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  Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween Black 'n' Stine
Year: 2018
Director: Ari Sandel
Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Ken Jeong, Chris Parnell, Bryce Cass, Peyton Wich, Shari Headley, Christian Finlayson, Matthew J. Vasquez, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Jessi Goel, Drew Schied, Mick Wingert, Jack Black
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sarah (Madison Iseman) has hit a snag in that she has a bad case of writer's block, and she must finish an essay on the topic of what scares her, and write it well, if she has a hope of attaining a college place in her favoured establishment next year. What she doesn't need is her boyfriend Tyler (Bryce Cass) entering her bedroom through the open window and trying to persuade her to go with him: her mother Kathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey) hears every word and bursts in, furious with them both while her younger brother Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) films the argument on his camera. Not the worst thing ever, but not great - and things to do with fear are about to get worse.

With Halloween basically turning into a scary Christmas in the United States, the time of year where it is supposedly fun to be frightened as long as those scares are safe scares, the amount of cash-in media was mounting up with an avarice that was alarming in itself. If you were a manufacturer of novelties for Halloween, you were counting on your tat flying off the shelves, which in a possibly unintentional visual gag was precisely what happened over the course of the plot to the sequel to the Jack Black-fronted Goosebumps, spun off from the franchise of books by kiddie horror author workhorse R.L. Stine (who dutifully shows up in a cameo, just as he had before).

But there was a film and indeed television equivalent of the novelty tat, and it was any number of animated Scooby-Doo spin-offs or paperback series like the ones which inspired The House with the Clock in Its Walls, not coincidentally the reason why Black showed up here when the film was more or less at its climactic scenes of mayhem. He, as Stine, was busy in an inferior knock-off of his Goosebumps movie, the success of which with the younger set seemed to ensure studios would be trying out variants on that, itself a variant on Joe Dante's first Gremlins blockbuster, for decades afterwards, the Halloween juggernaut showing no sign of tailing off, never mind stopping.

For adults, or older kids anyway, you could try and get into the R-rated horror, and it was surely no coincidence that two of the stars of recent Stephen King hit adaptations were among the cast here, Taylor from the massive success of IT, and his screen best friend Sam played by Caleel Harris, part of the ensemble of popular King television series Castle Rock, itself a Goosebumps-style amalgam of the author in question's biggest titles. If this was sounding very... interconnected, shall we say, then it's likely that was no coincidence, as the list of King's books to be translated and remade grew in a way that Stine could only dream of, though Stine beat King on sales of the actual books, so had that fact to reassure him in their friendly rivalry.

Mind you, Stine's attempt to break into the adult fiction market had been a total flop, while King retained his readership for decades after their teenage interest - but hey, it wasn't a competition, and both writers generated much affection in their fans. In the case of Goosebumps 2, this was not going to win any converts, but for those aforementioned safe scares where nobody got killed by the supernatural threat, it was perfectly fine as far as it went, with a game cast and a big enough effects budget to look very presentable when the monsters showed up. The chief villain was Slappy the ventriloquist's dummy from the first film, again the ringleader for a collection of nicely realised incarnations of that Halloween tat given uncanny life and terrorising the small town in an attempt to bring off a Nikolai Tesla experiment Sonny was conducting for science class, only with dramatic results. Mick Wingert did his best Black impersonation as the doll, and Black himself offered a coda pointing to a sequel. If this acclimatised kids to the horror genre, you couldn't criticise it too harshly, and it was very well pitched. Music by Dominic Lewis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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