By Nat Master

Mailed on October 19, 2015

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Dear Slappy
Evil Dummy

Dear Slappy,

I must confess, you never scared me all that much. By the time I discovered R.L. Stine’s work, I was a little too old for Goosebumps (I was all about Fear Street with its dead cheerleaders and terrorized prom queens ). But I understand that you’re one of Stine’s most memorable monsters, so it’s fitting that you were brought back for a night of mayhem in Rob Letterman’s movie adaptation of the Goosebumps books.

I’ve become pretty wary of these increasingly common pop culture revivals, which is a polite way of saying that every time I hear another thing I loved as a youngster is about to be remade (and likely ruined), I die a little inside (see: Jem & the Holograms). I have to say, though, I was pleasantly surprised by Goosebumps. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

In keeping with Stine-ian prose, “cold is the night” when new kid in town, Zach, must team up with new friends Champ, Hannah, and her dad – acclaimed author and reclusive weirdo, R.L. Stine – to save the town of Madison, Delaware, from an army of monsters and freaks led by you. After being cooped up in musty pages of books for so long, you understandably have some energy to burn, and you do some pretty serious damage. It was fun to put myself in your tiny shoes and think about where I would go if I was suddenly unleashed into the world like that. Truth be told, I’d probably break into a bakery or a knitting store and go nuts—not my proudest realization, but an honest one. But you choose to besiege a high school dance instead, and that’s fine. You do you.

The plot is simple enough to keep younger audience members engaged, and it’s quite entertaining watching Stine and the kids race to get all you monsters back into your books. The effects team makes you and the other terrors look good, but my quibble is that there are just too many of you. I get that having every single Goosebumps monster come alive is a cool premise, but we don’t get to fully appreciate most of your friends. Other than you, we really only get significant time with the Werewolf of Fever Swamp and a band of alarmingly agressive lawn gnomes. Relegating the rest of the roster of rampaging rogues to blink-and-miss-it cameos will likely disappoint old school fans of the books and give neophytes no frame of reference as to why they’re supposed to be excited to see the evil clown or giant praying mantis.

While Zach and Hannah are obviously the main couple in the film, I thought the Stine/Champ pairing emerged as the real team to root for. Their angry-grown-up/goofy-teen schtick is charming and greatly entertaining. If our childhood pop culture favourites must be resurrected, I can definitely see the two them in their own spin-off, should you decide to come back for some more fun. Just don’t mess with my beloved Fear Street books, that’s all I ask.



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