Rote horror fails to fire
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween 89 mins Directed by Ari Sandel Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett ★★ 1⁄2
In upstate New York there is a place called Wardenclyffe, which was once home to the first – and only – of Nikola Tesla’s planned network of electricity transmission towers.
Tesla couldn’t secure the funding to complete the network, the tower was abandoned and eventually sold for scrap. Tesla died in anonymous poverty in 1943, largely forgotten by the world, although he had once been a titan of invention equal – or superior – to Edison and Marconi.
So imagine my surprise, sitting down for Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween in a room full of excitable nippers and a few clearly not-that-into-it parents, to see the first thing on screen was a plaque honouring Tesla. Unfortunately, that moment also represented the peak of my enjoyment of this mostly lazy and rote film.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is another spin-off from the all-conquering book series. They are wildly popular, (400 million sold and counting) rigidly formulaic and probably just about the best thing on your bookshelf if you’re under 10 or have recently taken a blow to the head.
The film reintroduces the possessed ventriloquist’s doll ‘‘Slappy’’ (think Chucky, but without the R rating). Slappy wants a family, and to get one he sets about animating every Halloween decoration in town. (Think, the last reel of every Ghostbusters movie)
Standing in Slappy’s way are the two kids who found him, their older sister and their spunky mum. Goosebumps 2 plays out the only way it can, as a cut down and kidfriendly knock off of Stranger Things and about half of everything Stephen King has ever written.
And I don’t mean that as a criticism. It just doesn’t make for a particularly engrossing 90 minutes for any grown-ups who are dragged along to share the fun.
With Jack Black and Ken Jeong turning up in cameos, and an energetic cast in the leads, plenty of candy-coloured CGI whirling around and just enough storytelling to get it across the line, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is going to do all right.
It also, just once, made me jump ever so slightly. Which is more than the M rated and vastly more hyped Venom managed last week. So there’s that.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is another spin-off from the all-conquering book series.