Reviewed by: Samuel Chetty
|Featuring:||Jack Black … R.L. Stine
Amy Ryan … Gale
Odeya Rush … Hannah Stine
Halston Sage … Taylor
Dylan Minnette … Zach Cooper
Ken Marino … Coach Carr
Kumail Nanjiani … Foreman
Ryan Lee … Champ
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|Director:||Rob Letterman—“Gulliver's Travels” (2010), “Monsters vs. Aliens” (2009)|
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|Distributor:||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
“Goosebumps” is a wild movie about an author whose fictional monsters come to life. The story opens when a teenage boy Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mother have just moved to Greendale, Maryland. They live next door to the famous horror story author R.L. Stine (Jack Black) and his teenage daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush). Soon after a light romance begins between Zach and Hannah, Zach hears Hannah screaming inside her house, and given her father’s harsh temper, Zach fears that domestic violence is taking place.
After making a report to the police, that was quickly dismissed, Zach stages a plot to get Stine out of the house for a while, then Zach and his friend break into the house to check on Hannah. While inside, they release the lock on a book, and monsters of Stine’s stories emerge from the books and swarm the town. When Stine finds out what happened, he makes a plan to get rid of the monsters, but he has limited time to accomplish that task before the monsters destroy the town.
Much of the movie involves monsters chasing people across town. I feel that the movie is too scary for young kids, and maybe even pre-teens who are not accustomed to the genre, due to the intense action and moderately ugly monsters. Despite the PG rating, the violence level is comparable to PG-13 action movies. However, I think that for teenagers and adults who watch action movies, the horror does not cut very deep emotionally. The chaos often feels comical in nature, and there is no imagery that looked utterly hideous to me.
Christian audiences will need to decide how to perceive the use of magic in the story. I can see two views. One is a literal understanding of the story in which Stine’s monsters may be attributed to sorcery or demonism. If viewed this way, the movie would be spiritually problematic.
However, I think there is a metaphorical interpretation of the story that carries different implications. The unleashing of Stine’s monsters could be symbolic of what happens when people perpetuate grudges or hateful thoughts in their minds. These thoughts could be symbolized as monsters in one’s head. When Stine was a kid, he was often mocked by his peers, and he became bitter toward humanity, in general. He got revenge in his own mind by writing stories about monsters terrorizing society. If real people persistently hold resentful thoughts in their minds, these thoughts (or monsters), can come to life by manifesting themselves in people’s speech or behavior, causing harm to others they encounter. On the other hand, the value of renewing one’s mind is seen in the movie when Stine learns to let go of his grudges and demonstrate a kind attitude.
It is up to individual Christians how they want to interpret this story. As mentioned earlier, I think the movie is not suitable for young kids. That age group aside, I expect that Christians will have a wide range of responses, depending on what they are used to seeing, and their general philosophy for interpreting movies.
Violence: There are intense action sequences throughout, involving monsters chasing humans and some fighting between humans and monsters, but virtually no blood. Several characters are frozen by monsters, and they do not reemerge in the story.
Language: 9-10 uses of “Oh my God” or similar phrases. About five uses of minor obscenities like “hell,” “damn,” or “sucks.”
Other: A secondary character says she hopes a man will leave his wife to be with her. A boy breaks into his neighbor’s house at night. While getting chased by monsters through a grocery store, a boy gets a drink without paying for it. And there are a few instances of lying.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor to mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.