Scholars, writers, film and book critics continue to analyze and debate on the association between literature and cinema. In many cases, critics focus on comparing cinematographic work to the novel since literature had existed for centuries before the initial and the ultimate progression of cinema. Indeed, critics often focus on the degree that a film remains faithful to the literature it is based on. Considering that novels inspire hundreds and thousands of filmmakers, it is particularly important to analyze and appreciate the concept of adaptation as it exists in society. Research indicates that more than 30 percent of movies currently are based on novels while 80 percent of books that are categorized as best sellers have already been adapted to the cinema (Vidal, 2011). The article asserts despite the apparent association between cinema and literature; there are many adaptation issues as it is the case in the film adaptations of children horror series novels Goosebumps.
The connection between cinema and literature has persisted adamantly since the development of cinema. Goosebumps and Goosebumps 2: Hunted Halloween are live-in-action movies that are based on R.L Stine children horror novels by the same name, Goosebumps. The books were initially published in 1992, and the original series ceased production in 1997 with more than 60 kids’ horror books. Moreover, there have been several spinoffs that have grazed books shelf in the early 21st century (Lester, 2016). However, it was more than two decades later that the captivating books were able to creep the big screen. Many screenwriters such as Tim Burton were interested in the film adaptation of the books as early as the late 1990s (Zeitchik, 2015). While the idea of the adaptation of the Goosebumps series to film felt as natural as the case of Harry Potter, many screenwriters spent a great deal of time deliberating on which book to dramatize and to what extent. The years it took for the horror series to be adapted to a film reflects the degree and complexity associated in the adaptation from the selection of book, characters and in the case of the Goosebumps series, which monster to use. The screenwriter for the first Goosebumps movie, Darren Lemke, had an idea to put more than a dozen monsters from various Goosebumps books in the production of the critically acclaimed Sony’s family adventure film.
R.L Stine was careful to maintain and emphasize gender equality. However, the first film to an extent focuses more on the boy character. In the 10th book of R.L Stine series tilted, The Ghost Next Door published in 1993, Hannah Fairchild, the main female character, is summer vacation and suspects the neighbor of being secretly dead. The book is relatively slow with little action compared to the film which was characterized by good scares, humor and the right interaction between sincerity and self-deprecation (Zeitchik, 2015). In the movie, Hannah Stine, daughter of R.L Stine, works together with their neighbor Zach when the monsters in her father’s books become living flesh. However, Hannah’s character in the book has more strength than it is the case in the film which depicts her as an uncomplicated girl that merely serves as the love interest of the film’s main character.
Therefore, the first Goosebumps movie betrays R.L Stine efforts of gender equality, a factor that increased the popularity of the books across the globe. Undeniably, the books appealed to both the female and male gender alike. It is clear to an avid reader of the series that the books often featured both boys and girls as related and likable protagonists a factor that the film ignores. While the criticism is not based on an evident depiction of gender equality, in fact, the movie might have intended to showcase gender equality as it is the case in the books but fails due to how it portrays the character Hannah (Cruz, 2015). In the film, Hannah seems unrealistically calm with the events of her life including being homeschooled with the paranoid father, getting in and out of pages while Zach’s character is devastated with those events. Moreover, the film also gives little emphasis to other characters such as Amy Ryan who plays Zach’s mom. However, in the 10th book of the Goosebumps series, while Hannah finds out, she is a ghost she remains a strong protagonist that propels the entire book.
The film adaptations of the Goosebumps series bear little to no resemblance to the children horror books that they pillage. Although both movies revive more than a dozen different monsters and fiends in R.L Stine’s books, the film rarely recalls the adventures and occurrences of the books. The current movies both in 2015 and 2018 almost two decades after the completion of the Goosebumps original book series, were designed for children and young adults of this particular generation. For instance, where R.L Stine provided quaint campfires narrations, there have been given a modern make-over in the films and replaced with frenetic amusement park ride for all ages (Cruz, 2015). While the movie begins like many of R.L Stine Goosebumps books, with Zach a teenage reader and viewer moving to a new town with his widowed mother, with R.L Stine and Hannah Stine as the neighbors, the movie is set in a location where the Goosebumps series exists. The characters in R.L Stine come to life. Primarily, the film focuses on creating an excuse to utilize a majority of Stine’s greatest hits and monsters. The movie is like a carnival funhouse. In the film, it is only through offhanded gags such as Stine forgetting the storyline of his books ad asserting that each story has a beginning middle and end the twist that indicates to a viewer that the screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have worked on other acknowledged works such as Agent Cody Banks (Cruz, 2015). Such analysis of the movie illustrates that it bears little resemblance to R.L Stine kid-centric works that often seem like classic suspense works, unlike the film that displays a desire to appeal to various audiences beyond children and young adults.
