The Disney+ show Goosebumps has to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. As a reimagining of RL Stine’s bestselling book series, it offers more than just modernized versions of classic stories. Instead, Goosebumps leans into the darker side of its clever plot, with scares enhanced by a talented cast and decent special/action effects in a way that could potentially elicit the titular fear response from its target audience.
This version of Goosebumps isn’t like the horror anthology series that ran for four seasons in 1995. It’s actually more like the Rob Letterman-directed Jack Black movies in that it has a central plot that pulls elements from some of the movies. The most popular books in the series The difference here is that Letterman and Nicholas Stoller were allowed to produce a more mature show — one that allowed for profanity, body horror, and an unsettling new way to weave stories of cursed items and monstrous creatures into one cohesive story. . The result, at least in the first five episodes of this 10-episode season that we were able to watch, is a shocking experience for Goosebumps fans new and old.
Goosebumps doesn’t shy away from some of the heavy themes you might find in other horror-based media. The destructive nature of adultery, the harrowing details of a murder, or the shocking aftermath of a potential suicide are usually absent from Stein’s books. However, they live here, mostly as a means of scaring the lives of five teenagers who happen to be holding onto the remains of a long-held secret. Now possessed by a vengeful ghost—a relic of a Halloween party gone wrong in a recently renovated house filled with items that shouldn’t be touched, let alone taken home—if they hope to survive the future, They must work together. Days.
Of course, given the precarious nature of their teenage lives, this is easier said than done. Fighting evil as a unit while balancing everything—various love triangles, absent parents, and scholarships tied to approaching sporting events—is difficult. As expected given the reliance on some high school/small town plot, the ensuing skirmishes are rife with typical teenage angst, sometimes prioritizing a romantic encounter over an impending threat. That said, this melodrama is made interesting in part by the efforts of Goosebumps’ talented cast, all of whom are convincing in their roles.
For example, Zach Morris is surprisingly charming as star quarterback Isaiah. As funny, brave, and an all-around cheerleader, his portrayal circumvents the stereotypical aspects of the classic self-centered “jock,” despite his low test scores. This refreshing take helps endear Isaiah to viewers and makes his initial “encounter” with a deadly object that much more meaningful. The same can be said for Issa Brivens’ portrayal of the sharp-witted yet socially awkward Margot. It’s hilarious to see him bewildered by the strange happenings around town. However, it is her passionate display of emotion that provides the foundation for some of Goosebumps’ most heartfelt scenes.
Miles McKenna’s portrayal of Isaiah’s best friend, James, provides a positive representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. While his portrayal of how a gay character behaves can come across as a bit off, McKenna does a fantastic job of portraying James as a person, creating a fully realized character. that people can root during this period. Distressing Situations Anna Yi Puig’s powerful portrayal of Isabella essentially translates to a modern Daria with anger issues. His struggle to convince his peers that the recent acts of violence weren’t necessarily his own, while trying to keep his composure to avoid fueling their suspicions, is downright hilarious. Will Price also does a great job as extreme sports enthusiast Lucas. Somewhat oddly, his villainous erasures provide a bit of naiveté. It’s the darker side of his journey that really resonates, as Price’s nuanced mannerisms give meaning to the distant nature of this troubled individual.
Almost every Goosebumps cast member is likable to some degree. Even Justin Long — in his usual habit of being overly talkative yet oddly relatable — is decent as Mr. Bratt, the new high school English teacher/landlord of the aforementioned haunted house.
However, none of the actors’ impressive performances would matter if the plot wasn’t as big. Fortunately, Goosebumps nails this aspect by not only relying on the darker themes it introduces, but also by finding clever ways to incorporate some of its beloved books into the show.
Say Cheese and Die, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, The Haunted Mask – all of these stories have been cleverly tweaked to fit into an overall plot that still adheres to the core concepts presented in each book. And for the most part, what’s on the show is scarier than what’s found in those old pages. The way it uses the Give Yourself Goosebumps: Reader Beware subseries is genius, to say the least. Visually it’s also great, with only a few CGI-based scenes that are of lower quality compared to the practical effects.
Goosebumps is an absolute blast to watch. Humorous, spooky, and at times disturbingly off-the-wall, it serves as a solid introduction to horror for young viewers. Given its PG-13 approach to violence — where a bloody mouth or exposed bone is only on screen for a few seconds — and melodrama through teenage angst, it won’t scare older fans. That said, the fact that Goosebumps has anything resembling body horror is amazing in itself. And its brilliantly clever plot and great cast should resonate with viewers. Basically, if the remaining episodes are as great as the first five, Disney+ and Hulu subscribers are in for a real treat this Halloween season.