Horror · Horrorthon365 · Microreview · Television · ThanksKilling 2023

ThanksKilling 2023: Disney’s ‘Goosebumps’ and the Generational Effects of Colonizer Violence

Welcome to Port Lawrence, a sleepy little town in The Pacific Northwest where the first and last big thing to happen was the mysterious death of local loner Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell) by fire in 1993. His parent fled in the wake of the tragedy and the old Biddle House fell to ruin until October 2023, 30 years later, when a long lost Biddle relative Mr Bratt (Justin Long) returns to inherit the creepy casa. Thus begins the newest adaptation of RL Stine’s iconic ‘Goosebumps’ series.

Kicking the scary into motion is a clandestine Halloween party thrown by a group of friends who have deeper connections to the house and its past events that will soon rise to the surface. In surprisingly horrifying and graphically violent ways for a Disney show.

As a kid I’d absolutely devour RL Stine books, past bedtime, under the covers with a flashlight as the gods intended. It’s one of few happy memories of my childhood. And it was a dark kismet I happened upon the show the day after I had my first ever surgery to fix my busted carpal tunnel. It was oddly comforting to return to Mr Stine’s world — as intense as it ended up being — during the first stage of recuperation of a supposedly quick and easy procedure that didn’t go quite as expected. Hanging out in Port Lawrence was a welcome escape from the excruciating and unexpected postsurgery pain.

‘Goosebumps’ features trans actor Miles McKenna as James, making this a fabulous addition to the canon of queer horror. It also has a majority POC cast, including Isabella (Anna Yi Puig), the internet troll turned antihero of color as the group gels to fight their Big Bad of a demonically possessed ventriloquist doll. Justin Long in multiple roles is wonderful, and brings some well-placed meta into the visual text. Even if its portrayal of the publishing world is wholly inaccurate.

I really appreciated the lack of on-screen sex unlike so many other teen shows. I’m looking at you, ‘Euphoria’ and ‘Riverdale,’ just to name two. And it is narratively rich how each episode goes back to the Halloween party at the Biddle House and shows what went down from a different person’s perspective. Very ‘Alexandria Quartet.’

But ultimately this is a story about how the sins of our forebears ripple down into current generations, not just in the connections between Howard Biddle and the youngsters’ parents. It goes all the way back to a colonizer history that waged war on foreign land to seize assets and magical heritage by a most dastardly multigenerational villain.

✨90s soundtrack/5 stars. Highly recommend for folks who loved these books as kids, to watch now with their own kids. ✨

🦃ThanksKilling Terrors 2023 is the newest installment of my Horrorthon365 project, eclectic and unexpected genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. Browse the entire collection here. 🍗