A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.
Young Zach (Dylan Minette) moves with his mother (Amy Ryan) to a new town after his father dies. Next door is a charmingly sarcastic girl Zach’s age, Hannah (Odeya Rush), but just as they start smiling at one another her stern (but goofy!) father snaps at her. It’s Jack Black in Allen Ginsberg-style glasses and we’ll soon learn he’s the creepy, weirdo (and off-the-grid) writer RL Stine.
Forbidden fruit is sweetest, so Zach and Hannah find ways to speak to one another, and share some tender moments, too. On the night of the big dance, Zach convinces his cowardly new pal Champ (Ryan Lee) to help sneak in to Stine’s house where Hannah is a home-schooled prisoner. Lee’s wincing, squealing, toothy Champ is a dweeb in a classic 1980s mould, and these scenes where the pair investigate the strange goings-on in the neighbourhood felt more like Charley and Evil Ed in the classic version of Fright Night than did the recent dud remake with Colin Farrell.
It’s in the house we discover the big secret. When Stine creates the beloved Goosebumps books he actually conjures the villains – the killer lawn gnomes, wolfmen or abominable snowmen – into the real world. They are trapped inside locked manuscripts which become unlocked when Zach and Champ start snooping around.