Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
Updated: Feb 7, 2020
In 2015, R.L. Stine’s popular Goosebumps books were adapted, sort of, into the kid friendly adventure Goosebumps. I say sort of adapted because it was more about the concept of the series than a direct recreation of a specific story. Jack Black starred as a fictional version of Stine, who had to save the day after his creations escaped from the books and started causing havoc in the real world. The story was fine, if derivative, and the creature effects were okay, but it was not that fun to watch. However, it grossed over $150 million worldwide, so now there is Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. It is a semi-sequel with a less interesting story. Though, partially due to casting and partially due to not taking itself as seriously, it is more entertaining than its predecessor.
This one centers on different characters in a different town. The heroes this go round are high school senior Sarah, her younger brother Sonny and his best friend, Sam. The boys discover one of Stine’s unpublished manuscripts and open it, inadvertently unleashing evil ventriloquist dummy Slappy. Lots of Halloween themed mayhem ensues. There are references to the original movie I will not spoil, but it is not required viewing in order to enjoy this.
Goosebumps 2 (83 minutes without the end credits) works to the small degree that it does mainly because the adults surrounding the kids know the material is ridiculous and are able to have fun with it. While the lead actors are given dull subplots, they actually get some funny lines. Wendi McLendon-Covey, who plays Sarah and Sonny’s mom, is a bit more than just the concerned parent. The way she shows her concern suggests she knows her children very well. She has a couple of gags that made me laugh out loud. Ken Jeong as their Halloween obsessed next-door neighbor and Chris Parnell as the owner of the local pharmacy also get to be goofy. All three contribute a few amusing moments. Even the puppet got me to chuckle once or twice. Though that is mostly a credit to how energetically he is voiced and how oddly he is animated. It is just the teenagers who have to be boring.
With all the wackiness going on here, I have no idea why director Ari Sandel and screenwriter Rob Lieber wasted time with the guy Sarah has a crush on or the boys’ bully. Not only are they both extremely cliché for high school set movies, Goosebumps 2 fails to do anything with them. There is no real payoff for either of them. Neither are necessary for the individual character arcs. The only thing they are good for is killing time when Sandel and Lieber are trying to get the plot moving.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is about on par with the 2015 version in terms of overall quality. If I had to choose a Goosebumps movie to sit through again, it would be this one. But neither are particularly memorable. I liked pieces of it, it is paced reasonably well and does not overstay its welcome. I cannot really recommend it, especially while the far superior scary family film The House with a Clock in its Walls is still in theaters. However, if your children insist on dragging you to it, you might giggle a little more than you expect.
2¾ out of 5
Madison Iseman as Sarah Quinn
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Sonny Quinn
Caleel Harris as Sam Carter
Wendi McLendon-Covey as Kathy Quinn
Ken Jeong as Mr. Chu
Chris Parnell as Walter
Peyton Wich as Tommy Madigan
Directed by Ari Sandel
Screenplay by Rob Lieber