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Goose­bumps was that rare sur­prise: a film aimed pri­mar­ily at kids that ev­ery­one could en­joy, which chan­nelled its enor­mously pop­u­lar source ma­te­rial with enough wacky wit that it worked. It didn’t hurt that it boasted a fun, com­mit­ted per­for­mance from Jack Black as a ver­sion of au­thor RL Stine. Which is why the se­quel is ul­ti­mately so dis­ap­point­ing.

Haunted Hal­loween fol­lows much the same track as the orig­i­nal, as kids dis­cover a Stine tome and ac­ci­den­tally un­leash mon­ster mad­ness. Yet set­ting it at the scari­est time of year just feels lazy – cos­tumes and dec­o­ra­tions com­ing alive are hardly the most in­spired idea to cre­ate a fam­ily-friendly hor­ror feel. The scares are largely an­chored around crea­tures such as Gummi Bears leap­ing to­wards the cast, and that con­cept quickly be­comes stale. To make mat­ters worse, the jokes don’t hit their tar­gets.

To cap it all, Black’s Stine is him­self an af­ter­thought; while it was sen­si­ble to not have him solve ev­ery­thing again, his ab­sence through­out most of the run­ning time cre­ates a charisma void that none of the new cast can fill. This is the cin­e­matic equiv­a­lent of a knock-off Hal­loween cos­tume: a dis­ap­point­ing copy fes­tooned with sloppy stitches. James White

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