With Halloween season in full swing, there have been a ton of spooks and scares to start this month off strong. From rad slashers like Totally Killer and Chucky to nostalgic blood-filled additions for classic horror stables in Sax X and The Exorcist: Believer, October is ripe with many shows and movies that older audiences can enjoy. For those that want something just more accessible, look no further than this unsettling adaptation of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps, which takes a unique turn away from the wacky hijinks of the 2010s films.
Disney’s 2023 Goosebumps Recap Review
Disney+’s Goosebumps follows five high-schoolers in a small town: the popular jock Isaiah (Zack Morris), his shy rich friend James (Miles McKenna), Isaiah’s close neighbor Margot (Isa Briones), the introverted techie Isabella (Ana Yi Puig), and skater-boy Lucas (Will Price). After partying in a said-to-be haunted house, the five accidentally unleash supernatural forces that begin to threaten them, driving them closer to each other as they discover their parents’ secrets from their teenage years.
That being said, Goosebumps mostly isn’t the campy and absurd kid-friendly adventure that its predecessor films were. Instead, it takes a more serious approach by being half-teen drama and half-illicit love affairs while softly utilizing some of the book series’ paranormal elements. Although, there are some jokes here and there that’s more likely to be understood by a teenage audience.
While the first five episodes play out the usual terror-of-the-week plot similarly to the books (i.e. ripping pages out of “The Haunted Mask”), they’re able to deftly connect themselves to shape this larger narrative that hopes to tie the main five closer together.
However, in terms of how the show handles its more adult storylines, some of it can feel underdeveloped in order to keep the flow of the teens’ investigation at a steady pace. It does limit the potential and material the adult characters can work with and I wish we could’ve seen more from that.
In the midst of dealing with the supernatural, Goosebumps builds these slowly alarming affairs between characters, one consisting of small tidbits and another being a more unspoken thing. They do help build the bridges to enhance the cast’s overall chemistry, but they aren’t explored enough to have that emotional impact. While I haven’t seen the final two episodes, hopefully, the show can improve on how those relationships are resolved.
Meanwhile, Goosebumps‘ range of diverse characters proves to have the most charming cast that a live-action Goosebumps project could ever have. The teenage cast positively bounce off one another with a fun friendship dynamic that grows steadily, though their character personalities mostly remain the same. Fortunately, the biggest developments come from Isabella, who consistently grows out of her introverted-ness and happily becomes her own self.
Luckily, the show’s paranormal entities manage to be a sinister force for the main cast, calling back and adapting several ideas from the books into this show while showing to be a part of something much bigger. Nathan Bratt (Justin Long), or should I say not Nathan Bratt, can switch between dangerously conniving and honestly funny, which is a good thing. The show puts him in these physically comedic sequences, almost meticulously emulating Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the first Evil Dead.
In addition, they’re able to drive some of the show’s intensive action sequences, ranging from being hard-fought battles to surprising shocks-to-the-core, even if I was able to predict some of the big scares and surprises. These scenes effectively balance practical effects and VFX even if a small amount needs a bit of extra polish just to emphasize that realistic touch.
If you’re hoping for a Goosebumps show or movie to utilize this aspect of the source material to the best of its abilities, then you’d be left happily satisfied with how Stine’s oddities are harnessed.
As a whole, Disney+’s Goosebumps is a chillingly ambitious take on R. L. Stine’s more kid-friendly series that manages to work, even if there is still a lot of potential that is close to being reached. The entire cast chemistry is great and the action will keep you on your toes, but the personal character dynamics need more expansion and further emotional brevity if the show wants to make these storylines impactful.
It definitely feels as if a second season could be developed as these characters might not look to get their ending that they hoped would be written. Whatever’s next in store for Goosebumps, hopefully it will leave off on a satisfying note that old and new fans can appreciate.
Rating – 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Goosebumps will release on Disney+ on October 13 with a 5-episode premiere and new episodes weekly.
This review was written during the 2023 WGA (now resolved) and SAG-AFTRA (ongoing) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series/movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.