Bumpy ride for inferior sequel
The first Goosebumps movie served up fabulously fun family frights, and was a real nostalgia trip for this former fan of the book series.
Three years on, it’s time for a second chapter – although it’s virtually all change behind and in front of the camera.
Creepy ventriloquist’s doll Slappy and writer Darren Lemke are back, along with a small appearance by one of the original’s stars.
But Ari Sandel – whose only previous big screen directing credits are the risible The Duff and little-seen When We First Met – helms a new cast as young friends Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) stumble across a magical book that brings Slappy back to life.
The series newbies fail to live up to the achievements of their predecessors as Haunted Halloween lacks the original’s warmth and genuine scares.
This sequel is aimed more at ankle-biters – and they are sure to have a great time watching all of the iconic supernatural characters come to grisly life.
That’s not to say there’s nothing for teens and adults to enjoy; the young members of the cast are a delight and the digital and practical effects defy the flick’s relatively small blockbuster budget ($33 million).
Taylor, who shone in last year’s It, and Harris (Think Like a Man) are believable buddies and perfect performers for this type of material.
Bridesmaids’ Wendi McLendon-Covey (Kathy) throws herself into a physically challenging role with gusto and Chris Parnell (Walter) is always a welcome comedic presence.
I was less enthused to see Ken Jeong (Mr Chu) pop up on screen; not since the first Hangover movie has the 49-year-old been anything other than grating or unbearable.
Lemke and Rob Lieber’s story barely has a chance to breath as it gets buried beneath an avalanche of colourful, crazy creations including Frankengnomes and Gummi Bear monsters.
We do care about Sam, Sonny and the latter’s sister Sarah’s (Madison Iseman) fate – but not enough.
You also never feel like they are in any real danger as the kid-friendly tone and aesthetics will have you twiddling your thumbs rather than biting your nails.
The clever meta trappings running through the 2015 original are posted missing; this is a much more stripped-back, straightforward tale with few surprises.
An open climax suggests a third entry is on the cards but it already feels like enough is enough – unless braver creative choices are made.
The first movie, and unnerving modern flicks like Joe Dante’s The Hole and cult classic The Monster Squad, did a much more effective job of delivering familyfriendly scares.
Goosebumps 2 might not be a terrifying mess but it’s about as frightening as an uncarved pumpkin.
Scare tactics The kids aren’t alright in this freaky follow-up