Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween review: The work of R.L. Stine returns to the big screen for this seasonally based sequel in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. It feels like only yesterday that the first iteration, which owed a lot to Jumanji, was in multiplexes, but that may have something to do with how familiar this fun yet seemingly rushed sequel feels. Sticking to the core premise of the original, a pair of teens and one of their older sisters, uncover Stine’s first ever manuscript and unleash franchise favourite Slappy (Mick Wingert) the ventriloquist dummy.
It’s hard to completely berate the plot, as Stine (Jack Black) points out how his early work was particularly cliched. Cliched it most certainly is, and this explanation also fills in the plot holes and lack of consistency. It’s hard to describe Slappy’s powers outside of the term ‘plot device’, as he can use telekinesis, teleportation, and can transform people into monsters. Sometimes he brings things alive such as jack-O-lanterns and other Halloween decorations, while other times he can materialise fan favourite characters from mere masks. Perhaps looking too deep into the mythology is a mistake, but why does a giant balloon spider remain made from balloons, while a rubber mask of a werewolf turns into an actual werewolf?
Here to stop Slappy this time round are friends Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) along with Sonny’s sister, Sarah (Madison Iseman). Sonny’s the science geek, while Sam is a budding entrepreneur, and Sarah is anxious over boys and college. The aforementioned plot excuse doesn’t quite cover these characters, but due to a trio of committed performances they are exceptionally enjoyable. Ins a film with CG monsters including living gummy bears, it says a lot that the humans are the brightest and most colourful characters on screen. Sam is unfortunately forgotten about towards the end as he makes way for the family dynamic. Elsewhere actors are wasted, with the brilliant Chris Parnell quickly transformed into a subservient lackey for Slappy, with no funny lines, and Wendi McLendon-Covey also with limited screen time.
The biggest upset here in terms of casting is Black, who was reportedly originally slated not to appear in the film. It is clear his appearance is seemingly down to a few days re-shoots at the most, with his five scenes being very short and having no outcome on the plot. It’s not even edited well into the final film, with Black having a dramatic panning up reveal shot, despite being shown in a brief shot earlier. Nor does he return as the voice of Slappy, though it’s doubtful anyone will be able to tell the difference.
The film’s biggest offence is being uneven. Some genuinely good tension building makes way for simplistic goofy comedy, and although most of the monster effects are fine, you can see flickering around the hair of cast members when in cars, clearly denoting use of green screen. Letting oneself go and hopefully ignoring the fact this is almost the same film, will result in a fast paced, disposable filler for Halloween, but as Goosebumps is an anthology series of books, the film franchise could follow suit and give us something a bit different, a bit braver, and a lot scarier. Believe me, kids can handle it.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween review by Luke Ryan Baldock, October 2018.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween will be released in UK cinemas on 19th October 2018.