Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)
Halloween comes to life.
I’ll be real, there isn’t any real logic to the choice of movie this week. Originally I had some wacky Nicolas Cage movie planned, but it didn’t arrive on schedule so I had to find a replacement - and after last week was so full of lengthy movies, I though something short and hopefully sweet would do the trick. Well, it has Halloween in the title, and that means lots of candy - and candy is sweet. It’s only about an hour and a half long, so by movie standards that’s short. Boom, check it friends, now it’s just a matter of it it can retain any of the fun of it’s precursor or if it makes us feel like a dummy for watching it. Shiver and laugh, it’s time to talk about Goosebumps 2.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Goosebumps book. It’s even been a while since I watched the first movie - although not nearly as long as reading one. It’s debatable if I’ve watched some of the show more or less recently than any of the other options - sometimes you just get in a mood for things. What I’m trying to get at is that perhaps I’m not in the best place to judge the authenticity of the cheesy storyline and how exacting it is upon the standard formula of the subject matter. Does it have a basic kid’s gotta learn something plot? Yep. Does it invoke a lot of non-issue drama when it’s trying to get you to feel things? Yep. Does it consist of monsters, evil dummies, and potentially spooky things that aren’t really terrifying at all to an adult? Oh yeah. If that’s your gauge of Goosebumps, than this thing is just banging off all the check boxes to feel at home. If you are looking for any kind of heavy plot with intricate leanings then you’ll most likely be disappointed - this thing is pretty well cookie cutter.
That said, the flow of it is actually pretty nice. They don’t have a ton of time to waste, so outside of a few throw away scenes here and there that don’t necessarily feel required to move the plot along, most of it serves it’s purpose and then gets out of the way. We have moments of lingering on things, and despite getting stuff done at most times it really doesn’t feel breakneck or anything. This particularly bears pointing out because with the bare bones plot being lain out, and the fact that things don’t feel new given it was already done in the last film, it would be very easy to understand a person getting bored if this really tried to expand things out more than it does. You have your highlight chaos moments, but most of these moments also still retain some purpose - getting characters from A to B - while presenting themselves and visually explaining whats going on. Of course, you could point out that there are the underlying morals of young adult and kids media here for those seeking to find it, but I’d also like to counterpoint that I wouldn’t expect someone to go into a movie named Haunted Halloween looking for the meaning of life either. It’s a family movie regardless of if that’s positive or negative intonations in your mind.
This also means we get quite a bit of younger actors chewing up the screen here. They all do a fine job, particularly the garbage boys duo. It’s energetic acting, sometimes coming off heavily as cheesy and times over-blown - but this is something that happens a bit with family movies where they try to drop in jokes all over and the likes anyways. To bring it to a point, when a kid needs to be nerdy, they spout some nerdy stuff. When they are supposed to be excited, they definitely come off as excited. There isn’t a whole lot of screen time for the older actors in this one, and by far compared to the kids they have the more whimsy silly roles to fill. Be it the over the top hobbyist neighbor, the mom who switches between standard family movie mom and wackier movie mom, or the retail guy who plays into the wacky movie mom role for that fish flopping around out of water combo. It’s not bad by any means, but some might be put off by more so the adults - just mind you I feel it’s intentional how they act in here. Of course, you also have some Jack Black (a real little amount) towards the end filling his normal wackiness to the part. Our resident evil dummy, on the other hand, is actually voiced by someone different this time, but they do a great job of sounding very much the same as Black when he did the role last film - to the point that I honestly wouldn’t have known it wasn’t him if I hadn’t checked on the IMDB page.
Audio balance is good. You hear all the lines clearly, and there aren’t any moments of needing to toggle the volume one way or the other. Actors put their performances out there well as far as deliveries go, and the sound effects popping out also feel fine. The scoring helps keep up with the movie, although largely doesn’t stick around with me outside of the two or three lines worth of Monster Mash that got put on in one scene. It’s not bad by any means and it does help keep some energy in the movie as well, but it’s just also not anything that necessarily speaks to me beyond just adding to the movie. Plenty of scenes have some background sounds in there to help fill out the scenes as well - be it other panicked people, crazy monsters, or just distant sounds of something happening.
The visual effects are a bit of a mixed bag as I find myself typically saying. Most the time it looks good, be it a practical costume or a digital effect - honestly sometimes the two blend together. Other times, things are rather obvious which way they look - a prime example being the bat-pumpkins, which honestly was probably the worst looking effect in the movie for whatever reason. Beyond those, it might be slightly lagging behind the last film in quality as a whole, but it’s pretty decent regardless - and this time for a change I actually did see the 4K version, so if it’s gonna look real bad I’d be sitting front and center for it. The costumes all fit the theme nicely, with a few of the old cover-favorites popping back up from the old books or even last movie for that matter. The dummy is back as our main villain, and at times he’s pretty well animated and other times it feels like there’s perhaps some desync with him and what’s going on with him - but perhaps that’s just there as an intentional part of the ventriloquist dummy charm. The everyday clothes all fits well with the setting, but when it comes to things to look at it’s largely the more monster-related costumes, even some that the main trio dons towards the end of the film, that stand out as being impressive. Could they have been done better or been on screen longer? Probably. Can I appreciate they didn’t try that and make it worse? Yeah, I do suppose I can.
Now, as always, humor is subjective. There was some nice interactions between some characters, some slapstick style moments, and of course what I can always appreciate - plenty of puns. It largely didn’t resort to potty humor puns, although it did get a joke about diapers in earlier on that’s probably pretty miss more than hit. It’s pretty fitting with the last one in those regards - it’ll get a chuckle out of some moments and mostly come off as endearing, but probably won’t cause you to roll about the floor uncontrollably as your ribs scream in pain from the copious amounts of laughter. The balance of serious to light hearted certainly skews towards the lighter side as you would find in plenty of family movies - and there are some self-referential jokes in there a few times, even if they are played off more as jokes about the books and not necessarily a fourth-wall break as far as the characters are concerned. Even with all that, the movie has plenty of errors here and there - a joke about getting hosed leading to some mysteriously missing bikes for a shot being a great example of it. It’s also not too shy to just sort of bring something up like it’s a big deal and then dropping it after it’s served it’s limited purpose either.
If I had to choose between this and the first movie, I’d probably re-watch the first. This one isn’t bad, but certainly fit’s into that “it’s alright” middle ground of things. It’s fun enough in enjoyment and it doesn’t drag to come off as watchable, but depending on what you are after you could probably do better in another movie. If you enjoyed the first, then you’ll probably find as much or slightly less enjoyment out of this one given the lack of feeling really new with it’s premise. At the time of writing this, it’s streaming in 4K through Netflix, which might be a decent way of watching it if you are interested - since you’ll already be paying for the other tons of movies you are probably watching - and as far as light hearted quick movies, there are worse things you could put on, especially in the family category.