this case, the monsters of 62 novels. those include a psychic flying poodle and killer lawn gnomes, catnip for fans and a pleasantly bizarre experience for the rest of us.
the story sees teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mother Gale (amy Ryan) move to a new town after a family tragedy. Zach befriends hannah (odeya Rush), the mysterious girl next door, until her hostile father R. L. stine (Jack Black) orders him to stay away. Zach’s attempts to find out what’s going on reveal stine’s secret: his monsters are real, and are trapped in his books.
Long story short, they all get loose and wreak havoc on the small town, in a reign of terror led by ventriloquist’s dummy slappy (also voiced by Black). Besides the gnomes, there’s a giant preying mantis, a yeti, aliens, zombies and werewolves to escape as our mismatched heroes try to figure out how to save the town, building to a showdown at the local high school’s big dance. But amid the ridiculous creatures and some genuine (though child-friendly) scares, the film makes us care about the characters, from the faintly tragic hannah to Black’s misunderstood stine.
it’s witty and knowing, with an admirable commitment to weirdness, but it’s that underlying sincerity that recalls the best of amblin’s ’80s output and makes it fit to sit on a shelf alongside
Top: jack Black auditions the teens for School Of Rock 2. Above: The monsters are ready to mash up the town.