Once past its set up, Goosebumps begins sewing action into other action, jumping between monsters and horror without a need to pull on the narrative. Goosebumps is thin on story anyway.

Luring audiences in with a middle class existence of a teen and single mom, the pulp sci-fi is intended to be instantly alluring to either the new generation of Goosebumps readers or the millennial audience which sopped them up as kids en masse. Nicely tuned comedy has energy, laid primarily on the shoulders of Ryan Lee as the obligatory best friend. Other well-cast kids fall snugly into their predictable roles to lead audiences through some motivated action.

R.L. Stine borrowed significantly from iconic horror, film and novels alike. The dearth of monsterdom pulls from Universal’s horror cycle, zombies, werewolves, and even tired ’50s-era clunkers like The Deadly Mantis. While the film adaptation makes no direct connections, their existence is considerable nostalgia for multiple decades of creature feature followers.

Those enamored with Stine’s young adult series will undoubtedly connect with easter eggs and in-jokes.

While bolder (and certainly larger), Goosebumps rolls along like an invigorated update of Gremlins. A kitchen brawl with ceramic garden gnomes is flush with the same violent enthusiasm – sans green-laced gore. Goosebumps mirrors the seminal ’80s classic the same as Gremlins ran through the tropes of the ’50s. Small town, small family, useless cops, and kids in action to save everything.

Underneath, Goosebumps serves a story of being yourself and letting go – the latter of which is somewhat burst by the ending. Getting there is still fun, even if the stream of creatures is largely forgettable. Those enamored with Stine’s young adult series will undoubtedly connect with easter eggs and in-jokes. The rest can take solace in well composed, lengthy visual effect scenes, even if their originality is left wanting (on purpose).

If anything can be levied against Goosebumps, it’s the ferocious pace which is unwilling to distance itself from low-attention span audiences. The quiet art of reading and resulting imagination is not something Goosebumps the movie is willing to provide. Character development is whisked away by pre-action dialog, and chopped up by editing dedicated to slimming down the runtime.

But even concerning pacing, R.L. Stine’s novels come across measured in opposition to something like the sugar-induced Lego Movie. Goosebumps is its own enormous pop culture reference, yet stays within the boundaries set up by the source of its fiction. Jack Black spells it out – a beginning, a middle, and a twist. Goosebumps provides, even if on the slightest build-up. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Goosebumps Blu-ray screen shot 12

Most of Goosebumps is led by nighttime cinematography. Digital camera work lends the piece gorgeous black levels with a slight case of crush. Shadow details are mostly preserved though.

Early scenes are given a dose of warm sunlight, pleasing when resolving neighborhood scenery with firm resolution. Facial definition is a consistent source of high-frequency information. Add in bunches of fur on the werewolf and ceramic texture on the gnomes and even the unreal side of Goosebumps produces HD eye candy.

While opening with a blast of color, when the sun falls, the feature is squished by a saturation of lonely blues. Intensity in greens and various other hues are soured. Some of the impact is lost, if held aloft by the dimensionality. Contrast and black levels are always firm.

Sony’s encode, as likely predicted by anyone who pays attention to these things, is stellar. Transfer work involves no visible hiccups. Goosebumps is free of aliasing, noise, or compression. Pulled from the Arri Alexa, source material is preserved cleanly and with the dazzling window effect.

Goosebumps falls down in 3D, a conversion without much eagerness for the process. Blame should not be placed on the conversion team, rather the source cinematography which gives little attention to the foreground. Depth is weakened by sub-par placement. What’s left is a movie with so-so fall-in effects, mostly room dimensionality as characters stand around discussing their predicament.

For 3D consideration, the final credits show a “what could have been,” a series of still images based on book covers. Credits situate in the center of the field and pronounce the artwork on multiple planes. This effect is rarely evident during the feature itself, even those action scenes which feature monsters leaping toward the screen. At least the gimmick effects are few, but these 3D moments would be listless even with things pointing toward the camera. [xrr rating=4/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=2/5 label=3D-Video]

Also from the “somewhat disinterested” label is this DTS-HD track, released to theaters in Dolby Atmos while Sony only gives the 3D Blu-ray a puny a 5.1 effort in 3D. Only the 2D disc is TrueHD/Atmos supported. Seems wasteful to downmix things, no?

Either way, aggression on DTS-HD side is light. A stomping abominable snowman does make an impact, but with limited force. The audio mix feels reserved about pushing hard on the low-end. Until the finale sends a Ferris wheel down a hill, low-end weight feels less than it should.

Surround use features fine placement, capturing the movement of the Invisible Boy or the stream of gnomes are they clank on kitchen tile. Dialog is given space – Jack Black yells in the rears to keep his mysterious presence off-screen early in the film. Action scenes sound audibly cramped though, often without the needed depth to match the visual scale. Passable at best.

Then comes the TrueHD track, far richer in activity and motion. Compare the short scene with the Invisible Boy. In DTS, the boy screams from the right front. In TrueHD, the scream starts in the right front then travels into the rear as the camera pans away. Scope is wider and the extra channels spread the audible space. Effects are cleaner and pronounced.

LFE density is better, capturing thuds and footsteps with deeper impact. The finale with a rolling Ferris Wheel was a highlight for the DTS-HD track. Here it’s less because it’s surrounded by better mixing all around – and at a more normalized volume. [xrr rating=3/5 label=DTS-HD] [xrr rating=5/5 label=TrueHD]

Bonuses reside on the 2D side. Nothing is included on the 3D disc. A three minute blooper reel has some laughs. An unfinished alternate opening separates from the other deleted scenes which included an alternate ending. All About Slappy uses the puppet as a narrator to his own feature (not with Jack Black’s voice, either) which details the history of the character. A rather useless Beginner’s Guide to Surviving Goosebumps Monsters lets the two male stars explain how to ward off each creature, turning into a recap of the action scenes.

Dylan Minnette is behind the camera for Strange Things are Happening on Set, three minutes of staged hauntings behind-the-scenes. Those looking to begin young make-up careers may find Creaturefied valuable, taking a step-by-step process in creating basic monster effects. Cast screen tests and trailers finish off Goosebumps. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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