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FILM ARTICLE

GOOSEBUMPS, Hollywood's Best Halloween Movie This Year, is Heaven for Young Horror Buffs

The hugely popular R.L. Stine kiddie book series makes for a wildly playful and entertaining horror-comedy for the elementary school set.

For horror fans who are currently in their 20s or 30s, author R.L. Stine is just as important, if not more so, than Stephen King. Stine's Goosebumps books hold up as fun, imaginative, and often legitimately frightening examples of kid-friendly scares, which is why galleries compiling the best Goosebumps book covers are web-traffic gold, and why Columbia Pictures smartly jumped on the property to produce this equally child-ready movie adaptation. It's a Jumanji-esque parade of Stine's wildest monsters and ghouls, including Slappy the ventriloquist’s dummy and the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. There are even some playful jabs thrown at Stephen King, because, yes, Goosebumps is meta horror, but it's meta-ness is comparable to The Cabin in the Woods, not MTV’s Scream.

Jack Black, doing the best version of his usual shtick, plays a fictionalized version of R.L. Stine, who, in this case, is a recluse hiding out in nondescript suburbia with his aggressively sheltered daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush). When teen good-guy Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves in next door and catches Hannah's attention, Stine isn't happy, but for good reason: Stine has all of his books' manuscripts closed with lock and key, and if any of the books are opened, that particular tale's monster will surface in real life; thus, he doesn't want anyone inside his home. So, naturally, Zach and his goofy new friend, Champ (Ryan Lee), sneak into Stine’s house to see Hannah and accidentally unleash all of the books’ villains.

Directed by Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) with nonstop energy, Goosebumps is a cinematic rollercoaster without any fear-inducing upside down turns or backwards action. It's never scary, unless you're of the age where CGI werewolves sporting basketball shorts and sniffing produce in a supermarket are nightmare material. But what Goosebumps lacks in unease it makes up for with intelligence and enthusiasm in spades. It's a celebration of Stine's books' audience's spirit more than the series' contents. In a way, Goosebumps is what a Cabin in the Woods sequel based on Stephen King characters might look like.

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