Only in the world of Goosebumps could gummy bears be scary.
“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” is the follow-up to 2015’s “Goosebumps” starring Jack Black. While the first “Goosebumps” film focused on a plethora of R.L. Stine’s classic characters coming to life, this installment sets its sights on Halloween decorations as they become animated and attack a suburban town. The film follows a group of three friends as they work together to stop the Halloween apocalypse brought upon by the iconic “Goosebumps” character, Slappy the Dummy. Director Ari Aster seems to have set out to make the ultimate Halloween-inspired movie, but unfortunately only succeeds to a certain extent.
“Goosebumps 2” is headlined by an impressive cast, including Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom in “It”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Beverly on “The Goldbergs”). These actors work well within the confines of the basic script, delivering mostly well-timed comedy and expected plot exposition. The other cast members have adequate performances as well, giving just enough life to the protagonists. Ken Jeong, best known for his role as Mr. Chow in “The Hangover,” offers some great comedic moments as a Halloween-obsessed next-door neighbor, but he ends up feeling like an over-exaggeration. Black returns as the incredible R.L. Stine, but his involvement in the film is surprisingly minimal. This is a strange decision considering the praise he received after the first film’s release.
The film is at its strongest creatively when it showcases the various creatures roaming around on Halloween night. From a vampire to a terrifying cyborg, the unique cast of monsters keeps things visually interesting and engaging. Unfortunately, these monsters aren’t given much to do aside from serving as cool elements of the background scenery. It feels silly to have incredible costume and makeup work be reserved for only quick scenes and shots. It would’ve been great for each of these monsters to have a bit more personality and an actual role in the flow of the plot.
The plot for this film is very straightforward, so there isn’t much character development or additional insight included. An overall theme of trying to fill out a college essay prompt is interwoven, but it only has relevance in the beginning and end of the film. At the end of the day, this is a children’s film, and children just want to be entertained.
Although the journey is a simple one, there are a couple of moments in “Goosebumps 2” that will stand out to the audience. In one instance, the protagonists face off against an army of gummy bears, and it truly is a whimsical scene. Another encounter pits the ensemble against a giant spider composed only of balloons. Scenes such as these help the film remain entertaining despite working with a very bare-bones plot.
Overall, Aster does what he can within the confines of such a basic and linear script. He injects wonderful Halloween spirit whenever he can despite having to sluggishly move the plot along. Children will love this film — it possesses just enough spookiness and comedy to entertain them for a good hour and a half. However, adults who are looking for a terrifying dive into the Goosebumps world will certainly be disappointed.