Going on a set visit is a bit like going on a blind date. Despite a detailed itinerary, you never really know what you”ve signed up for. But if you”re lucky it will make a great story later.
A little over a year ago, I went on a date with “Goosebumps.” By the end of it, I was muddy, had surreptitiously broken part of a set, had my picture taken with a dummy, and fallen down a nostalgia rabbit hole deep enough to drown in.
Climb inside my brain for a front row seat to the ups and downs of visiting the set of “Goosebumps”!
#1: Sweet mercy, the Georgia tax incentives must be AMAZING to justify filming anything in this heat. I am being slowly suffocated by a moist blanket of air. Please Lord, take me now.
#2: Blessed is Willis Carrier, inventor of the modern air conditioner. Blessed is this random intern who is giving me a tiny bottled water and escorting me to the cool (on multiple levels) War Room.
#3: These walls are just COVERED in old “Goosebumps” monsters. It”s like my childhood vomited nostalgia all over these poor actors. There”s the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, the murderous Lawn Gnomes, Doctor Shock, The Executioner, the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Mummy! The gang”s all here.
#4: I shouldn”t have Googled ‘When did Werewolf of Fever Swamp Come Out?” because the answer is 1993 and now I can feel the icy grip of death on my neck. I”m old. So old.
#5: Wait, who are these scrubs? Ghouls? The frozen undead? Must have been after my time.
#6: Oh no. The Haunted Mask is here. I”m having flashbacks to pre-adolescent night terrors. Thanks for the lingering trauma and crippling inability to wear a rubber mask, Teen Nick.
#7: Maybe I should just thank Deborah Forte instead, since she”s here? This woman produced 74 episodes of the “Goosebumps” TV series from 1995-1998. Should I send her my therapy bill?
#8: Converting an episodic entity like “Goosebumps” into a movie was apparently tricker than it looked. Wait. Did I hear that right? Forte just said the breakthrough came when they landed on the idea of monsters being released from their books and causing havoc, with Slappy orchestrating it all. Slappy. No. Nononononono.
#9: This is my worst nightmare. Slappy the Dummy is in the room and he is talking to me. Staring at me with those soulless painted-on eyes. My adult brain knows Avery L. Jones is in control as the puppeteer, but my illogical monkey brain is in fear for my life.
#10: Jones is a little TOO good at this. I”m talking to Slappy like he”s a person. I can only imagine this is what it”s like to attempt a conversation with an actor that”s gone “full method.”
#11: The publicist wants me to get a picture with Slappy? This sounds like a clever ruse in order to have my face on file when the Dummy uprising commences. But if I decline, Slappy will know I”m on to him. Better to play it cool.
#12: Nailed it.
#13: Phew. Jack Black is aware that he looks and sounds nothing like R.L. Stine.
#14: Black is managing to spill the secrets publicist has been dancing around. Not one care given. ‘The premise of the film is all of R.L. Stine”s characters actually exist and can be released if he opens the original manuscripts. It”s sort of an enchantment. He”s the guardian of these creatures that he”s created and he has to keep them under lock and key.”
#15: We”re finally going to watch them film a scene? Whoo! Oh wait, no. There”s a craft services table. We have to stop! We”re not stopping. This is a crime against decency. Come back sandwiches cut into adorable triangles!!
#16: I don”t know why all the character actors are in full make-up, Vogue-ing for the camera in front of a green screen and I don”t care. Practical effects are fabulous.
#17: Oh, it”s probably for the posters. Movie magic!
#18: Sitting in a director”s chair, watching them film a scenes, and wearing ‘ears” to hear the actors say their lines will never not be cool. NEVER.
#19: But the waiting around is so boring. Oh my God, let”s gooooooo!
#20: Ryan Lee”s character is really committed to Sparkle Motion™, screaming at empty air over and over again before being tackled out of frame by Dylan Minnette.
#21: Whose tiny precious children are these? Why are they playing in here? Oh, they belong to director Rob Letterman. That makes sense.
#22: Ryan Lee may be young, but he”s very pro-practical effects. ‘It”s a lot easier to act in something that”s actually there. When I did “Super 8” it was a tennis ball the whole entire time.”
#23: Well, good-bye cruel world. I must shuck my mortal coil. All three kids – Ryan Lee, Odeya Rush, and Dylan Minette – only knew Jack Black from “School of Rock” prior to this movie.
#24: The actors are probably still talking, but all I can think about is my own mortality and inexorable march of time towards the heat death of the universe.
#25: Odeya Rush brings me back from the brink by taking after her on-screen dad, dropping plot bombs without warning. ‘I play Mr. Shivers” daughter. Mr. Shivers is really R.L. Stine and he goes through many identities, and moving to different places. I”m home schooled. I don”t have many friends. I”m kind of secluded and my dad doesn”t let me go out much or meet people.”
#26: Something is fishy about Rush”s character. Everyone is being super cagey about it.
#27: Director Rob Letterman is really in love with the old Amblin movies and how they balanced scares and laughs. ‘I don”t think Amblin really thought of those movies as kids” movies or family movies back then. They were just movies.”
#28: Oh God, Letterman was first exposed to “Goosebumps” back in the 90s when Spielberg was after the property. You feel that? It”s the winds of time.
#29: What do you mean the movie wasn”t allowed to copy the “Goosebumps” cover art for the monsters? Ughhhh, copyright.
#30: Letterman didn”t reach out to Ryan Gosling – who starred in the “Goosebumps” TV episode ‘Say Cheese and Die” – because he couldn”t handle the rejection. He may be joking, but I hope he”s not.
#31: The publicist just suggested going outside to look at the carnival they built in the woods. Despite involving the words “outside” and “woods,” I agree to this plan.
#32: I immediately regret this plan.
#33: Building outdoor sets in the Georgia summer means construction equipment turns the ground to muddy sludge from which no man or woman can escape.
#34: Fare thee well, shoe stuck in the mud. You join Artax in the Great Beyond. Haha, just kidding. Never give up. Never surrender.
#35: Okay, this definitely feels like a place local teens turn up murdered. A decrepit ferris wheel is looming over the tree line. Several dilapidated buildings are scattered throughout this small clearing. One is gaping maw of a clown”s mouth, one is an abandoned food stand. Little details like bench seating and flower pots, all covered in “old growth,” add to the illusion that we have truly stumbled upon a forgotten carnival. Neat.
#36: Hey I wonder what happens if I touch this thing on the table…Oh God. I broke it. Be cool. Walk away. Act natural. Don”t look back. They”ll never know.
#37: Grass is a great natural shoe cleaner!
#38: Dammit, now my shoes are green.
#39: Aw yeah, we”re going to watch them film another scene. Wait. No. It”s a Slappy scene. DO NOT WANT.
#40: He is really creepy. Keep it together. You are a professional.
#41: It”s over! I survived!
#42: NO I DON”T WANT TO LOOK AT SLAPPY AGAIN THANKS I”LL BE IN THE VAN.