SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK REVIEW
Starring: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, & Austin Zajur
Directed By: Andre Ovredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe)
Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
I remember this series of books as a kid.I don’t necessarily remember any of the stories, but I remember the art work.The horrifying images and illustrations in these books got them banned in schools and libraries across the country in the late 80s and early 90s.They weren’t graphic images or cartoons.They were just really scary drawings of scarecrows, werewolves, and more.
This movie uses a group of kids who find a book of scary stories to dive into the famous stories kids read years ago. The book mysteriously writes its own stories on the fly, ending in doom for one kid in the group.Sort of like a Nightmare on Elm Street thing, if you die in the story, you die in real life.
Scary Stories expertly recreates in imagery from the books, using the careful hand of Guillermo Del Toro as producer.He loves all things horror and his name being attached lends significant gravitas to a movie like this.
Our movie takes place in 1968, a group of kids bust into a house they believe to be haunted.It’s that house in the neighborhood.Boarded up.Dark.Abandoned.Every neighborhood had one growing up.Kids run away from it.Throw rocks at it.In this case, our band of kids, break in, wind their way through the halls and steal a book of stories.Stella, an aspiring writer, keeps the book as inspiration and notices it begin to work on its own.
The kids in this movie are fun, they have a good report as you’d expect.They do a fine job of scaring each other and getting scared.Stella is a typical bookish brunette with glasses.A little stereotypical, but it works here.
The group also includes Ramon, a mysterious Hispanic kid.Auggie and Chuck, two BFFs who are always together.Chuck’s sister, Natalie, the dolled up beauty queen.The cast act a little one note at first, but are given significant time to grow throughout the movie.
Scary Stories really does act as a roller coaster.It takes its time laying the ground work, it slowly builds, then rushes you downhill scaring you.Then it spends a few scenes where the kids scream “What just happened”?Then it repeats the cycle over again.
We so often talk about the two different ways to review a horror movie on the show.The first is as a normal movie, devoid of genre.On that level, this movie is a little hokey.You can see everything coming from a mile away.It isn’t grotesque, and that’s nice.But it doesn’t transcend the genre by any means.
The second way to review a horror movie is as a horror movie.Don’t worry about its artistic appeal, did it achieve what it set out to do.In that aspect I think it succeeds in a lot of ways.This is a perfect addition to Freeform’s Thirty Days of Halloween lineup.It’s a great flick for tweens who are too old for Hocus Pocus but not old enough for a slasher movie like Halloween.It’s not as concerned with being cute and funny like Stranger Things or some of the 80s movies you might compare it to like Monster Squad or something of that nature.It genuinely tries to scare its audience.And for kids who haven’t seen a ton of older movies yet, this will probably do the trick.
I liked it.I didn’t love it.The pacing grew to bother me.I wanted more stories from the book.I wanted more scares.There’s too much character development in-between scenes for me.I don’t need Ramon’s background.I don’t need to know everyone’s sad home dynamic.Just tell me a scary story.When it was doing that, I think it was really solid.
If you remove the movie Us from the equation, it’s been a rather unimpressive year for horror movies.This is actually one of the better entries.It didn’t deliver the non-stop chills I was looking for, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a well thought out journey into a world of horror literature.
On a scale of “See It/Stream It/Skip It” – Stream It – Watch it for free on cable.Don’t even rent it.Unless you have a kid the exact age for this movie. Junior High.Got a kid at that age having a Halloween party.This is the movie for them.
If you liked Monster Squad, Goosebumps, or Creepshow you might enjoy Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
2.5 out of 5 stars for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.I liked quite a few things about this, there’s some things I didn’t care for as well.I recommend it to you, but barely.