Disney’s ‘Goosebumps’ Gets Gory, but Goes by the Books

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Haunted Mask book and 2023 Version

Credit: Inside the Magic

The new adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps is 52 horrors in one, but yet it still manages to adapt these classic ’90s kids’ books for a grown-up audience.

Credit: Disney/Hulu

If you were a kid in the ’90s, Goosebumps was the best way to scare yourself silly. Both the books and the TV series on Fox and Nickelodeon were every kind of freaky without relying too heavily on the gruesome and grim for its scares. Surprisingly, this is not the case with Disney’s version.

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Disney+’s version starring Justin Long not only gives audiences a mature, bold, and dark version of the familiar kids’ books from Scholastic but also adapts the core elements from the original stories perfectly for a modern adaptation. That said, if you were expecting something more like the Jack Black variant, you might be in for more than just a scare.

Disney Makes Goosebumps Great

Logo for Disney+
Credit: Disney

Disney+ was probably the last place any of us ever expected to find a great adaptation of Stine’s work, but the five episodes dropped thus far have truly done the books justice. Although the show doesn’t follow the anthology formula the series and the original TV show had, core elements from each book become the focal point of the individual entry.

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Think of this series as one that’s made for fans of the books who grew up to enjoy the horror genre. If you’ve read even just one of the core books of the series, you’ll definitely recognize a few symbols and story beats. If you haven’t, the episode titles are a dead giveaway as to where to start.

WARNING: Spoilers for Goosebumps beyond this point!

Say Cheese and Die

Say Cheese and Die from Disney's Goosebumps
Credit: Disney+

Goosebumps (2023) starts with a slow burn inspired by the book Say Cheese and Die.  Although not nearly as campy as the previous TV adaptation, this version keeps the same creepy camera seen in the original story.

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As the title implies, the book concerns a Polaroid camera that reveals a disastrous and often deadly future in the pictures that develop. Taking a more Twilight Zone approach, the 2023 adaptation uses the artifact to launch its cast of potential victims into the horror surrounding the Biddle House in the overarching narrative.

The Haunted Mask

The Haunted Mask in Goosebumps 2023
Credit: Disney+

A favorite of this writer and R.L. Stine himself, The Haunted Mask is essentially what it says on the box. A terrifying mask possessed by an evil spirit comes to life and turns the wearer into a costumed creature, the same thing happens in all adaptations, but Disney goes full dark in the second episode.

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Like Carly Beth’s fate in both the book and the ’90s episode, Isabella discovers a creepy old mask with a monstrous secret during the Halloween party at the Biddle House. Unassuming at first, but the mask itself slowly shifts into a frightening monster that allows the wearer to act upon her more fiendish desires.

The Cuckoo Clock of Doom

James in front of the Cuckoo Clock of Doom
Credit: Disney+

Some readers consider this spooky Stine Story to be the darkest entry in the original book series, as it’s one of the very few where the supernatural element has genuine consequences. That and it also removes one of the characters from existence.

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In the 2023 variant, the titular clock essentially does the same time loop schtick, but instead of simply taking its victim backward in time, it creates evil parallel versions of the character, James. While it’s not the most book-accurate in the series thus far, it’s undoubtedly one of the most chilling.

Go Eat Worms!

Guy eats a worm in Goosebumps
Credit: Disney+

Worms are pretty nasty critters even in the best of times, but Stine gives them a gross edge in his book Go Eat Worms! After a kid’s obsession with the creepy crawlies takes a turn too far, the wriggling terrors turn on their master.

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The worms themselves are really the only tie-in with the original book, but it also lends the series an unexpectedly gnarly dose of body horror. Remember, this is released on a Disney platform, which makes it all the more jarring when the writhing mass of worms starts swarming all over the show’s comic relief.

At the time of writing, Goosebumps only has five episodes currently available, but Disney and Sony have an unexpectedly gruesome hit on their hands. If you grew up with the book series or the TV show, this adaptation is one that definitely grew up with its audience.

Were you a Goosebumps kid? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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