You think to yourself, "I'm an adult." You think that nothing on a film set, a world of faked fantasy, can scare you, much less on a kid's movie. Then you walk into an office where Slappy, Goosebumps's malevolent mascot, is sitting casually on a couch with a crooked smile and menacing eyes pointed right at you. You gasp, and feel both embarrassed and like a kid again. This was our welcoming at the Goosebumps set visit -- a prop that made me lose my cool. But little did I know, this would only be my first real-life encounter with Slappy. The first of many.
R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books have been sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. They've inspired a string of successful television shows aimed to creep out kids. And now, after 22 years of developmental back-and-forth, a Goosebumps movie grows in Atlanta. I was one of the reporters lucky enough to be exposed to the wealth of monsters that make up this scary--but not too scary--adventure. By now, you've seen some reveals of these monsters and madmen. But director Rob Letterman is saving some bumps in the night for the big screen. Still, there's plenty to share about what we did learn cruising the set of Goosebumps.
Forget a direct adaptation. When Sony secured the rights to a Goosebumps movie, we understandably assumed the children's book series would be translated into an anthology horror for kids. Instead, producer Deborah Forte, who also worked on the TV series, said the idea was to transform the books into a cinematic ride. Sometimes this metaphor seemed literal, like when we were allowed to walk through an abandoned amusement park set swarmed by a forest that made it all the more fun and foreboding.
Goosebumps invites a slew of Stine's creations to play in a story that brings them out of their books. Jack Black stars as the actual R.L. Stine, while Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Ryan Lee play the three teens who've accidentally unleashed Slappy and his spooky siblings onto the town of Greendale, Maryland. "There is literally hundreds of monsters and creatures all around the town," Black was happy to report, "Destroying, wreaking havoc, and it’s up to me and these kids to get them back in the bottle."
Jack Black got intense about portraying Stine. "He allowed me to move in with him, and I was able to shadow him for a few months," Black teased. "It’s what I do with all my characters. I like to soak in the personality, and I actually wear his underpants. I’m wearing his underpants right now. I live and breathe R.L. Stine."
Then Black broke from the joke, saying, "No, I spent a couple hours with him before we started shooting, went out to New York and had a little lunch, a little chit chat about scary things and about our plans for the movie and he was into it. He was stoked. I mean, it was important to us that we had his seal of approval, just to see if he had any notes on what we could do differently and if he liked the direction we’re going. He was into it. So, that was great, and also, we didn’t want a situation where we made this movie based on R.L. Stine’s books, and he would be like, 'I never agreed to this. This is bull!'"