The New Goosebumps Show Looks Like They're Finally Getting The Books Right

One of the many shameful losses during the (not so) great Disney+ purge of 2023 was "Just Beyond," the anthology series based on R.L. Stine's graphic novel property of the same name. Created by Seth Grahame-Smith ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"), the genre-blending show is probably the closest anyone's come to creating a worthy tween-friendly successor to "The Twilight Zone," complete with its dark satire and profound mediation on topics such as love, loss, and mortality.

"Just Beyond" might have also made for a nice companion piece to the streamer's incoming "Goosebumps," itself the latest screen adaptation of Stine's mega-popular "spoopy" book series. Having previously been adapted as a live-action TV series that ran from 1995 to 1998, the property made the leap to the big screen with the 2015 "Goosebumps" film, which was followed by a sequel three years later. 

Both iterations of the franchise have their merits. The '90s show did an admirable job balancing its scares with laughs like Stine's novels, whereas the 2015 film added the inventive meta-twist of casting Jack Black as a fictional version of Stine whose creepy creations literally manifest themselves in the real world unless he writes them down. The only problem? Neither of them is what you would call legitimately frightening, unlike Stine's books.

This is where the Disney+ series comes in. As you see from the show's trailer embedded below, Disney's "Goosebumps" seems to be leaning heavier on the horror aspect of the franchise, from its ominous color palette to a story that involves the vengeful ghost of a dead teenager hunting down the high schoolers whose parents were somehow connected to their untimely demise. So, basically, it's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" but with more humor and nothing too inappropriate for the whole family to watch.

Viewer beware, you're in for a scare

Disney's "Goosebumps" was developed by "Goosebumps" film director Rob Letterman and "The Muppets" helmer Nicholas Stoller, both of whom are also acting as executive producers. For Letterman, it appears the show may represent his attempt to make a "Goosebumps" adaptation that's simply more faithful to the spirit of Stine's source material (again, no disrespect to the 2015 film; it's a perfectly decent horror-comedy for kids taken on its own). The pair have even cast Justin Long, himself something of a modern "Scream King" thanks to his roles in films like "Drag Me to Hell," "Tusk," and "Barbarian."

Already, the new "Goosebumps" series seems to have worked around the obstacles that tripped up previous adaptations. In the case of the '90s TV show, the series would typically compress each of Stine's stories into a roughly 22-minute episode, which was barely enough time for them to do proper justice to the original books. The 2015 film and its sequel, on the other hand, both involved multiple monsters from the books being set loose and wreaking havoc on the real world together. It's a fun premise, but also one that you can only do so many times (really only once) before it gets tired.

Wisely, however, the Disney+ show is taking a different route that involves mixing and matching elements from the books ("Say Cheese and Die!" and "Night of the Living Dummy" are both referenced during its trailer) as part of an original story. It recalls Mike Flanagan's approach to "The Haunting," where each season honors the themes and spirit of their literary sources while telling a mostly brand-new spooky tale. If "Goosebumps" can do the same, Disney might just have a worthy addition to its streaming library.

"Goosebumps" hits Disney+ and Hulu on October 13, 2023.