R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” book series stands as an influential cornerstone in the realm of children’s horror literature. It significantly contributed to shaping and fostering generations of horror enthusiasts by making the genre accessible and suitable for young readers. Since its publication in 1992, these books have solidified their status as a vital component of the horror genre, resonating deeply with audiences and maintaining consistent popularity. The series expanded its success through a 90s television adaptation and two feature films, released in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

Under the guidance of Rob Letterman, the director of the initial “Goosebumps” feature film, Disney+ and Hulu have introduced a new “Goosebumps” series. This fresh iteration promises to reintroduce beloved elements and adventures to a new audience. The series maintains the essence of “Goosebumps” by exploring fears commonly experienced during one’s formative years. The books portray young protagonists in their tween or early teenage years navigating eerie and chilling scenarios, intertwined with supernatural and paranormal elements.

The 2023 iteration, consisting of 10 episodes, premiered fittingly on Friday, Oct. 13 on both streaming services. While maintaining the classic formula of conquering fears, this series pays homage to nostalgic elements such as the haunted mask, creepy worms, the clock of doom, the cursed camera, an eerie basement and the iconic slime.

This latest series stands out with its modernized approach, appealing to a broader demographic and particularly targeting today’s digitally immersed teenagers and young adults. While appearing as a typical teen-oriented show, it distinguishes itself by referencing the original source material. For ardent followers of the long-standing series, the numerous adaptations might seem overwhelming. However, this fresh iteration holds its ground as it aligns with the contemporary world, while recognizing that fear remains a timeless aspect.

Upon first glance at the series, viewers may notice that the titles of episodes have been taken directly from five book titles and referenced in the series. Despite the setting being in the current year, there are frequent shifts between the past and present. To set up the storyline, the series commences against the backdrop of 1993. We are introduced to the “main antagonist” in the series, Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell), as he enters his home. Recently moving to Port Lawrence after his family inherited his Great-grandfather Ephraim’s home, Harold, who was often bullied and considered a loner in his previous school, continued to struggle socially, which worried his parents. During a routine evening in the basement, a series of unsettling events unfolds, culminating in a tragic accident as he seeks refuge from unexplained disturbances, resulting in a fatal fire.

The “Biddle House,” named so for the 30 years that have passed since the fatal fire, will serve as the focal point for the series’ unfolding events. The initial five episodes, set on Halloween day, introduces us to various individuals from the fictional town of Port Lawrence, particularly focusing on five students from Port Lawrence High School. Though briefly acquainted, their lives do not intersect until a last-minute change-of-venue relocates a Halloween party to the abandoned Biddle House. Through interwoven storylines, the series combines elements of adult conflicts, teenage drama and mysterious events involving the adults in the series.

Throughout the series, you’ll witness Isaiah (Zack Morris), the star quarterback, grappling with immense pressure to secure a college football scholarship, compounded by added stress from his father, Ben; his best friend, James (Miles Mckenna), the class clown who strives to be well-liked; Margot (Isa Briones), a childhood friend and next-door neighbor of Isaiah, facing tension due to Isaiah’s girlfriend and suspects there is secrets in her family; Isabella (Amma Yi Puig), the school videographer who feels unseen and reacts with reckless behavior; and Lucas (Will Price), coping with his father’s death, engaging in risky behavior, causing concern to his mother, Nora.

The approach to videography creates an unapologetically dark and dimly lit atmosphere, effectively capturing the mysterious essence and deeper meanings behind the references to Goosebumps. Similar to many typical young adult shows, this series offers a glimpse into the lives of its characters, showcasing their complex realities filled with everyday teenage problems, including relationship struggles, awkward love triangles, frustration, teenage rebellion, and concerned, secretive parents.

Additionally, the show explores more mature themes that move away from the pure, carefree fun and creativity known in “Goosebumps.” Set in the scenic yet foggy, coastal town of Port Lawrence, the characters present youth in a melodramatic light. The series incorporates all the stereotypical character archetypes imaginable, featuring the jock, nerd, class clown, loner and rebellious personalities.

Some viewers might perceive the series as lacking depth, as it tackles various themes while drawing references from “Goosebumps,” which may make it seem generic and similar to other TV series aimed at young adults. Its music, videography, and dialogue elements align with its intended direction of a generic young adult series. While it only encapsulates a fraction of the essence of “Goosebumps,” it skillfully portrays the horrors from that realm while also relating it to the many other contemporary experiences taking place in the individual lives of the characters. Nonetheless, the series effectively provides entertainment and can influence teenagers and young adults to explore the original source material.

Through their dialogue, each character effectively embodies their respective roles. While fear remains a timeless theme and certain elements from “Goosebumps” are integrated, the direction and writing adhere to the familiar narrative structures found in contemporary series production. This includes the portrayal of angsty teens rebelling against their seemingly problematic parents and uniting despite their different social circles. The show takes a departure from the original source material, only lightly referencing it. For those unfamiliar with the original content, this series may prove intriguing as a mystery-oriented young adult show with a touch of supernatural allure. However, long-time enthusiasts of the original source might be disappointed as the series doesn’t exclusively center around “Goosebumps” despite its title. Nevertheless, they might find solace in the familiar elements present and enjoy the captivating blend of drama and mystery, which remains fairly entertaining.

Verdict: “Goosebumps” revises and gives a modern twist to what is referenced from the original source, interconnecting the stories and characters towards a greater purpose set for the finale.