Sunday, October 25, 2015

Goosebumps (2015)

Here at BGAN, it's fairly well-know that I am personally a man who refuses to let go of the things he grew up on. I firmly believe that if something makes you happy, you should take hold of it and feel no shame in doing so...well, as long as it doesn't involve kidnapping. Don't kidnap people. It looks bad on your resume. But yes, me and nostalgia are good friends and I don't see our friendship ending. As such, when a movie is announced that ties directly into something from my youth, it gets my attention.

A lot of times though, I find myself regretting my decision to give them that attention.

In comes Goosebumps, a new film based on the popular child-oriented horror series by R.L. Stine. To say that Goosebumps, as a nostalgic entity, is quite large would be like informing someone that not breathing might end in death. It's essentially general knowledge at this point and no one is really shocked about it. Two television series, trading cards, action figures, VHS tapes, DVDs, t-shirts, board games, and various video games, the whole thing was a monster that seemed unstoppable. One of those video games even had Jeff Goldblum in it.

That's right, Dracula was a Jew once! And Mel Brooks wasn't involved!!
Even before this film was announced, people still lovingly recalled their favourite books or episodes of the shows. For me, it wasn't really a "will they make a movie?" scenario but rather a "why haven't they already made a movie?" scenario. Lo and behold, here we are, a fresh new Goosebumps film ready to be gobbled up by the eager nostalgic masses who thirst to rekindle some of the joy they felt as children. There was no doubt in anyone's mind as to whether I would be going to see this movie. The only doubt may have resided in the fact that I happen to do video reviews for my YouTube channel and people likely assumed this would be one. Nope, as I have decided to put the brakes on videos for now. I'm sure it's no big loss, as barely anyone watches those.

I'm sure this news comes as some surprise. I'm more surprised I've gotten over 500 views.
If you actually care about the videos, don't worry. I will be putting the videos I've been gradually cobbling together up at some point. It's just not a priority and the whole thing is a lot less of a focus now that I'm riding solo on the video front. But, let's stop talking about that and instead talk about this movie. It opens in Madison, Delaware, a fictional town where our main character, Zach, is moving with his mother. In the beginning, as they're moving in, we clearly get some info laid out before us. First, Zach's not feeling this move to Delaware.

I know nothing about Delaware except that people seem to know nothing about Delaware.
The other big thing, besides his general ambivalence towards moving to the Diamond state, is that his father died not too long ago and he's carrying that weight with him as he tries to keep up a wall between his mom and him. He also has an aunt and she likes to bedazzle things. She really, really likes to bedazzle things. She even seems to sell the things she bedazzles, as it is said later on that she has a shop. A shop that it likely chock full of bedazzled clothing and accessories.

If you're waiting from an apology from me, prepare for a very boring life full of waiting.
After receiving a bedazzled ball cap from her that his mother makes him wear, he gets to meet the cute next door neighbor and her seemingly insane father, who anyone watching the trailers for this film knows is R.L. Stine as played by Jack Black. And, while I did have my reservations based on some of Black's less...good...work, he does a good job here. He handles the part of a reclusive horror writer with no tact very well and I enjoy the fact that his warnings that are meant to actually protect others come off more as threats. It highlights the fact he doesn't seem to have much contact with people or know how to really talk to them. The next day, Zach and his mom go to school, where he asks her to let him enter first as seeing that his mother is the new vice principal is apparently social suicide. We then see him make a friend during the assembly to introduce her. His new friend is named Champ. It's short for Champion.

I have this sneaking suspicion that Champ may not be a champion of many things. Call it a hunch.
And, after school, he meets Hannah from next door again, learns she's home schooled, and she takes him into the woods where she shows him an abandoned carnival. They climb up the Ferris wheel to look out on the city and I would sooner face down all of the monsters in this film than to even attempt climbing a damn Ferris wheel. That's all of my nope rolled up into a nice ball and served on a delicious platter of uh-uh. After this, they go home and get caught again, which leads to her father yelling at her in the house and Zach fearing that she may possibly be a victim of abuse. He tries to get inside to check on her, but daddy ain't having it, so he calls the cops. They're basically what I'd imagine Barney Fife's offspring to be like.

In lieu of an actual picture of them, have this instead. It's almost the same.
The cops buy the neighbor's excuse that the screams were merely a movie and that his daughter was there, but has since flown off to be with her estranged mother. Zach's not giving up though, as he calls him while pretending to be the cops and says they need to see him at their station. That's not his only call though, as he asks Champ to come over, also under false pretenses. The two end up entering the house via the basement and Champ is immediately put off by the numerous bear traps down there. But his pleas to flee are ignored and the two end up in Stine's office where they are manuscripts for the entire Goosebumps series of books, but they're all locked. Zach unlocks one, Hannah finds them, and the book gets opened as the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena erupts from it and escapes the house. The three teens follow it to the ice rink and try to get it back into the book, nearly getting killed in the process. But Stine himself shows up and saves them, finally admitting who he really is on the ride back to the house after some goading. But all is not well at home.

