FILM REVIEW: Goosebumps (15)

Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Jack Black. Picture: PA Photo/Hopper Stone/Columbia

Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Jack Black. Picture: PA Photo/Hopper Stone/Columbia

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Comic whirlwind Jack Black ramps up his manic energy to gale force 10 in this fast-paced fantasy adventure based on the series of children’s books by RL Stine.

Directed with brio by Rob Letterman, Goosebumps is a wicked delight, packed full of spooks and scares that should have adults jumping out of their seats almost as often as little ones.

Explosions of comic book violence, including a slip-sliding tussle between the Abominable Snowman and high school students on an ice rink, are orchestrated with black humour and vim.

Darren Lemke’s lean script barely pauses for breath between the eye-popping set pieces, but still finds time to flesh out a compelling teenage love story that remains the right side of sickly sweet.

Digital effects are impressive, seamlessly integrated with live action to conjure scenes of large-scale destruction including a runaway ferris wheel and a town under attack from a giant praying mantis.

It’s huge fun, especially in 3D when some of the ghoulish things that go bump in the night appear to leap out of the screen.

Letterman opens with the calm before the computer-generated storm as Gale Cooper (Amy Ryan) arrives in Delaware with her teenage son Zach (Dylan Minnette) to take up the position of vice-principal at Madison High School.

Their new next-door neighbour is the mysterious Mr Shivers (Black), whose daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) is also an enigma.

Zach and his socially awkward student Champ (Ryan Lee) break into Mr Shivers’ home and discover that the truculent father is actually renowned author RL Stine.

In the process of uncovering this startling truth, Zach unlocks one of Stine’s books and accidentally unleashes Slappy (voiced by Black) from Night Of The Living Dummy.

The demented mannequin subsequently releases monsters from the rest of Stine’s back catalogue and the grotesque creations run amok in Madison.

“Why couldn’t you have written about unicorns and rainbows?” shrieks Champ.

“Because that doesn’t sell 400 million copies,” snaps Stine, who realises the only way to defeat Slappy is to pen another bestseller on his typewriter.

Meanwhile, Champ’s high school crush Taylor (Halston Sage) and Gale’s sister Lorraine (Gillian Bell) are caught up in the mayhem as zombies, a werewolf and assorted monstrosities besiege the high school.

Goosebumps careens wildly between action, comedy and touching drama, with a generous smattering of pithy verbal gags that will go above the heads of children and strike a bullseye with parents.

Black leads from the front, with Minnette as his straight man, whose prime concern is rescuing the people he loves. Slappy’s army of grotesque henchcreatures won’t induce nightmares, but might just send a pleasing shiver down young spines.

A tricksy treat.

Rating: 7/10