‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Review: Teen Fright Fest Feels Nostalgic But Not Quite Terrifying

Here’s our review of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ as the horror film based on the popular book series hits theaters this weekend…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Growing up in the 1980’s any kid who loved horror films probably also read the trilogy of books titled ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’.

The popular anthology collection cobbled together a series of urban legends and original stories that were scary enough for kids but not too terrifying that the author would have outraged parents carrying around pitchforks and torches.

The new film ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ cashes in on that book series with the movie version opening in theaters this weekend.

Fans of the original books will recognize some of the tales that unravel in the movie and it will serve as a reminder of those childhood days when those were the scariest stories you had ever read. The movie does a good job interweaving those original stories with a dash of new flavor because the film isn’t an anthology like ‘Creepshow’ but it feels like that at times given the various death scenes.

In a time where shows like ‘Stranger Things’ are capturing the imaginations of people who were coming of age in the 1980’s along with a new group of fans thirsty for a taste of nostalgia, it’s not a surprise that somebody decided to take a stab at ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’.

With a prolific director like Guillermo Del Toro on board as a producer, the film definitely had the right pieces in place to be a success.

The film definitely ticks all those nostalgia boxes, especially if you’ve had time to go back and read the original books again before sitting down in the theater. This movie might make you jump but you won’t be too frightened but that’s kind of the point with a horror film aimed at a younger audience.

If you’re looking for a movie to make you feel young again as an adult or an age appropriate horror film for the kids that won’t have them waking up in a cold sweat fearful that a killer clown is creeping up from under their beds or a doll sitting in the corner might come to life and get them, this is the movie for you.

With that said, let’s get to our full review for ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’…

PLOT

It’s 1968 and a geeky group of teenage kids are heading out for trick or treating on Halloween night but they also have a different agenda. After being picked on by the leader of the local jocks for more years than they can remember, the outcasts plot some revenge by stuffing a candy sack with dirty laundry before launching a flaming bag of poop into the bully’s car.

A chase leads to a run in with a stranger new in town before the kids all decide to cap off their Halloween with a trip to a haunted house famous in these parts after several children reportedly went missing here years earlier.

Once inside, the group separates to do some exploring before Stella (played by Zoe Colletti) discovers a book that allegedly belonged to a girl who lived in the house but was kept under lock and key by her parents, never to see the outside world, and she finally hung herself by her own hair as a means of escape. Now this tortured girl supposedly haunts this house but she will tell a scary story to any kids who come inside and ask, which is exactly what Stella decides to do.

Needless to say, asking for a scary story and taking the book out of the house has disastrous consequences for everybody involved, which leads to a series of mortifying encounters that follow these kids wherever they go. It’s up to them to figure out how to stop the book from killing them before it’s too late!

ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT

Tonally, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ feels genuine to the original tales from the book, especially with a couple of the horrific creatures coming after the kids. The script isn’t exactly filled with mind blowing dialogue but then again you probably shouldn’t expect that with a movie aimed at younger audiences.

There are still a few fun twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout, although the plot itself isn’t that difficult to decipher.

The cast in the film does a great job of displaying the necessary amounts of terror throughout this scary affair. Zoe Colletti is a pretty obvious breakout star from this cast — think of her as the Millie Bobby Brown of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’. It won’t be long before she’s battling back offers for a number of summer blockbusters or perhaps a role in a future Marvel movie. She’s already starring in a hugely dramatic role in the Showtime series ‘City on a Hill’.

The rest of the kids involved also do a great job overall but it’s somewhat disappointing that talented actors like Dean Norris are largely window dressing without really adding much to the movie.

Overall, the cast, script and the direction are good enough, although one viewing of this movie will make you wish Guillermo Del Toro had taken this on as a personal project to write and direct rather than just serving as a producer on the film.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?

‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ caters to a teen crowd so you can’t expect a serious thrill ride watching this movie like you would walking into ‘IT: Chapter Two’ but it feels like there could have been a few more moments on tap to at least make you jump in your seat.

It also takes quite a while for the movie to really get to the bulk of the plot involving the book that writes the stories with a killer ending. It almost felt like the movie should have gotten to that much quicker to then give more time to the run and hide aspects of a traditional horror film.

Finally, one of the best parts of the original books were that each story stood alone and you could pick and choose your favorites. In the film, everything is kind of mashed together — there’s a ghost story right next to an urban legend, which is seated by an old school slasher — it’s not a bad combination but almost overwhelming when trying to figure out what kind of scary movie this is supposed to be.

FINAL VERDICT

‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is a watchable teen horror movie that doesn’t go over the top with too much gore but don’t go to the theater expecting to be truly frightened. It’s a blend of nostalgia and subtle scares that will take you back to the original books while hopefully convincing a new generation of kids to pick them up for the first time.

‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ gets 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale.

 

 

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