Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a surprisingly fun and sometimes shockingly well done PG horror film that I strongly believe is a great start for any child looking to begin their horror journey. Sure it’s a silly film, but it doesn’t shy away from pulling from classic trademarks of some of the best horror films around, and even some that are less than stellar. It’s an honest to god great time that truly encompasses what Goosebumps is known for: being welcoming to children while waking them to the wonders that exist within the genre.
Ari Sandel (The Duff, When We First Met) takes over the helm from Rob Letterman, who did an admirable job directing the original, but it’s great to see another director take over control for this outing. Taking itself less serious and being much more contained, this film’s direction properly displays the mechanics of a typical horror film while adjusting them slightly to be just a little on the outrageous side. There’s nothing too scary to haunt kids nightmares beyond maybe the ventriloquist dummy, but even he’s no match for the scarring image of early Chucky. As an avid reader of the books when I was younger, this film felt much more like what I would want a feature length theatrical Goosebumps to be like versus the original film, as this second one was fueled by relentless charm, wit, and occasionally cheesy dialogue.
Rob Lieber (Peter Rabbit, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) has taken over as scribe for this sequel, making some drastic changes from the previous feature. Slappy, the notorious ventriloquist dummy from the original, now has telekinetic abilities, which may strike some as an odd change from the first, but this Slappy has come out of an earlier rendition of the character’s book, so in a way it all makes sense. While that may be, the story within said book is a confusing one as it fails to entertain what Slappy’s intentions are. Even when the explanation of Slappy just wanting a family is introduced, it still in a lot of ways doesn’t make total sense. Sure its a film about a dummy coming out of a book, but I would still like some exposition exploring his reasoning behind his actions. Please note to not trust the trailers for this feature, because I for one was not at all too excited to sit down and waste 90 minutes with this film, only to be surprised by the charming storytelling, along with the odd references from films like Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed & Child’s Play.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Caleel Harris and IT’s Jeremy Ray Taylor play Sonny & Sam, who lead this Halloween adventure against Slappy the villainous dummy. The two leads do an excellent job in their respective roles. While not being the performance of their careers, they should still be proud by how relatable they appeared on screen. Sonny’s sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) is much more on the cheesy side of things when it comes to her performance and the way her character interacts with the others. While she does have a few of the more emotionally vulnerable scenes in the film, her character shoves those moments aside quickly to make way for the next hard hitting scene. None of the characters feel like they are being improperly portrayed and they levitate off the screen as though they came directly from the page of an R.L. Stine novel. The children are the most important aspect of a Goosebumps tale and as such, the adult characters are pushed aside. There is no prominent adult figure to help save the day alongside the children this time around, which is a real shame and truly a missed opportunity to bring back a favorite. A quick Spoiler Alert that Jack Black does have a brief cameo in acknowledgement of the original film’s presence but beyond that he doesn’t really serve much purpose to Goosebumps 2’s plot.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a thousand times better looking than any of the creatures in the original 2015 film, and was made on a significantly lower budget. The monsters, whether practical or digital, are superior to those in the first and are the exact amount of cheesy you’d expect from the “classic” monster appearances. The makeup presumably was incredibly well done if any practical effects were done in the film, although there are certainly some obvious digital over practical. When Halloween night begins, the design of all the animated Halloween decorations creates incredibly surreal imagery for young audiences to dread. Its visuals should stick with a child in the way that for myself, the imagery of Halloweentown stays with me to this day. For both frightening and comedic reasons, it’s certainly a film for a child to reflect on happily as they grow older.
"Did You Miss Me!?"
Genre: Adventure. Comedy. Family.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Dominic Lewis, who is the composer best known for his previous works (Peter Rabbit, The Duff) with both the screenwriter and director, have now all came together to make this film. Although sadly this film has another generic score just like the two mentioned above, while having a significantly entertaining film surrounded by a miserably forgettable score. The original film has a lackluster score as well, however this film seems to have taken a step farther down with this new composer. The sound design however is fantastic, as every audible feature from a gigantic balloon spider squealing as it crawls around town, to Slappy casting a powerful spell (similar to Child’s Play) to awaken his fellow monsters are exactly as you’d expect from a film like this, which offers a deeper reasoning to why to love the film’s referential nature as well as goofiness.
I rather enjoyed the original Goosebumps when I first saw it in theaters back in 2015, although rewatching it to get a leg up on this sequel may have been a bad idea as almost all the elements I remembered shining in the original rarely shine again. This film doesn’t feel like it will have the same fatigue but I can’t be sure till years later. It feels like a Goosebumps story coming to life and that’s exactly what you want from a Goosebumps film. For people who have never read or known anything about the Goosebumps books, this film may be a disappointment to you and in truth this film was never aimed at you, but for the die hard fans after all.