Review by Dan Skip Allen
Goosebumps is a new show on Disney+ and Hulu based on a popular series of children's books created by author R. L. Stine. These books were a worldwide phenomenon for a certain group of people when they came out. About eight years back, a movie came out starring Jack Black, and it had a sequel that came out a few years later. Now, Disney has gotten the rights to the popular IP and has created their own series that I'm sure kids and adults will love.
This show takes place in the small town of Port Lawrence and focuses mainly on a group of high school students who go there. There is a lot of high school angst that goes on. There is also a flashback that shows a teenager named Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell) and he ends up dying in a horrible fire in 1993. Fast-forward to the present day, and these aforementioned tears end up going to a party at the old Biddle House, and weird things start to happen to them, and the new owner.
There is an overall mystery to this season of the show that the kids have to solve, but there is also a past aspect involving their parents. Add in a specific episode storyline involving each character, and you have a pretty good show.
This show, mainly geared toward a younger audience, has some decent scares and creepy elements. It’s spooky in a way that will allow audiences of all ages to like it. There are specific story elements — such as a creepy mask that turns its wearer into a troll, a cuckoo clock that has a time warp thing going on, and a camera that takes pictures of the future with bad results — that get brought into the main storyline involved with Harold Biddle.
There is a big cast of characters attached to this show. Most of them are the teens focused in the series, Isaiah (Zach Morris), Isabella (Anna Yi Puig), Margot (Isa Briones), and James (Miles McKenna). As mentioned, their parents also play a big part in the series as well. Nora (Rachel Harris) is the mom of Lucas, another high school teen, and store owner by the Cove. She has a lot of info about Harold Biddle. She's having an affair with the school guidance counselor Colin (Rob Huebel). The biggest name actor in the series is Justin Long. He plays Mr. Bratt, the new English teacher and owner of the Biddle House. He gets neck-deep in this whole mystery involving the house he bought and Biddle.
Part of what makes Goosebumps so good is that it has a throwback feel. Even though it mostly takes place in the present, there is a period vibe to it. One of the things that makes it that way is the music. Songs like “Connection” from Elastica, “Terrible Lie” by Nine Inch Nails, and “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers are used alongside the occasional newer song, such as “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish. The music plays a big part in showing the tone the creators are going for.
Quebec, Ontario stands in for Port Lawrence, the fictional town in Goosebumps. It has a distinctive northern look, with beautiful mountains and a cove adjacent to the town. It's always nice to see horror movies or shows set in these types of sleepy locations. Then all hell breaks loose, and these little towns are haunted by something scary or afflicted by something bad, like in this season of the show.
Each episode of the series has a distinctive element that brings visual effects that make these elements come to life, such as in “Go Eat Worms,” in which the worms form a big monster that attacks a group of the cast and has to be destroyed. While the effects aren't the level of a big-budget sci-fi film or anything, they are sufficient for the stories being told in this show.
One particular episode of the series sets this show apart from the average teen angst action-adventure or horror series: “Night of the Living Dummy,” which brings back a popular R. L. Stine villain, Slappy, in a flashback storyline. It also sheds light on what happened to Harold Biddle, and how he became the kid who was bullied by his high school classmates, who would become the parents of the kids in the present time. This is the best episode in the series, and it shows how difficult high school life can be, as seen from the perspective of the young man who seeks revenge for his past in the future.
Goosebumps is a fantastic update to this IP. The show creator Nicholas Stoller, the directors including Steve Buynom, and writer/director Rob Letterman, along with R. L. Stine himself, bring this series to vivid life. Audiences of all ages will surely watch and love this show. The cast, mostly young actors, is well complemented by the older, more experienced actors like Long and Harris. I really enjoyed this series and how the overall storyline fits into each separate episode arc. They mesh well together. I hope this is a successful series for Disney+ and Hulu. They need a win right now.
Goosebumps streams on Disney+ and Hulu on October 13 with five episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. Eight out of ten episodes reviewed.