Like the 2015 original, this sequel might share a name with the popular R.L. Stine series of supernatural tales, but its real DNA is pure Hollywood. In the town of Wardenclyffe—home to one of Nikola Tesla’s most significant experiments, as we’re reminded repeatedly—middle-schoolers Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) discover a book while scavenging in an abandoned house, and unwittingly set loose living dummy Slappy and a slew of other creatures on Halloween. Rob Lieber’s script offers a few faint hand waves to actual character issues like Sonny and Sam being bullied, or Sonny’s older sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) experiencing both college-application writer’s block and boy troubles. But mostly it’s another Jumanji-esque tornado of CGI menaces—like a bowl full of Gummi Bears metastasizing into giant-size sugary beasts—that need to offer enough challenge to fill out 90 minutes. It’s moderately diverting matinee stuff, never particularly clever nor particularly dumb, and certainly never particularly scary. When the biggest potential threat is whether or not Sarah will get into an Ivy League school, it’s hard to look at it as anything more than first-world terrors.
Director: Ari Sandel
Producer: Deborah Forte, Neal H. Moritz, Timothy Bourne and Tania Landau
Cast: Madison Iseman, Jeremy Taylor, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Caleel Harris, Chris Parnell and Ken Jeong