Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween is pretty much a retread of the original film’s plot. The big difference is that Jack Black, who returns as Goosebumps author R.L. Stine, has a scant amount of screentime. He still voices the evil dummy Slappy, but is only on screen for the tail end of the climax. The lack of Black may be disappointing for adults, but shouldn’t have any effect on children whatsoever. Goosebumps 2 is meant for younger kids. They’ll be entertained by the visual effects, silly shenanigans, and age appropriate scares.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Wardenclyffe, New York. Sarah Quinn (Madison Iseman) is having trouble writing her college application essay. On Halloween night, she’s forced to babysit her brother, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and his goofy best friend, Sam (Caleel Harris). Unbeknownst to Sarah, Sonny and Sam salvaged a ventriloquist dummy from an abandoned house. Slappy, the primary villain in Stine’s novels, comes to life again to terrorize his new family and the town. He takes a particular interest in Sam’s electrifying science project.
Goosebumps 2 is sadly lacking in creativity. There was no effort to generate a new storyline. The first film was successful, so the formula was just poured again into the sequel flask. The film is loaded with special effects and huge set pieces. Sony obviously spent money to give Goosebumps 2 a high production value. They could have differentiated the plot, even by a smidge. No offense to Director Ari Sandel (The Duff), but a robot could have made this movie by just ticking boxes from the original.
A talented cast of comedians is sadly wasted here. Ken Jeong, Chris Parnell, and Wendi McLendon-Covey have supporting roles. Along with Jack Black, this is a dream team of improv comedy. These actors could have added quality to the film’s humor. Goosebumps 2 is a Halloween story, but a few cheesy laughs are sprinkled throughout. An opportunity was lost to make the film more appealing to an older audience.
I must admit, Slappy is creepy as hell. He’s the one aspect of Goosebumps 2 that’s genuinely frightening for all ages. The visual effects team have improved Slappy’s realism, especially his movements. Jack Black’s sinister voice over adds a few more spoonfuls of chills. Not to worry parents, Slappy’s devilish antics are firmly in the PG realm. It would be great to have a Slappy versus Chucky horror film face off. But I seriously doubt R.L. Stine would allow that. He’s also got a brief cameo if you look closely.
Coming once again from Sony Pictures, Goosebumps 2 essentially is a dialed-in kid flick. It will only appeal to the younger target audience at best. The pieces were there for a decent sequel, but the focus was on the box office potential not the plot. The film sets up the possibility for multiple sequels. The gravy train will run dry if the movies to come are this unimaginative. R.L. Stine has written over two hundred Goosebumps books. There’s material a plenty to make better films.