R.L. Stine’s beloved children’s horror series cared equally about its boy and girl characters. The same can’t be said for the film adaptation. In the 10th book in the original Goosebumps series, The Ghost Next Door, Hannah Fairchild is a tween on summer vacation with nothing to do but ride her bike and suspect her new neighbor of being secretly dead. It’s very much a 1993 book—she’s upset at her best friend who’s away at camp and ignoring her letters—and it doesn’t age as well as other beloved children’s books might, with a dragging story, very little action, and goofy cliffhangers. (At the end of one chapter, Hannah thinks there’s a hooded demon on her bed. At the start of the next, she sees it’s just a coat.) So compared to The Ghost Next Door, the Goosebumps film adaptation starring Jack Black as the author R.L. Stine seems impressive. It’s got a slick adventurous feel, good scares, clever all-ages humor, and the right balance of sincerity and self-deprecation. But in another, crucial way, the earlier book feels like a much more modern work, despite being 22 years older. The book inspired the film’s character of Hannah Stine, the author’s teenage daughter who teams up with her new neighbor Zach when the monsters in her father’s books come to life. But book-Hannah achieved a surprising amount of depth and agency in the story’s 124 pages, aimed at those with a fourth-grade reading level, no less. Meanwhile, the film reduces her to a thinly written, uncomplicated girl destined to serve only as a love interest to the main hero. In doing so, it betrays the ethos of gender equality built into the book series from the very start, and one element that made the Goosebumps series such a mega-selling phenomenon.

emma hill wears beige chunky

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