CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Columbia Pictures Gives Us GOOSEBUMPS!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 15, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Columbia Pictures and Neal Moritz, the producer of Cruel Intentions (1999) and I am Legend (2007), have secured the rights with Scholastic Media’s Deborah Forte to make the R.L. Stine penned Goosebumps franchise into a theatrical feature. It’s like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone targeted to kids. Executive Producer Andrea Giannetti (Vantage Point, 2008) will oversee the production. The release date is set at 2010.

The popular Goosebumps book series, much of it written and sold throughout the 1990s, holds second place as the most financially successful in the young adults demographic. It was published in over 32 languages and has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. It was beaten by another youth-oriented serial written by some Brit named J.K. Rowling who specialized in wizards or something (supposedly 5 out of 8 blockbuster films were also adapted).

goosebumps2My reservations on an adapted Goosebumps movie is that it will be based on a Horrorland revision (unread by me) that includes many characters from previous plots. Between evil ventriloquist dummies, a preordained picture-taking camera, possessed Halloween masks, plant zombies, mutating green blood, and a summer camp that enslaves children to wash down a blob with teeth; I hope the filmmakers don’t bloat the film with too many creatures.

Why the invested interest? As a kid, I had difficulty being engaged by less than compelling material outside of Beverley Cleary’s Ramona serial. Unless the characters were personable and a real sense of doom was preordained, my mind drifted to more haunted thoughts of my imagining that proved more enticing. At the age of 7, I was introduced to the Goosebumps series, the closest in horror literature I could obtain at the time, by an antique dealer who I never saw again. As an early reader, I am in debt to R.L. Stine. Throughout grades four and seven, I read front to back over seventy Goosebumps novels. My father used to bribe me with a new Goosebumps book ($5.50 each) every week I completed all of my homework.

goosebumps3The covers of the books were a wonder to behold. A vibrant, ominous painting visualized what was just as immediate and unnerving as when I ventured the horror shelves at the video store (Images of the grinning, red-eyed Chucky Doll had me entranced at the age of five). The Goosebumps cover illustrations were all by Tim Jacobus. You can read about his process in this short illustration tutorial.

While I’m on the subject of illustration, it has come to my attention that the U.S. House and Senate is introducing an Orphan Works Act of 2008 and the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008, which deprive copyright ownership from working illustrators whose livelihood depends on acquiring paid permission to use said images. I am calling out to U.S. citizens to take action and oppose this thieving atrocity by e-mailing this form to congress. As a practicing illustrator myself, you’d be doing me a favor.

Back to Goosebumps. In the mid-nineties, the Fox Kids Network in collaboration with Scholastic Publishing produced a Goosebumps television series featuring an adapted episode in a half-hour format. Another like-minded show released much earlier was Eerie, Indiana (1991) that included episodes directed by Joe Dante (Innerspace, 1987). Being a hardcore Goosebumps fan at the time, I taped almost every episode and now return to favorites as a rare guilty pleasure. Perhaps the upcoming film could be made in an episodic fashion – it’s Creepshow for kids!

goosebumps4The first season of the show was effective because it focused on character development (sometimes performed well by child actors – Kathryn Long as Carly Beth comes to mind – and sometimes not) and executed subtle special effects within a reasonable television production. Even future stars like Ryan Gosling (from Say Cheese and Die! to Half Nelson, 2006) and Hayden Christensen (from Night of the Living Dummy III to Shattered Glass, 2003) cut their teeth into the series. Enter seasons two and three as the faithfulness to the original stories and production quality gradually ebbed to a pitiful low. The second the show introduced CGI effects, it was all over.

Cartoon Network brought the show back for a limited time last year and produced an awesome Grindhouse-inspired tv spot for it. I wish the original episodes were shown in this rough, scratchy format.

Goosebumps GRINDHOUSE TV Spot

Once in every four months, I google to see whether a Goosebumps: Season One Box Set is on the horizon. Unfortunately, Fox sold the rights to Buena Vista who have peddled out some of worse Goosebumps episodes individually on separate DVDs. Sometimes Disney is pure evil. Hopefully the upcoming film will bring the franchise back to public conscious and the damned series will be released properly. I read that Columbia is looking for a writer for their Goosebumps movie: I nominate myself.

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