A group of kids in a small town awaken the ghost of a local legend, who uses her scary stories to pick them off one by one. Based on the beloved, and terrifying, book series of the same name, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the perfect spooky flick to fright and inspire a new generation of macbre fans. For those who grew up with the books, you’ll definitely enjoy it as well, though you may be left wanting more – which I think speaks more to the quality of books, than this film lacking.
On Halloween night, inspiring young writer Stella (Zoe Colletti) meets up with her two best friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Tommy (Austin Abrams). Thought to be the last time they can get away with trick-or-treating, they try to make the most of it. They meet Ramón (Michael Garza), a mysterious drifter passing through who connects with Stella due to their mutual love of horror movies. She thinks it would be fun to take him to the local haunted house, telling him the legend of the family who once lived there.
The legend says that the Bellows – one of the first families in their town – kept their daughter Sarah locked up, hidden from the world. She poured her energy into writing scary stories, which children would then listen to her tell through the walls. Though shortly after, the kids would then mysteriously die, leading the town to believe Sarah was poisoning them.
When Stella discovers Sarah’s book of scary stories, she becomes convinced the legend is true. Curious to prove it, she asks Sarah to tell her a scary story, awakening the spirit. Over the next several days, stories begin to write themselves within the book, bringing the ghouls to life. Stella must find a way to stop Sarah from writing more stories before the creatures take her friends – and her.
Like so many others, the Scary Stories books were my first real introduction into the horror world. With nightmare-enducing illustrations, the tales were ones that have stuck with me since. When it was announced that film rights had been secured for the books, I was curious to know how they would develop a cohesive movie from 82 short stories. I had also been thoroughly disappointed in the film adapation of Goosebumps, after the spooky tales were turned into a very hokey family film.
Once Guillermo del Toro was attached to develop the story and act as a producer, I knew this film would be wildly different than Goosebumps (2015) and really elevate the horror aspects and do it justice. Alongside director André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe), this film captures the moody essence of the books, bringing to life some of its creepiest monsters, including “The Big Toe” hauntingly portrayed by Javier Botet.
Some moments in the film were downright terrifying, and they really spared no expense with their PG-13 rating, going for all the scares they could. It felt very adult in the way it tackled the horror elements, with Stephen Gammell‘s illustrations being brought to life to a T. My only real complaint of the film is that time with those creatures felt short for some, and perhaps a little underutilized. They either needed a bit more screentime, or one or two additional ghouls. It could have taken the place of some of the filler backstory, that was unnecessary. Such as Stella dealing with her mother’s abandonment. There simply wasn’t a purpose to this and it felt forced for us to feel symptahy for her.
Overall, I aboslutley loved the film. I felt it really delivered in its adaption from book to screen, considering it had so much to work with. This is a great film for younger audiences as well, and I know teen Jordy would have been beyond obsessed with this. With an open ending, I definitely would be happy to see More Scary Stories.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now in theaters!