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Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, Halloween night, 1968. After playing a joke on a school bully, Sarah and her friends decide to sneak into a supposedly haunted house that once belonged to the powerful Bellows family, unleashing dark forces that they will be...
Amblin throwbacks are big right now, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark definitely fits that subgenre. And it's a well put together movie too, if a bit low-contrast for most movie screens. It gets a little dark in the theater at times, especially early on. Trollhunter's André Øvredal lets himself be guided by producer Del Toro in the way the book's illustrations are referenced, giving some of the sequences an unreal look, but there are still plenty of thrill and chills regardless. This may be aimed at younger audiences (it's PG horror rather than R), it still has a good creep factor, coupled with compelling young leads involved in a ticking-clock investigation of what's happening to them. An adaptation of a volume of short stories could have had a cursory frame tale and felt like an anthology movie. Not the case. The stories written in blood are part of the plot - that item you pick up in Cabin in the Woods that sets everything in motion - with a stable cast of characters to care about even as the book's monsters come out of the woodwork to chase them. Nice themes going on as well, Nixon's 1968 election going on in the background relating to the secrets of the antagonist's family, for example.
Wasn't expecting too much going into this film. I LOVED the stories as a kid and really wanted to see how the film handled them. What I felt I ended up with was a typical young-adult horror film trying to reel in viewers based on nostalgia. Throwbacks are all the rage in movies now…
I was really disappointed the way the stories were handled. Unfortunately, these are not film versions of each story - the stories (and the book itself) are part of a larger narrative and are (sort of) the antagonist of the film (ala the Goosebumps movie). I think the only way properly show "Scary Stories" would be through a kind of tv/anthology series showcasing the individual tales. The way it's handled in this movie, viewers don't really grasp the true creepiness and horror the stories gave readers. The scene where really took me out of the movie and felt like I was watching another film.
Then there were your typical tropes which peppered the movie as well: the misfit group of teens, the highschool bully, the evil spirit, etc etc. which didn't bring anything fresh to the movie. And I'm confused as to why politics had to be brought into the movie. Nixon and the Vietnam War are mentioned every now and then but this added nothing to the overall plot.
But there are things I liked. The actress who played Stella was decent. I also commend them for using practical effects for some of the creatures and that it wasn't totally computer animated.
I also commend André Øvredal and the studio for pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. There are some scenes which I considered quite violent/creepy for children. But I have no problem with that. As a kid, my dad would always allow me and my brother to watch his movie collection despite the ratings. That's what got me to love film and helped "toughen" me up when watching R-rated movies. This would be a great "gateway" film to show children if you want to get them into the horror genre :)
Overall, a little disappointed with how the book was handled. If you were a fan of the books, I recommend checking it out to see how some of the stories are shown. Also, a good film to show to kids who are interested in getting into horror movies. If you're looking for a good horror flick yourself, I recommend passing on this one.
You don’t read the book.
The book reads you.
A few years ago there was already the movie “Goosebumps“, based on the stories of R.L. Stine, with the not so funny Jack Black. The only thing I can remember about this film is that an immense amount of figures from that book series were used to make life miserable for the protagonists. Fortunately the film “Scary stories to tell in the dark” doesn’t make the same mistake. This film is based on an iconic series of stories of the same name written by Alvin Schwartz. A series of three bundles, full of scary horror short stories about dark revenge and supernatural events. Books that caused a stir among concerned parents who felt that these stories (and especially the lurid illustrations) weren’t suitable for young children. Well, that’s something that arouses my curiosity.
I myself was a big fan of television horror series such as “The Hitchhiker“, “Tales from the crypt” and “The Twilight Zone” in the 80s. Short stories with a sinister undertone and a scary story. In short, horror for beginners. The same kind of stories are being used in this film. The movie won’t scare a hardcore horror-fan though. It’s all too soft. It’s clear that they aimed at a slightly younger teenage audience. A perfect movie for adolescent boys to watch with their first girlfriend. Hoping that the lovely girl will be so scared to death that she’ll snuggle close to him seeking protection in his arms.
A big name in the film world, Guillermo Del Toro, is a fan of the original “Scary Stories” stories as well and has therefore contributed to this film by working on the script. That means that my expectations were high. The result is a well-cared-for ghost story with a hugely successful 60s setting. Subtle horror with fragments of intense moments. You could clearly feel the influence of the grandmaster himself. Of course, it’s once again situated during the Halloween festivities. The cause of all the misery may not be called earth-shatteringly original. And the way in which the problem is solved is perhaps dull. That means that “Scary stories to tell in the dark” nestles itself in the range of horror films that don’t exceed the average. But that doesn’t mean that you should avoid this film. There are too many positive things to discover for that.
First the acting of the youthful cast. They didn’t do so bad. The gang of teenagers to which Stella (Zoe Margaret Coletti) belongs is as usual a collection of personalities with their own distinctive traits. First of all, you have Stella’s best friends. The phlegmatic Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and scatterbrain Chuck (Austin Zajur). Then you have Tommy (Austin “Paper Towns” Abrams) the chief bully of the village. A good-for-nothing guy who joins the army to fight in Vietnam and who’s actually the cause of the teenagers ending up in the haunted house where Sarah Bellows lived. The only people who accompany them as well are Ramon Morales (Michael Garza), a Mexican boy who tries to avoid something, and Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). These persons are the ones who, after Stella has discovered a lurid book full of horror stories, become victims of their own fears. Personally, I thought the acting performance of Zoe Margaret Coletti and Tommy Miller were the most successful.
Like I said before, the horror moments aren’t terrifying. But “Harold” the scarecrow, “The Big Toe” and “Jangly Man” were the most amusing moments from the series of creeps that showed up. Really such figures that would fit perfectly in a Stephen King’s collection of short stories. And the way the stories manifest themselves in the book was also a nice touch. And finally, I thought the overall atmosphere this film bathed in, was wonderful to see. Oh well, maybe the fact that Stella is portrayed as a misfit and her personal torments about a mother who left the family, was a bit too corny. And in terms of shock effects, it also fell short. However, if you like an entertaining and well-told ghost story, then this “Scary Stories to tell in the dark” is perfect for you.
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