In recent years, the concept of youthful pop culture is what dominates the Hollywood landscape. For more than a decade, a majority of the top ten movies in the box office are often made explicitly for children and young adults while a great deal more while genre as young adults or children’s books is often seen by them (Zeitchik, 2015). Unlike other famous adaptations such as Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the Goosebumps film adaptation called for parents to pay attention to what was not only in the books but on what was aired in the subsequent motion picture. Indeed, the adaptation of the Goosebumps series to a movie reflects producers how the aspect of attracting and reaching to the youthful audience is essentially reaching the entire American audience (Vidal, 2011). Essentially, the difference between the movies and the books is the fact that while the books were kid-centric, the movies intended and proceeded to create a balance attracting children, young adults and good numbers of adults equally.
While the first movie appealed to many due to its ability to utilize nostalgia and creativity to develop a charming film; however, the sequel failed to recapture and gain the popularity of its predecessor. The sequel began and ended with new characters rather than building on the previous ones featured in the first movie. While this is not surprising considering each book in the Goosebumps series had its characters, the success of a movie to no small extent depends on the cast. In the sequel, the only crossover character from the 2015 film is R.L Stine played by Jack Black (Zeitchik, 2015). The sequel features a new location where the main characters stumble into an abandoned house with an unfinished manuscript where when they open the book some characters come to life.
The only correlation between the two movies is using the technique of bringing the monsters in R.L Stine books to life. While the criticism is not on the necessity of a sequel, it is on the fact that the first movie changed the storyline of R.L Stine books and the second film proceeded to reset the location and the characters from the first movie. Indeed, it is a rather substantial and unnecessary risk to deviate the storyline further after the first movie was not original to Stine’s Goosebumps series. However, many critics acclaim that the first movie had more cleverness as compared to the second (Spiegel, 2018). The analysis of Goosebumps two illustrates a story that further deviated from the books and one that was merely produced since the producers and the studio felt like the initial film required a sequel. Ultimately, Goosebumps 2: Hunted Halloween feels lifeless since it is so much different from the original which was also not a step to step adaptation of the Goosebumps series.
Adaptation illustrates the ability to borrow and build a motion picture from literature with the ability to attract new audiences (Alqadi, 2015). Indeed, both goosebumps movies achieve this particular objective. However, to attract audiences beyond children the screenwriters and the producers were focused on diminishing various characteristic of the series that made it distinguishable.
Goosebumps as a children’s horror series have turned various kids and young adults into avid and obsessive readers with Stine’s dedication to both horror and humor. Indeed, the books were so popular that they earned more than 100 million dollars in annual revenue for several years that R.L Stine was recognized as the top-selling author in the country. The same cannot be said of the two movies that have been so far produced based on the books: more than most, the case of Goosebumps adaptation to a film illustrating the difficulties of harnessing a literary success in motion picture and all the challenges associated with the adaptation.
While both movies are entertaining, unlike the books, they are unlikely to keep anyone awake at night out of altering fear or excitement. Indeed, for instance while the author was sensitive to gender equality throughout the series, the first movie did not give the female characters strong personality to compete with the male characters, Additionally, the film focused on attracting a larger audience a factor that did not collaborate the book series which was written explicitly for middle school children. The most distinguishing aspect of the film adaptations of Goosebumps is the fact that the movies merely borrowed from the books rather than giving a step to step account of the books with limited derivations. The continuous and steady association between literature and film endless to generate substantial debates. In the event of the Goosebumps book series and movie, it is evident the film did not do the books justice, but the idea of a different storyline is validated considering the two decades between the books and film and the desire to attract different audiences.
Alqadi, K. (2015). Literature and cinema. International Journal of Language and Literature, 3(1), 42-48.
Cruz, L. (2015, October 21). The scariest thing about the Goosebumps movie. Retrieved from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-scariest-part-about-goosebumps/411349/
Lester, C. (2016). The children’s horror film: Characterizing an impossible subgenre. The Velvet Light Trap, 22-37.
Spiegel, J. (2018, October 12). The Missing ingredient of ‘Goosebumps 2’. Retrieved from The Hollywood Reporter: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/why-goosebumps-2-doesnt-work-jack-black-1151879
Vidal, V. B. (2011). Textures and images: Rewriting the American novel in contemporary film. Universitat de Valencia.
Zeitchik, S. (2015, August 06). Will a ‘Goosebumps’ movie scare up the books’ audience? Retrieved from LA times: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-ca-mn-goosebumps-20150809-story.html