Slappy the Dummy is genuinely one of the most terrifying characters in a series aimed at children. He is the brainchild of R. L. Stine and has starred in multiple books and the 2015 ‘Goosebumps’ film. Now he’s returning to cause more havoc, but is the best part of a film that does nothing original with its premise.
Jack Black led the cast in the 2015 film as a fictional version of Stine and the film was an unexpected hit. It was surprisingly good, with great scares and great laughs. Unfortunately, as is the case with most lazy sequels, the main star doesn’t properly return and the plot is a plain copy of the original.
The young cast, led by Madison Iseman (seen in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben in 2017’s It) are compelling and entertaining to watch, despite the fact they’re mostly reacting to CGI monsters and looking scared or confused. There are also some fun performances from Chris Parnell and Wendi McLendon-Covey, who do the awkward parents flirting act brilliantly. Rounding off the cast are fleeting appearances from Ken Jeong and Jack Black who again are fun, but aren’t around for long.
The story sees Slappy the Dummy, a living ventriloquist doll, attempting to bring Halloween to life. This means that the decorations, masks, pumpkins, you name it, all come to life, and that premise did offer some great excuses for funny set pieces and interesting production design. One sequence, showcased in the trailers, shows Gummy Bears come to life and attack our leads. The film, unfortunately, seems more interested in these fun bits rather than the overarching story. Thankfully the film is only 85 minutes long so the simple, predictable story is just enough to coast the film along.
What made the first one great was a balance of fun humour and genuine horror. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite have either. Granted, younger viewers will be utterly scared by Slappy the Dummy, but compared to the original film, this one isn’t great. It’s a nice bit of fun that doesn’t drag, but it’s incredibly cliché and ultimately hollow.