"The Goosebumps Revolution: How R.L. Stine's Creepy Tales Transformed Children's Horror"goosebumps,R.L.Stine,children'shorror,creepytales,transformation,revolution
"The Goosebumps Revolution: How R.L. Stine's Creepy Tales Transformed Children's Horror"

“The Goosebumps Revolution: How R.L. Stine’s Creepy Tales Transformed Children’s Horror”

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Television: How Scary Is Disney+ and Hulu’s Adaptation of Goosebumps?

Is the young-adult series as spine-tingling as the books by R.L. Stine?

By Nadira Goffe

Oct 13, 2023 5:40 AM

For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror releases, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each release’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.

People who harbor ’90s nostalgia for Scholastic book fairs and biking to the local library will be pleased to know that this edition of Scaredy Scale is about the Disney+ and Hulu adaptation of R.L. Stine’s popular series of YA horror novellas, Goosebumps. Stine’s original spate of books, which amassed 62 titles published from 1992 through 1997, has since sold more than 400 million copies globally, becoming the second-bestselling book series of all time behind Harry Potter. Naturally, the admiration for this trove of children’s horror has resulted in plenty of adaptations over the years, including a successful ’90s anthology series, a film franchise starring Jack Black in the 2010s, and a handful of video games. These have all varied in their capacity to creep the living daylights out of children, and indeed, Disney is marketing this recent retelling—which follows five teenagers in a small town as they deal with the supernatural repercussions of their parents’ past secrets—as a “chilling” series. But just how spine-tingling is this show made for all ages? Let’s dive in.

Luckily for the jumpy Stine stans among us, Goosebumps is pretty easy on the nerves. That’s not to say the show doesn’t try! It might get a rise out of you a few times over its 10 episodes, but those instances are easy to predict. If I’m being totally honest, there were also a few attempts at frights that didn’t work on me, the world’s self-proclaimed jumpiest person. Instead, I found myself cringing more at the social awkwardness of the teen love triangle in the show than at any actual tension-building moments.

Goosebumps doesn’t possess much gruesomeness at all. The closest it comes is a scene in which a kid horribly breaks his arm, showing some bone sticking out where it’s definitely not supposed to. Given that, I would rate Goosebumps a 1 for ickiness—if it weren’t for two truly disgusting scenes where people eat live, wriggling worms. The worms don’t stop terrorizing the audience there, instead writhing into a kid’s brain via his nose and ears while he’s sleeping. Sure, this might not count as typical horror-movie carnage, but it’s pretty frickin’ gross!

I didn’t find myself quaking after finishing an episode of this series, but even I have to admit that some of what’s on display is hair-raising. If you’re not a fan of dolls, be warned that Stine’s Goosebumps mascot, an evil ventriloquist dummy named Slappy, takes center stage in this plot. While that may be the most sinister part of the show—because, again, dolls are creepy as hell—it’s also worth noting that the supernatural issues these teens go through mirror their biggest insecurities in their daily lives. For example, the character James (played by transgender vlogger and actor Miles McKenna) struggles with his identity, and in his episode—seemingly based on two Stine stories—he must defeat evil doppelgängers who, because of James’ actions, have an easy time convincing others that they’re the real James. There’s also Isabella (Ana Yi Puig), who, feeling like she’s invisible, dons a mask that gives her confidence, but then—à la The Haunted Mask—it fuses to her face and convinces her to do horrible things. It’s not that these events are particularly unnerving, but the true-to-life feelings they are wrought from are, especially for teenagers. Classic YA, but with a dastardly edge.

Surprisingly, for an adolescent horror series based on, well, Goosebumps, the TV series is not nearly as campy as I thought it would be. Instead, the show is awash in the gray dim lighting found in most serious media about eerie coastal towns, if that tells you anything. Though it’s not as terrifying as some truly bone-chilling works of horror, for a show geared toward a younger audience, it’s still pretty effective at conjuring the uncanny valley. It also hits all of the expected points of teen TV, to boot: relationship woes, love triangles, exasperation with the parental units, worries about the future, and more. There’s a lot in Goosebumps for fans of the unsettling and of teen soaps, but don’t expect to be running for the hills like you may have while reading Stine’s books at a young age.


"The Goosebumps Revolution: How R.L. Stine
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