RL Stine’s mega-selling scary stories for kids made for a fun horror-lite movie in 1995’s Goosebumps. Now, just in time for Halloween, Slappy’s back and he’s still a bad little “boy”.

That’s kind of the key to the story here, too. Like most anybody else, the ventriloquist’s dummy who’s been brought to life just wants to feel a part of a family. Unfortunately, however, he has very lofty expectations, and when they’re not met, it’s mischief time.

Ah, but how did Slappy return? While teenaged Sarah stresses over juggling an important essay, babysitting duties and a social life, her younger brother Sonny works on a science project – when not teaming up for a cleaning venture with his buddy Sam. Seriously, what’s with all the ‘S’ names? Anyway, that latter enterprise brings Sonny ‘n’ Sam to a rather spooky old house, where they forego payment in favour of keeping anything they find that they believe may be worth something on eBay or whatever. Their booty includes a curiously hidden and locked book, which ultimately conjures up a certain dummy.

So, when Slappy tires of not getting the attention that he craves, he takes inspiration from Sonny’s science project based on the electrical works of local hero Nikola Tesla, bringing his old plant to spectacular life – which also brings every Halloween decoration in town to life. That’s fine – and funny – for a dumb old pumpkin, but when Gummi Bears attack and your neighbour’s bigger-than-a-house purple balloon spider gets juiced it’s rather terrifying. Well, we guess it would be if you were actually there.

Naturally, it’s up to all of those peeps with ‘S’ names to get the book and suck up the baddies, restoring relative calm to Halloween once again, etc.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

It’s a very basic story, and it’s neither particularly funny (save for the movie’s best line – from a pumpkin) or scary (sorry, but killer Gummi Bears are still cute-as, even with fangs). It also mostly lacks the presence of Jack Black, who played RL Stine in that first outing. He actually does appear here in an uncredited performance, arriving way too late to be of any use to anybody (kind of the gag, we guess), but is given little to do and almost seems like an “eep, everybody expects to see the guy” afterthought. It does bring a fun bit of trivia to light though, in that he stars alongside Madison Iseman, who he shared a body with as Bethany in the super-fun Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

As for other casting, Ken Jeong is his usual welcome – and funny – self, while Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) and Chris Parnell (who’ll always be 30 Rock‘s Dr Spaceman to us) add some welcome relief for any adults that happen to stray within eyeshot of the movie.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is fine for a bit of background, throwaway, vaguely spooky, seen-it-all-before Halloween amusement, but with a pedigree including way over 100 Goosebumps novels at its disposal, the real horror is that it just seems so uninspired.

Oh, just in case you were wondering, The Invisible Boy – who survived the first film – is nowhere to be seen…

In cinemas: October 25, 2018
Starring: Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris
Directed by: Ari Sandel