Rote hor­ror fails to fire

The Southland Times - - Weekend -

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.

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