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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Movie Review)

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: Two high-schoolers find a book once belonging to horror author R.L. Stine, along with the evil dummy Slappy. Soon enough, Slappy is acting out and causing havoc in town when he starts bringing Halloween decorations to life.

REVIEW: If you're young at heart and in the Halloween spirit, you could do a lot worse than GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN, a blissfully chaotic romp that is way more fun than I was expecting it to be. It's not great. It's not a new October classic or anything very clever or sublime, but there's still plenty to enjoy if you're an appreciator of this season.

GOOSEBUMPS 2 feels like a Halloween store come to life; indeed, costumes and masks coming to life is actually a substantial event in movie, leaving no doubt the film is aimed directly at folks who start decorating their houses around mid-September. If the sight of a garish assembly of lawn ornaments attacking their owners is appealing, than you must be part of GOOSEBUMPS 2's target audience. I appreciated the first film's ode to spooky PG-rated shenanigans, and the sequel delivers more of the same. In fact, even though it's officially a sequel, it has almost nothing to do with the first film outside of essentially telling the same story. It's a reboot, of sorts, or maybe even a remake; it's basically the same damn thing, let's put it that way, and that's okay because you're only looking for a handful of things in a GOOSEBUMPS movie, and they are family-friendly frights and silly humor aimed at a not-too-picky crowd. It works on that level.

The story is barely a whisper of a thing. Two dorky pals, Sonny and Sam (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris, respectively), who are attempting to start a junk-removal business, get a mysterious tip to clean out their neighborhood's creepiest house, which once belonged to author R.L. Stine. Within, they find Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy, who has nefarious plans for them, even as his initial wishes are fairly benevolent: Slappy wants a family, and he immediately attaches himself to the youngsters, as well as Sonny's sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) and mother Kathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Helpful at first, but eventually spurned by the teens, Slappy immediately goes into apocalypse mode and sets about bringing Halloween to life, which means making sure every last Halloween decoration and costume in the town gains sentience and terrorizes the locals. The third act of the movie is like a long haunted hayride, with all manner of recognizable creatures attacking fleeing citizens.

The plot is admittedly flimsy. Slappy's motivation is barely explained and most of what happens feels like the filmmakers counted on the audience not caring at all about the consequences of what occurs. They're pretty much right. GOOSEBUMPS 2 is the last movie in the world where one should look for story consistency or logic. What matters is, it delivers the basics: Harmless ghouls, kid-friendly morbidity and a pace that is pleasantly bouncy and boredom-free. Even parents doing their due diligence by accompanying their kids should be pleasantly surprised that GOOSEBUMPS 2 is as jaunty as it is.

The horror sequences, such as they are, are mostly timid, but could prove to be a tad unnerving for the little ones. I'll admit there is one sequence, set inside a department store, that even creeped me out slightly. (It involves Chris Parnell!) You don't come to a movie like this for jolts, however, you come for carefree Halloween mayhem, and on that front you can't be disappointed.

There's no major character work to be found, or insight into anything other than what's immediately on the screen, but the cast is very likable, a big help, with Taylor and Harris proving to be a pretty enjoyable team. Iseman doesn't fare quite as well, but Sarah is mostly a boring older sister character without much development. Of course, all of the adults in the movie are dopes and fools, and if you're not a fan of Ken Jeong and his shtick then you may want to stay away. Yes, Jack Black returns as R.L. Stine, but his inclusion feels like an afterthought; as if they shot the entire movie and realized too late they should get the Stine character in there, so they hastily tacked on 2 or 3 days for Black. (Black also voices Slappy, who gets almost as much screen time as any of the humans.)

Overall, GOOSEBUMPS 2 is a very acceptable October treat, just what the doctor ordered if you're a fiend for the season like me.

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