Today at Comic-Con we were treated to a first look at Goosebumps. Director Rob Letterman and star Jack Black were on hand to discuss the film and give fans a glimpse into the world they created around the famous children’s horror anthology. For those who don’t know, the film is not a direct adaptation of the series. Instead, the works of R.L. Stine have been reimagined, featuring Stine himself as a character who battles his own creature creations when they are set free from their books.
As a child of the 90’s, I absolutely adored Goosebumps, so I was thrilled to check out what the film has to offer. And the good news is that what they had to offer today looked pretty darn good. Black and Letterman clearly made the film with respect for the source material and the good sense of fun it requires. Check out my full Goosebumps Comic-Con panel recap after the jump.
- We started off with a brief video featuring Mr. R.L. Stine, the man himself, pre-shot from the set in Atlanta. He welcomed us to the panel and introduced Jack Black, saying that Black was his first choice to play him in the movie.
- A Goosebumps film has been in development for fifteen years while various writers and directors tried to figure out how to turn the anthology series into a single film.
- Jack Black met with R.L. Stine before the movie started filming to get his consent on the project and get to know the prolific author’s personality. Black describes Stine as sweet, smart and funny, but noted that he is not playing Stine as he is in real life. Instead, Black brings to life a more sinister and slightly scary “character” of him in order to make the best movie. This is, of course, with Stine’s blessing (yeah, it’s all very meta).
- Since the film is not an adaptation of a single book, the major challenge of cracking the story was figuring out how to open the world up to all of the books.
- On balancing the line between horror and comedy Letterman noted that the books were legitimately funny and scary at the same time and that he hoped to capture the same tone in the film. They want to achieve real tension and not to undercut the scares.
- The film just finished shooting two days ago.
- Letterman said that while they rehearsed a lot for the film he loves working with improv comedians, saying that they do a few takes for the script and then they do a take for themselves. He also noted that it’s difficult to do too much improv on a film with so many effects.
- On the effects and the design of the monsters, Letterman promised that we will see practical effects, full CG, and hybrids under the guidance of creature designers Neville Page, Carlos Huante, and Justin Fields. Black joked, “Some of them are just real monsters that we cast.”
Following the panel we caught a glimpse at some rough footage from the film. While it was raw material without VFX, the film still looked like tons of fun. It has a suburban horror comedy vibe reminiscent of Hocus Pocus or Beetlejuice. During the sizzle reel we saw pre-vis versions of Slappy, the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, the Graveyard Ghouls, the Scarecrowman, a giant praying mantis, and a whole lot of lawn gnomes, and those are just the ones I caught as the scenes flashed by on screen. All told, as a fan of the books I feel genuinely excited to see the film now. It seems to have been made with a huge respect for the source material and feels very much in touch with the voice of R.L. Stine.
- Has Jack Black read all the books? “I have read quite a few, but not all. There’s like 50 books.” He then joked, “You can blast through one in like 45 minutes.” Goosebumps didn’t exist when he was a kid, so Black had not read them before coming on to the project. He was drawn to it by Letterman who he has worked with before on Shark Tale, Gulliver’s Travels.
- Will the Haunted Mask make an appearance in the film? Well, maybe. They were actually pretty tight-lipped on the subject of which specific monsters would appear in the film. When asked specifically about the Haunted Mask, Letterman replied “Yeah?” Black added, “It’s not a spoiler if you put a question mark on it.”
- How are they balancing the need to please the original fanbase who are now adults and also keep it appropriate for a new generation of children? Letterman spoke of his experience with his own children saying that they like monsters, but they don’t want to be so scared they can’t sleep. He said that the monster films from the 30’s tend to have the right amount of horror, calling them “Scary-ish”.
- Were there any monsters that didn’t make it into the movie? Letterman said that because of budgetary reasons there were definitely monsters that didn’t make the final cut. They just tried to figure out which ones were best for the story.
- There’s no official count on how many monsters made it into the film. Black joked, “More than ten, less than a thousand.”
- What is their favorite “Goosebumps” book? They both agreed on “Night of the Living Dummy”. Black described Slappy as the ringleader or king pin of the monsters in the movie. He functions as R.L. Stine’s dark side or alter ego.
- After being asked if he took time to learn ventriloquism Black pulled out a Slappy dummy from under the table and did a bit with him. Then Slappy threatened to bring out his friends and sure enough out walked the Bog Monster, the Graveyard Ghouls, Murder the Clown, the Witch Doctor, a mummy, a vampire, The Creep, Professor Shock, The Haunted Mask, Scarecrowman, the Pumpkinheads, and probably a couple others I missed in the mayhem! It was awesome. As someone who loved the books as a kid it gave me a genuine moment of elation to see all those monsters in one place. I can only hope that’s what the finished film will feel like.
Click here to catch up on all of our Comic-Con 2014 coverage thus far.