R.L. Stine Show on Hulu and Disney+

Readers beware, you’re in for a new take on Goosebumps scares.

The popular R.L. Stine gateway horror books are now an anthology series which interweaves familiar monsters and spooky lore into a new terrifying tale, with a new group of teens at its center. Classics like The Haunted Mask and Say Cheese and Die! become interconnected threads that tie into the mystery of the Biddle house over one Halloween night—and the mysterious puppet figure possibly pulling the strings. Yes, Slappy is back, y’all!

Streaming on Hulu and Disney+, the new show is executive produced by Pavun Shetty (The Boys) and Conor Welch (Platonic), who chatted with io9 about the series.

Sabina Graves, io9: What inspired this re-imagining of Goosebumps? I love that it’s not just an anthology of singular episodes based on each book, but actually interlocks a story that weaves together all these awesome icons.

Conor Welch: [We] both grew up on the book series. For me, it was sort of the first that felt like reading for pleasure as opposed to for homework. My oldest daughter now is deep in the series as well. So it’s exciting to sort of re-explore some of the classics and see how excited she can be about it in the same way that I was 30 years ago. It was great to have a property that we both enjoyed and for the first time ever be a part of a show that [she] could watch as well. The previous television series and the book series are anthological; each stand alone as its own story with its own characters. For us, it was important that this felt truly like a premium television show, where you kept an audience coming back for more and wondering what was going to happen next. By virtue of that, we really wanted a serialized mystery, but still wanted to incorporate elements from some of the most iconic books in the canon. And so the first five episodes are based on five separate books, and those introduced five of our main high school characters who overlap at a Halloween party, each finding a totem from those books that will haunt them in about halfway through the series. They realize these are probably connected, and then this kind of disparate group of kids has to come together to to solve the mystery and save themselves and the town, basically.

io9: I love that Halloween party setup, but also the casting is so fantastic. I do have to admit, though, as soon as I saw Justin Long, I was like, “Ooh, he’s in danger.”

Pavun Shetty: The books are very scary but they’re also very funny. That’s in the DNA of the books; R.L. Stine made sure that when anything got a little bit too intense, he would temper it with a joke. And so we always knew we wanted to do a comedy thriller. In order to do that successfully, you need to have actors that can sort of transition between comedy and horror pretty seamlessly. And there’s no one that does that better than Justin Long. As you mentioned, he was just coming off Barbarian and he’s done plenty of comedies and coming-of-age comedy, so he’s kind of the perfect person to do this. He was one of the first people that we cast, but then we made sure that every role really had actors who could do both comedy and drama. 

io9: Let’s talk about sort of the reimagining Slappy, because he’s such an iconic Goosebumps character. There’s obviously the book version, the ‘90s show version, and now this. What was important for you to honor about his lore, but also make it new?

Welch: He is the most iconic character in the entire canon. So it was important to us not to deviate too far, but also to update it. We went through a lot of different models and imaginings of what our version could look like, and we wanted it to be properly scary but feel contemporary and new.

Shetty:  I think Slappy in particular is memorable and specifically scary because he’s a ventriloquist doll. Those, by design, are taking someone else’s voice and [making it come] through their mouth—but it’s a comedy bit usually. When a doll talks on its own, it immediately becomes terrifying. Those two things together, only a ventriloquist dummy could harness. And so Slappy is just that idea just on steroids.

io9: I think there’s this misconception that horror for kids has to be tamed in a certain way. But I love that the show does not hold back with certainly a lot of the horror elements. What’s important to you in regards to making gateway horror that will toe that line between a little too scary—but enough to really indoctrinate the next generation of horror fans into the genre?

Welch: Our intention here was to be surprising and unexpected, where sometimes tension would build towards what you think would be a scare—and instead it was a punch line. And likewise, when you thought you were getting a joke—maybe you were getting a jump scare. What R.L. Stine did so well was really push the limits of what kids could handle in terms of the horror genre, but cut it with some levity and cut it with some humor so that they continue to come back for more. So that was sort of our North Star—never getting too scary and tipping into gory, certainly, and never getting too edgy as to be inappropriate, but trying to toe that line at every turn.

Shetty: And these kids, you know, they’re dealing with haunted masks and possessed teachers and giant worms. But we always joke that, like, the scariest thing is actually being a high school teen today. It’s way scarier than any of that.

io9: You mentioned R.L. Stine. What was his involvement with this iteration of the project, and has he seen it and given thoughts yet?

Shetty: We wouldn’t have done the show had he not given us his blessing—there’s no way because we grew up on the books. He was great with the show and he read scripts and he watched cuts. It was very scary for us because we wanted to make sure he liked what we did. When we got the email after he watched the first episode that he really liked it, that was a huge weight off our shoulders because we’re always thinking about what what he would have done. But yeah, he was very involved and that’s what made it so great.

io9: Are there Easter eggs or is there a cameo you can tease for Stine fans?

Welch: We definitely peppered in some unexpected things for fans of the books all along the way, especially in the second half of the season including involvement of some authors perhaps. But yeah we have access luckily from Scholastic and Stine to all of the books. We only scratched the surface of that here on season one. So the intention and hope is that we get to continue with these same characters through many episodes and many seasons to come.

Watch Goosebumps streaming October 13 on Hulu and Disney+

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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