Goosebumps (2023) Review: A Horrifyingly Tepid Reboot

Disney's take on R.L. Stine lacks the imagination of the source material.

Disney seems committed to remaking every unique project done in the past through their generic, unimaginative modern brand. There’s a reason reboots generally don’t tend to work; there’s no way to outdo what originally made something so good. That’s the case with Goosebumps.

Disney’s latest adaptation of the original book series by R.L. Stine is an underwhelming teen drama that does nothing new with the source material. Starring Justin Long with an array of talented young cast like Isa Briones and Zack Morris, this new Goosebumps series is more of a revenge thriller than the standalone horror it once was in 1995. Much like the many other reboots and remakes of original work, this new reimagining of the original series lacks much of the ‘imagining.’

Both the books and the 1995 series adaptation knew that horror had to remain at the heart of the material — specifically, a young person’s horror. The genre works by creating the uncanny in the visuals and narrative choices. This version of Goosebumps decided to lean more on the mystery side of the original series, which ends up doing it a disservice. Long’s character is possessed by the spirit of a young boy named Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell), whose tragic passing leads everyone into a journey of guilt and redemption, but the overarching narrative becomes stale fast. The original series worked so well because they were one-and-done episodes, not an overarching mystery to solve.

It could’ve been a fresh take on some of the scariest Goosebumps stories like The Haunted Mask, whose terrifying goblin still haunts me today. Instead, it’s portrayed as the physical manifestation of an “online troll,” devoiding the horror of a haunted mask entirely with its modern, much too on-the-nose metaphor. What made the original story of the haunted mask so petrifying, especially as a young kid, was the randomness of the object itself. Something you find at a thrift store taking over your soul for no apparent reason other than it can is a lot more terrifying than finding out it’s the soul of a kid your parents once bullied.


It’s hard not to press a point of comparison when watching this new series unfold when it did virtually nothing to feel fresh. It’s not impossible to make a remake count, but relying on the source material’s legacy has become painfully commonplace.

What makes the new adaptation bearable is that the actors shine brighter than the story. Finding charismatic up-and-coming new actors – without feeling like an algorithm generated them – is hard. This new crop of actors is a breath of fresh air, which isn’t always the case. They shoulder much of the interest in the series. However, by keeping the same actors throughout the same season, the series loses the magic of Goosebumps. This series was and will always succeed, first and foremost, as an anthology series. It is a collection of stories that feel like scary folklore and stories we whisper in the dark at sleepovers. Unfortunately, 2023’s Goosebumps chose to streamline Stine’s original approach, operating the same way as every other stale remake.

New episodes of Goosebumps premiere every Friday on Disney+.