Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Goosebumps (2015)

Nostalgia is a powerful force these days. Everyone wants to remember what they sort of forgot. The Internet gave them that, like a golden goose's egg, and now movie studios are milking it for all it's worth. If you want the biggest example of that, well...there are probably a lot. But one of them is the new Goosebumps movie. Which Michelle and I did a podcast about!

(SPOILERS are in the podcast and review, for those who want to avoid those!)

Wasn't that great? On second thought, don't answer that. Instead, you can read the review if you're not convinced.

Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush

Co-written with Michelle.

Basically about a kid who moves to a new town, befriends a girl and finds out her father is RL Stine, and also that he has a bunch of books which, if opened, unleash all the monsters from the classic Goosebumps books on the unsuspecting real world. You know how it goes. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy has to fight off obvious marketing tools in a kids' horror movie.

The movie is rife with all sorts of witty puns and dialogue from every character. They spew them like gumball machines. It's like all of them sat down in a room and wrote out their dialogue before actually going out to speak to one another. Main character Zach at this point might as well get a job writing for Buzzfeed, he's so quick with a light jab or quip.

"Hang on, mom, I need to consult my joke writer to see what funny stuff he's got for me to say!"

The movie really shows its true colors with a scene of this girl, Hannah, calling to him and making friends. They exchange some dialogue that will be repeated over the course of the film in a predictable way, but is still rather likable anyway, so I'm torn on what degree I should make fun of it – a full on inferno-burn, or a mere sizzling like bacon on a griddle? Eh, it's not terrible.

But I love the part where Jack Black as RL Stine pops out of the window and tells Zach not to talk to his daughter, like a threat against him – come on, SHE talked to HIM first! What is he supposed to do? Ignore the cute girl in front of him flirting with him in the middle of the night? At like 16 or whatever age he's supposed to be, I think a Catholic priest would have an easier time resisting his urges!

"Hey, let's exchange some light hearted, scripted-sounding banter!"
"Sounds good! Can we flirt more?"
"No, this is a PG movie and that would get us thrown in jail."
"Well sheeeeeeeeeeeeaaaatttt."
"I'll make sure you turn GAY before you talk to MY DAUGHTER!!!"

The next day at school, we get all kinds of wacky scenarios, like Zach's mom starting her new job as the vice principal at the school and saying “Twerking” in her opening speech rather than “Tweeting.” Oh the hi-larity! And also, Zach meets this weird kid named Champ, who asks him to go to the dance pick up girls. Yeah. That's why he wants to. Uh, yeah...cough...then Champ hands him a business card, which really makes sense for a high school kid to have and also points out how fucking weird this kid is.

At night, Hannah takes Zach out into the woods, where she shows him an abandoned carnival that somehow still has the power on. I guess they just forgot to turn that off and just chalk up the thousands of dollars in extra electricity towards residents' taxes to a fluke. If it seems weird that I am spending time thinking about that shit during a kids' movie, well, don't pay attention to me. There's another scene  right after where they climb up the old Ferris wheel with nobody around and hang out there, because apparently death excites them.

There's really nothing that can save them here from death – Zach even asks how they get down at one point, which I'm sure Hannah's real answer to was “you can't get down, I own you now!” But they had to cut that out and continue the movie, because otherwise nobody would have gotten paid. Oh well. All I'm saying is, it's insane that this fairground thing is a plot point in the film.

They eventually make their ways back to RL Stine's house, where Zach thinks Stine is abusing Hannah. I remember thinking the trailer showing this plot point was really fucking dark, and not even knowing what movie it was at first. But then of course, they break in and discover Stine's secret – he has every book he ever wrote locked up, and if they're unlocked, the monsters come to life and terrorize reality.

"Why is there one copy of a Bearenstein Bears book in here?"

There's never really much of an explanation for why or how this happens, except that Stine has a magic typewriter that can do it. I guess he never considered STOPPING writing the books even after he had to have known it was possible after a FEW of the fucking things. What a psycho! And why does he have them just displayed like that on a shelf? Shouldn't they be locked away in a safe at the bottom of the ocean or something?! Something tells me this RL Stine in the movie is less a horror writer and more a demented and hell bent sadist bent on humanity's violent destruction.

