Nina Terrero
July 18, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In an update of the 1990s children’s horror book series, Jack Black stars as R.L. Stine, whose ghoulish creatures are unexpectedly brought to life by a teenage neighbor (former Scandal First Kid Dylan Minnette). Cue up a feature’s worth of kid-approved frights. ”Nothing to me is scarier than someone with a screw loose,” says Black, who took some liberties in playing the best-selling author. ”I made him more of a curmudgeonly, dark, brooding beastmaster.” Luckily, Black won the approval of the real Stine, who has a cameo. ”He was digging it,” says the actor, laughing. ”Or at least he pretended like he was digging it.”

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