Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was released in theaters August 9, 2019. It’s a horror film directed by André Øvredal and the screenplay was adapted by Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman from a screen story by producer Guillermo del Toro. Now, the minute I hear del Toro, I know I’m in for a ride.
Best part? It’s based off the iconic children’s book series of the same name by Alvin Schwartz. The movie features several stories from the book series that are used to murder teenagers across the small Pennsylvanian town of Mill Valley.
So, let’s hop into the review. Need I say it? Yes? Okay, SPOILER ALERT!!! You have been warned.
It’s Halloween 1968 and three teen friends, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) prank town bully Tommy (Austin Abrams). Yes, it’s the sixties and it’s a small town. Of course there’s going to be a town bully that all the kids fear. The prank itself is actually pretty funny, albeit gross. Angry, Tommy and his henchmen chase them down to a drive-in movie theater. The kids hop into some dude’s car to hide out. This dude is the other main character, Ramón – a young drifter who just got into town.
Oh, and Tommy is on a date with Chuck’s older sister, Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn), and the date is them driving around with Tommy’s henchmen in the back stealing candy from unsuspecting children. Romantic.
The kids take Ramón to the town’s haunted house which once belonged to the wealthy Bellows family, who helped found Mill Valley. According to legend, Sarah Bellows was locked away in a dark room by her family and told the children of the town scary stories through the wall and killed them. Now, I’m not entirely sure if the legend says that the scary stories she tells is what kills them or if, as later stated, she poisoned them.
So, in the house, they find an old book in which Sarah wrote her scary stories, and since Stella is a registered horror fanatic, she, of course, steals it. That night, Stella reads the book and finds one with fresh ink, or blood, called “Harold.” The story was about Tommy, and how he became a scarecrow himself.
While at first, Stella is the only one to believe that Tommy is now the scarecrow, and the stories are coming real, the other’s soon realize it is no joke as everyone who entered the house that night start going missing. I feel especially bad for the first person to have survived their story being told – Ruth. She get’s the spider bite one where a whole bunch of spiders are living in her face and explode out of the bite.
It eventually ends on just Stella and Ramón to solve the mystery and stop Sarah from killing them too.
Okay. Overall, a great movie. It reminded me a bit of Goosebumps, the 2015 horror comedy staring Jack Black. Just because the creatures in the book come to life all because some curious kid opened a book they shouldn’t have. But, of course, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is so much better. The entities that come out of the book are downright terrifying. The Pale Lady? Nope. That thing’s face is just…wrong. The thing from “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker”? If that thing were chasing me down the street I’m fairly confident I would have a heart attack and die.
So, the creatures are freaky. We got that. The stories are of course, well, scary, and that’s perfect for a horror movie. Very well done. The story made sense. There was a little side story, sort of, with Nixon running for election and the Vietnam war that ties into the main story a bit.
There’s also a little backstory given on the two main characters – Stella and Ramón, which is nice, which explains their fears and the reason for their story.
Okay, so what bothers me about the film? There’s no ages given to any of the characters, just that the kids were teens and Ramón was young. From what I could assume, Stella, Chuck and Auggie were high school age, but were likely sophomores (so grade ten), as Chuck’s older sister is still in high school. She’s either a junior or a senior. Chuck said that Tommy had done something gross to his milk and made him drink it in the fifth grade, to which Auggie replied that it was the ninth. So they must have left the ninth grade.
Basically, what I’m saying is that those three are fifteen or sixteen. When they first meet Ramón, he and Stella flirt, and continue to do so throughout the movie. But, as we learn, Ramón dodged the draft. That makes him at least eighteen. It just bothers me, the suggestion that an eighteen-year-old is flirting with someone who’s fifteen.
But besides that, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is overall a very good film and is definitely worth the watch. I give it a 8/10 stars. Give it a watch and tell me what you think.