‘Goosebumps’ Doesn’t Pack Enough Scares To Be Frightening – Review
*This review was published during the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes. At GoC, we fully support the creatives who are part of the SAG-AFTRA strike and are working toward getting fair payment and treatment for all their work.
A few years after the last adaptation of the franchise tried to explore the many monsters and stories of the books on the big screen, the latest attempt at introducing audiences to a new universe populated by creatures such as Slappy and Mr. Wood doesn’t provide enough engaging emotions to keep a viewer invested in what happens with the new human protagonists of the world.
Disney+ and Hulu tried to continue the legacy of R.L. Stine’s books of scary story for children with Goosebumps, but the resulting television series is too distracted with a slow plot to deliver worthy frights.
Nathan Bratt (Justin Long) is a teacher that decides to renovate the haunted house that has remained abandoned in his town after an unexpected tragedy took the life of a boy. However, the house itself kept a horrible secret, waiting for any unsuspecting guest that doesn’t believe in the dangers hidden within its walls. As more characters enter the spooky residence, the stakes are higher in a story that seems like it’s getting ready to scare the young audience its aimed towards, but fails to get anything moving besides the tease of what might be lurking in the shadows.
Another one of the series’ unlucky main human characters is Isaiah (Zack Morris), a promising football player with the crushing pressure of his family depending on his career. The boy’s father only has one future in his mind, and that’s living off of the Isaiah’s success as a professional player. While his mother doesn’t agree with what his father has planned for him, the boy still feels like he will let everyone down if he can’t become the powerful athlete everyone expects him to be. It’s this fear that directly takes him to the dangerous monsters of Goosebumps.
While Morris does a good job of portraying a conflicted person with a lot of pressure on his shoulders, the writing in the series makes it impossible for Isaiah’s character to become as engaging as the performance initially suggests. The time the character spends living through the problems of his personal life and the frightening environment the monsters put him through feels unbalanced. Essentially, it doesn’t end up as an entertaining journey for the successful young man. Plenty of potential seems to be left on the back burner when it comes to the story of Isaiah and his family.
The fateful incident behind the first few episodes of the new adaptation of R.L. Stine’s work is centered around Harold, an artist who used to live in the scary residence thirty years before the event of the show. An unseen force releases an explosion that takes the boy’s life, effectively sealing the residence when his parents decide to live somewhere else. As a method of connecting the two timelines, the series provides the audience with a couple of interesting ideas with the origin story of the horrors that await the protagonists, but what actually happened to Harold seems like a much more interesting story.
Since the last attempt to launch a franchise based on the property wasn’t as successful as expected, this television series had the potential to do something different with the storylines it’s based on. Unfortunately, the ideas that made the books so special to young audiences weren’t present in this new television adaptation, ending up with a narrative that lacks charisma and horror. Perhaps the next time the franchise comes back something else can be obtained as a result.
With a couple of engaging performances from Zack Morris and Justin Long, the new Goosebumps television series doesn’t deliver big on the frightening moments it teases, becoming a narrative with uninteresting protagonists who want to get from one point of their story to the next without any actual motivation behind them. The most recent adaptation of R.L. Stine’s books was only scary when taking into account the potential of what could’ve been if the characters’ feelings and drive had more focus than the scary atmosphere the story attempted to create. Slappy and his friends weren’t so lucky this time around.