The first Goosebumps movie was a pleasant surprise. Most people went in with little expectations and were rewarded with a fun movie with the twists and turns fans of the classic R.L. Stine franchise is known for.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween was not a bad movie in any way, but it was a drop off from the first and suffered from the laws of diminishing returns.
The first movie had a great cast, including Dylan Minnette (13 Reasons Why), Ryan Lee (Super 8) and Odeya Rush (The Giver) as three teenagers who fought monsters that escaped from the books of R.L. Stine (Jack Black).
The second movie took a different approach. This time around, the movie mostly focused on two pre-teens and the older sister of one who basically had to do the exact same thing the kids in the first movie did.
The difference this time around is the fact that R.L. Stine is barely in the movie, as Jack Black’s character shows up at the end too late to help. Luckily, he got one chance to once again rip Stephen King and claim he came up with the floating red balloon from It before King wrote that novel.
Anyway, the new case includes Jeremy Ray Taylor (IT) as Sonny, Caleel Harris (Castle Rock) as Sam and Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Sarah. These three kids are given the task of carrying the entire movie, as almost every adult is nothing more than background material.
That actually plays better in the context of the world of Goosebumps, as the books and classic TV series always made sure that the parents and teachers barely had any idea what was going on. The only exception here is Ken Jeong, who plays a guy who really loves holidays.
The good news is that the three kids really carry their roles perfectly. All three are believable, which is important since the main climax requires one of them to sell the idea of family triumphing over all.
The story this time started with Sonny and Sam trying to make some money with a side job as the Junk Bros and got hired to clean out an old abandoned scary house in their hometown of Wardenclyffe, New York.
It turns out that this house used to belong to the Stine family, as R.L. Stine wrote his first story as a teenager while living in this town. As a result, they found a secret hiding place with a chest. Inside the chest was one book — Haunted Halloween. This was an unfinished manuscript and they used a key to unlock it. Next thing they knew, Slappy was there and wanted to be their friend.
Slappy starts off the movie helping them, using his magical powers to punish bullies who are messing with them and almost killing the boyfriend that was cheating on Sarah. However, soon they decide that he might be dangerous and try to get rid of him, throwing him into a lake.
This parallels what happens in the unfinished manuscript exactly and soon Slappy is back and wants to create his own family — first by bringing back all the monsters from the first movie and more and then by trying to turn Sarah and Sonny’s mom into his own mother.
With the younger cast, it is really no surprise that the action and scares are geared more towards the younger audience as well. This one really has a lot less of a threat than the first one, fewer laughs (Jack Black is really missed here) and is good but not great.
For younger audiences, this is one that should make them happy and give them some one-liners to drive their parents nuts with, but for parents and older kids, there is not as much here to love. It is clear from the end that they want a third movie to complete the trilogy, but one hopes if they get it that they use the template from the first film instead of this lesser sequel.