When bully magnets Sam and Sonny find an old book and a creepy looking ventriloquist’s dummy, they figure they’ll make some money, or at least score some weird new décor.
But when Sonny accidentally reanimates the dummy, the town of Wardenclyffe is in for the fright of its life. With Sonny’s big sister Sarah leading the charge, the trio have one night to try and bring sanity back to their formerly sleepy little town.
Fans of 2015’s reboot of ‘Goosebumps’, the iconic children’s horror series, are no doubt pretty thrilled to hear that the sequel, ‘Haunted Halloween’ has launched. The ‘Goosebumps’ movies, unlike many book-to-movie efforts, actually seem to do the franchise justice. They hold the same sly humour as the books, with CGI elements that, frankly, don’t suck. Slappy, the perpetually creepy ventriloquist’s dummy, even manages to freak out some adults.
But we all know sequels tend to struggle to keep the magic alive. Give the audience something too similar to the original, people hate it. Go too far the other way? They hate it. And while kid’s movies don’t always suffer from the same issue, those that play to the nostalgia of adults certainly do.
‘Haunted Halloween’, all things considered, does a decent job of carrying the franchise forward. It’s funny, it’s got the occasional jump-scare for the kids, but isn’t likely to scar them for life. Though it may not be first pick for die-hard horror fans, fans of nostalgia-fuelled romps and those of us happy to inspire a new generation’s obsession with reading, are certainly in for a treat.
Madison Iseman steals the show as Sarah, a highly stressed college applicant out to save her brother, his irritating friend (made irritating only for his crush on her, thankfully), and hopefully the rest of the town, too. And though the story arc around Sarah and her mother could have been rewritten to avoid the frustrated eye-rolling I was doing, I’m glad that her character is more than just the irritating sister reluctantly looking out for her younger sibling.
The problem with kids movies is how often side characters fall to caricature. Unreasonable parents, overenthusiastic neighbours – if you’re the sort of person who’ll rage at secondary characters that are basically moving tropes, this is going to get irritating fast. But if you go in choosing not to think too hard on what’s happening, this movie is a lot of fun.
‘Haunted Halloween’ isn’t going to be the best movie you’ll ever see, but at no point has it aimed to be. And if you’re going into it expecting something more than a fun and fairly frivolous few hours of entertainment, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you want some cheesy, child-friendly horror to celebrate Halloween, this is a pretty great way to go.