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Stars: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Keith Arthur Bolden, Jillian Bell

Director: Rob Letterman

A junior league fantasy horror bumped along at some speed by director Letterman and the distinctive music of Danny Elfman.

Arriving at Madison, Delaware (the film was actually shot in Madison, Georgia) to take up her new post as deputy principal of the local high school, a widow (Ryan, lively) and her 17-year-old son Zac (Minnette. a bit lumpen) almost immediately have a run-in with the snappy man next door, Mr Shivers (Black).

But Shivers has a teenage daughter Hannah (Rush), to whom Zac is immediately attracted.

Hearing screams from the Shivers house one night, Zac and his goofy pal Champ (Lee) dash across to the house, where they find no Hannah, but shelf after shelf of the Goosebumps sub-teen horror stories, each one padlocked. Turns out Shivers is R L Stine, the (real-life) author of the books, which are locked to keep their horrors inside their covers.

Unlocking one book, Zac unleashes the nastiest monster of the lot, Slappy the ventriloquist's doll (also Black), who marshals all the monsters in the books - a wolfman, an abominable snowman, demon gnomes and (also Black) an invisible boy, as well as perhaps the screen's first 12A zombies - for an assault on the town.

'That was much more scary than I thought it would be,' said an eight-year-old after the preview, looking slightly green. No, parents, this is not suitable for your younger children. It does, however, lack a vital spark. Effects are piled one on another for, well, effect, and the execution lacks any sense of glee.

It's a nice idea, though, even if the monsters are pretty much the standard collection, and the film has a sturdy asset in Black, who keeps the whole thing together. The real R L Stine makes a brief appearance as the school's 'new drama teacher - Mr Black'!

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Technicolor.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 Jan 2016