Stine: "I could have stopped this, but I secretly wanted this to happen!"

But oh well – so the plot doesn't make sense. What do you want? All we're really here for are the action scenes. They're generally well done. We get a few pretty enjoyable scenes of the characters fighting a snowman and a werewolf in various places. And Jack Black (again) as Slappy the dummy is hilariously good – he's almost worth the price of admission by himself.

I guess there are a couple of forced 'serious' moments as the film tries to give us a plot about how Stine was bullied as a kid and that's why he grew up to write the Goosebumps series. It's really rather silly and doesn't come off well. Mostly because we needed another bullied-kid story like I needed a bag full of fire ants at the foot of my bed. Oh boo hoo, you got bullied as a kid? Let me play you the world's smallest guitar, doing the intro to Stairway to Heaven.

...wait, I don't think THAT'S right...

But the real reveal is when they find out that, shock and awe, Hannah is actually a creation from one of his books! She isn't even real and doesn't know it. Goddamn. That means he can create functional human beings out of thin air. I mean, yeah, THIS time he created a sweet teenage girl. But what about when he gets the urge to replace a politician in power with his own pawns? Can he just create a proxy who will do whatever he wants? Will we all end up under the thumb of the totalitarian RL Stine reign without even knowing it? Jesus. This just became the most terrifying movie of the year, easy.

I'll put this image here to balance it out.

So the only way to defeat the monsters is, apparently, by writing one final book about all of them, which will end with them getting sucked back into the book. Stine tries, and even almost finishes a book in an extremely short amount of time while Zach is doing something else – maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems like this movie has mixed messages. On one side, Stine is a terrifying potential dictator who can do anything with a keyboard. On the other, “hey, he writes his books in under an hour!” Maybe both are true.

This goes fairly well until Slappy breaks Stine's fingers, rendering Stine unable to write. So it's up to Zach to go finish the last page of the book without getting his head torn off by monsters. Meanwhile, though, Champ saves this really hot girl in a skimpy dress from a werewolf, and she rewards him by kissing him. Because, you know, if you can save a girl from a werewolf, you deserve her as a prize, I guess.

I went to acting school and all I got was a shit role where I had to give myself to a dorky character!

Zach manages to finish the book, but only after a terrifying near-death experience in which a Ferris wheel almost kills them when it comes off its hinges and rolls down a giant hill. Seriously, how did they survive that? I think a career in stunts would seem as harmless as a knitting job after that. Jesus.


So yeah, they stop all the monsters at the end, but Hannah gets sucked back into the book as well. The next day at school, I guess everyone just got over that whole 'most of our town was annihilated' thing pretty easily, as no one seems to care anymore. Stine is even a teacher there now, because I guess almost destroying an entire town with monsters you created makes you qualified to teach whatever kids didn't get massacred the previous night by said monsters. Life is fun when it makes no sense, huh?

To add an extra dose of pandering, apparently Stine wrote Hannah back to life just so she could be with Zach. A literal fictional girl created just to be someone's girlfriend. What do I even have to say? It's pretty lame. Should our movies really be teaching young boys that if they do absolutely nothing, a children's author will write a girlfriend into existence for them? Ugh. I've just seen that bad lesson in movies way too often.

This film is just silly, mostly. Nothing in the plot makes sense. But then again, when did the original Goosebumps plots ever make that much sense? The film is pretty true to its source material! The whole thing really is just intended to be like an extended, over the top version of what the classic Goosebumps stories were - it has the same structure and format; a kid meets a girl and gets into supernaturally-laced trouble.

It's nonsense, but it's fun nonsense. The characters are enjoyable in a dumb way and the story is fast and exciting enough, especially for younger kids and teenagers. Jack Black is electrifyingly fun as RL Stine and the effects are enjoyably cheesy. While I can't say this is that good or anything, it is entertaining in its own silly way. So go see it, especially if you used to like Goosebumps.

But seriously, guys. Be careful of who you piss off. You don't want to run afoul of RL Stine, as he is a master of the arcane old arts and possesses unspeakable powers with which he can ruin your life. He rules us to this day from his horrific mountain lair, creating monsters wherever people irk him. On second thought, if you don't see me any time soon, just assume he did something to me because of this review.

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