Look at that eyebrow. You just know something terrible has happened.
During the Snowman's escape, other books were knocked down...and one came open. Night of the Living Dummy, to be exact. Stine's plans to quickly pack and leave this town as he has so many in the past are now put aside as he's face to face with the darkest creation from his own psyche, a literally small evil wooden version of himself. Slappy burns his book, making impossible for him to return inside it, and steals all the other books as he takes off in a car to go wreak havoc. But first, he does leaves them with a horde of killer ceramic lawn gnomes, who I have to admit are possibly the most unsettling thing in this entire film. As they move you hear their limbs crack and see them chip in places and it really is just terribly off-putting for some reason.

I never did trust those little bearded bastards.
After fighting them off and escaping the house, they learn of the books being burned and formulate a plan to get Stine's typewriter at the high school so he can write a story to seal all of the monster within it. Along the way, they run afoul of the Invisible Boy and a giant mantis that destroys their car, forcing them to hide out in the local supermarket. But it's not really safe there, as the Werewolf of Fever Swamp is looking for food and they once again find themselves fleeing a monster only to be saved by Zach's aunt, who herself just escaped a confrontation with a vampire poodle.

Yes, a vampire poodle. She's named Fifi.
They send Zach's aunt to get the police (which results in her being frozen) while they continue on to the school, where the kids are all attending the dance and the teachers are chaperoning. Cutting through the cemetery, Zach learns the secret of Hannah that even she doesn't know when moonlight hits her: she's another one of Stine's creations. But no time for that now, because suddenly zombies! They make it to the gate where Stine gets stuck and Champ runs away. After making it to the school, Zach confronts Stine about Hannah and he admits that she's a creation, yes. He says that he's grown lonely and she helped ease that. The two bond over this, as Zach too has felt alone since his father's death. From here they try to inform everyone of what is happening and their need to barricade the school doors and windows while Stine writes in the auditorium on the stage where a set is up for an apparent drama club production of The Shining. Alright, you know what? I want to live in this place now, because that's awesome. Unsurprisingly, no one buys it until the fat kid at the window gets grabbed by the giant mantis and everyone collectively shits.

That is the proper reaction when faced with something that is eating cars.
Outside, Slappy and the gnomes release all the remaining mosnters and they march on the school as the people within all prepare to defend it. During the attack, Champ gets to have his shining moment as he defends the most popular girl from the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, biting into it with his silver fillings. Stine gets confronted by Slappy and has his fingers injured, making typing impossible, but he escapes. He plans to lead the mosnters away, but Zach proposes a different plan and he leaves with the kids on a bus as they set up a dummy bus to trick the monsters. The dummy bus explodes, buying them time, and the go to the abandoned carnival's fun-house to resume writing, with Zach typing for Stine. The horde of monsters soon catch up though and Stine tells Zach he must finish the book, as he stays behind to face them himself.

Including his mini-me who is much more talkative than the one from the spy movies.
Slappy sics a blob monster on his creator while Zach finishes writing the story just in time for the giant mantis to knock the Ferris wheel they're all on off it's mountings and cause it to go rolling wildly through the forest. Zach has the means to stop it all, but refuses to open the book because Hannah will get sucked in too. She admits to having always known, as a girl can only be sixteen so many times before she grows suspicious, and she opens it as he grabs hold of her. All the monsters get sucked in, including Slappy after a final confrontation between him and his creator, and Hannah kisses Zach before she too is sucked in as the three remaining heroes silently lament their inability to save her.

Again, I have no picture, so here they are looking vaguely confused instead.
In our epilogue, we see Zach and his mother are closer, Stine and the aunt are a couple, the fat kid survived being seemingly eaten, and Stine is now a teacher at the school where he gets to talk about how stories work. According to him a story has three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the twist. Oh, and he wrote another story so Hannah can be free again, setting the book on fire after seeing her happily walk off with Zach. As he walks past the case containing his typewriter, he hears it click, then notices it is typing something. He looks at the paper as "The Invisible Boy's Revenge" is typed and the movie closes as we get our twist ending.

I guess Hannah coming back or the real R.L. Stine playing Mr. Black, the new drama teacher, weren't big enough twists.
I looked at this film of the last several hours trying to pick it apart and analyze it. At its core, sure, it's a kid film about Goosebumps monsters running amok in a small town. But it also has some fairly deep points, with the concepts of coping with loss and how loneliness can make people desperate. It also even had the weakest character overcome his own fear to save someone's life, even if it did result in him spitting werewolf hair. I actually really liked this movie. I know, I liked a movie based on something I liked as a kid! It's crazy, right? But, actually, considering how often Hollywood screws up theses adaptations, it is kind of a surprise. I didn't want this to be bad, but I was prepared for it.

I was ready to scream in frustration as once more my childhood was chipped away at.
But yeah, I didn't hate this. This was actually a very entertaining movie with a good use of CGI (another shocking thing to hear me say) and a cast of characters who wiggled their way into my open festering wound of a heart that has been torn asunder by so many terrible adaptations of the past. If you're on the fence about this movie, I'm telling you that you should really give it a chance. It made me have faith in Jack Black again and in the possibility of not all adaptations of childhood properties being done in the most offensive ways. It's the perfect movie to take the family to go enjoy after a night of trick or treating. So, until R.L. Stine writes a series of books about Champ as a werewolf hunter, I'll be here preparing myself for my finale week of Horrorfest. Later days, bleeders.

Call me, Stine. I'm always available to assist on anything werewolf related.

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