Review / ‘Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween’ (PG) ***

OF fiction writer Robert L Stine’s 15 titles filmed as feature movies or TV series, “Haunted Halloween” is the second film under the “Goosebumps” banner.

In it, Stine plays the principal of the school where Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) are the target of older boys’ taunts and threats of violence. And Jack Black plays RL Stine.

Sonny and Sam have formed a junk-removal business. In a deserted, old house, they find the manuscript of an unpublished RL Stine book and a ventriloquist’s dummy. The book provides the boys with the means of bringing Slappy the dummy to life and the fun begins.

This movie for kids aged from about eight to 88 presses the right buttons for humour, scariness, inventiveness, zaniness. And the American way of celebrating All Hallows Eve, a festival at which many countries with Celtic origins remember the dead. Coincidentally, the day on which Christians and pagans were wont to mark the beginning of the northern hemisphere winter. As well as the day on which the issue of “CityNews” carrying this review will appear in print – October 31.

I rather like Slappy the dummy. He’s essentially benevolent although he can show a mean streak. The closing credits end with Slappy suggesting he’ll be back. There can be worse things to look forward to.

At all cinemas

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