Screenshot from Sony Pictures Entertainment
Rating: 1/5 stars
Despite many complaints that the “Goosebumps” movie was nothing more than a glorified capitalization on a previous generation’s nostalgia, I loved the magic it captured on screen and felt that it was witty and worthy enough to purchase and watch time and time again. The film wasn’t a smash hit but was chock full of enough spooky fun that Sony Pictures felt a sequel was in order. Unfortunately, the original director, writer, and cast weren’t included in that order and an entirely new team was put together to make some kind of a resembling sequel; focusing solely on the previous film’s breakout antagonist star, Slappy the dummy in “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.”
The story follows two young friends Sonny and Sam (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) who salvage junk to find treasures for their personal enjoyment. They come across a locked magical book written by RL Stine (Jack Black) and open it; unleashing an evil ventriloquist’s dummy named Slappy. He seems to want nothing more than to be part of the boy’s family with their sister Sarah (Madison Iseman), but slowly reveals he has supernatural powers and plans to bring all Halloween monsters and decorations to life and take over the kid’s hometown. Now they must find the magic book and seal Slappy back into his story before Halloween becomes a permanent part of everyone’s lives.
I had a feeling something smelled funky about this movie the moment I noticed none of the ads featured any of the original cast or even the original monsters; aside from Slappy and two others. And then I saw the movie, and I realized more and more as I got deeper into it that this movie is like a 2,000-year-old vampire who’s lost his dentures: the bite that made him who he was has been forgotten. “Haunted Halloween” is a severely watered down, simplistic film that plays out like the original film but without any creativity, imagination or effort. The sense of humor and level of violence (not that there was much, to begin with in the first film) feels like something you’d see on a Disney original TV movie.
Even when the monsters come to life and spread chaos throughout the town, it doesn’t feel like anyone’s at risk here. The creatures chase people around like some dog in a hilariously scary oversized costume; never going to hurt anyone but just chasing them around for the fun of it. The new monsters flat out suck too; they’re just a bunch of Halloween decoration with no character or essence to them. Having Slappy take center stage for the first half was an interesting development. We saw him in a new setting; new goals and it felt like his first appearance in the “Goosebumps” TV series. But it quickly dissolves into its lackluster story and takes everything the first movie did well and kiddifies it into something that’s too dim and disappointing for kids or adults to get into.
I felt like I was in the wrong movie, like the softball version of a much better movie I have in my DVD collection back at home. While it’s great to see child star Jeremy Ray Taylor from “IT” fame getting more work, this cast just feels like a pale imitation of one and can’t produce even the smallest scrap of depth or even likability. These are all one note, generic kids that could be easily inserted into any movie or story and you couldn’t tell me one thing about them that make them unique. They were wise to bring in natural comedic stars Ken Jeong and Chris Parnell, but dumber than Hell to waste their talents on flavorless roles that are lucky if they can spout one funny line before we return back to the bland trio of vanillaville.
Overall, “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” should have stayed dead and buried in the graveyard until the original team came back to rise up for a proper second installment. The film suffers from terrible humor, flavorless characters and forgettable effects and creatures that hammer in just how much better this movie COULD have been if the studio had just waited for the right people to come back. Save your time and your money and don’t spend either on this trick; look up the original film if you want a real treat this Halloween because you certainly aren’t going to find it anywhere in any part of “Haunted Halloween.”