Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is actually a children’s book series written in 1981 by Alvin Schwartz and contained creepy illustrations by Stephen Gammell. According to the American Library Association it is the most challenged book from the 1990s on school library shelves, due to the subject matter such as murder, disfigurement, and cannibalism as well as the creepy artwork I mentioned earlier. Defenders of the book series say it is aimed at middle school kids or older who are aptly able to cope with this type of content. Watching this movie, I could tell, this horror was aimed at young adults, sort of like the popular Goosebumps movies and television shows except a little scarier in my opinion.
The movie takes place in 1968 small town America. A small group of kids on Halloween Night discover a book that will change their lives forever. They must begin to face their fears in order to save their lives.
As I mentioned before the movie is based on the book but probably not in the way you are probably thinking. The original book was a collection of short stories. The movie does a nice job of creating an over arching narrative that uses the short stories from the book as plot points. Guillermo del Toro helped write the script though the Hageman Brothers are the ones who are actually credited with the screenplay. If you haven’t heard of Guillermo del Toro, you need to rent some of his movies. He has a real unique style and is a good storyteller. The Hagemans are not slouches themselves though I found it interesting that they have written mainly comedies like the Lego Movie. The story is engaging, and they do a good job of interweaving the references to the source material with the main narrative.
There are a lot of practical effects in this movie, which is a hallmark of Guillermo, and it really helps bring up the creepy vibe in this movie. To help enhance the creatures in the movies, each creature’s musical theme is represented by a single type of instrument for their score.
When there are kids involved as actors one always has to hold their breath to see how they will fair, but I am happy to report that the actors do a great job. I was really impressed with the chemistry between Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza. All the cast really does a good job of making their characters believable and for the most part likeable, which I think, is critical to have in a horror movie.
My biggest complaint about this movie is its ending. Everything wrapped up in the end like a nice bow, which I thought, was a little bit of a cop out. It also dropped too obvious of a hint at a sequel as well which I personally think is lazy screenwriting.
Overall, I give this movie a B (A Good Movie). This movie reminds us that scary isn’t about gore and violence but instead tension, which this movie does very well. Interesting enough this movie is not a straight adaption of the books but uses pieces of the books to create a well-crafted narrative. The costume design is well done but this shouldn’t surprise anybody who follows the visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who is a producer on the film as well as one of the people involved in the writing of the script. If you were ever curious if you would like to watch a horror movie, this would be a good one to view because it doesn’t rely so much on gore but instead on what people’s fears are. Its’ main failing is it’s cheesy ending with some sequel baiting. However, in spite of its’ failings, I would recommend this movie to new and old horror fans alike.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is rated PG-13 for terror/violence, thematic elements, language including racial epithets and brief sexual reference. It was directed by Andre Ovredal, while the writing is credited to the writing duo of Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman for the screenplay. This film stars Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, and Gabriel Rush