Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark review
If there's something that can define the childhood of those that grew up in the 80's or 90's, is that they were filled with a lot of dark and scary stories. We had animated movies like The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail, we had live action movies like The Witches and Return to Oz, and we even had books like the Goosebumps series. Though I don't have a reason why this era was the highpoint for dark children's stories, there is an idea that we forget just how much children can take. After all, they play violent video games and still make believe about zombies and monsters.
One such book I remember reading was "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark". Unlike the Goosebumps books which were more like tamed episodes of The Twilight Zone, "Scary Stories" not only had more unnerving urban legends, but the illustrations were grotesque and seemed like something out of a nightmare. I myself found the images so scary I refused to read them before bedtime. Their black and white drawings of body parts and scarecrows have made the book controversial and have made it even more desirable for older children. So let see if the movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark can bring back an old nightmare.
Set within the 1960s, a group of teenagers are getting ready for a Halloween night of trick or treating; aspiring writer Stella (played by Zoe Colletti), Augie (played by Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (played by Austin Zajur). They pull a prank on a school bully and escape into a drive-in where they hide in the car of a loner teen Ramón (played by Michael Garza). They all go explore a local house that's rumored to be haunted. Stella finds a secret room where she discovers a book of "Scary Stories" written by Sarah Bellows, the previous tenet of the house.
When she gets home, she reads a scarecrow story called "Harold". She and Ramón discover that the not only has the same bully gone missing, but see a suspicious scarecrow that resembles the one she read about. They dismiss it as a coincidence until she then reads "The Big Toe" and realizes that Chuck's name is in it. Other stories like "The Red Spot", "The Pale Lady" and "Me Tie Dough-ty Walker" reveal their names as the kids race against the clock from these monsters coming to killing them.
It might seem easy to compare Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to Goosebumps from 2015. There are some big differences. First, there's actual intention to scare as the monsters here are absolutely terrifying. I don't want to spoil much, but based on what I remember from my childhood, it feels like they took exactly what was drawn and given them a three dimensional design that I'm sure will induce new nightmares. Plus unlike Goosebumps, which tried to be more whimsical, Scary Stories is unnerving… and I mean that in a good way.
Does that mean that Scary Stories is flawless? I can't say that. Whenever it does retell the short stories, the movie is great and does give me that jitter that I felt when I was nine. When the movie tells it main story, it has some trouble. I'm not sure if there was script issues or if something was lost in editing, because there are a lot of moments where characters side plots and even personality quirks seem to come and go for no reason. There's a moment where a character worries about a red room again, even though I don't remember if he brought it up before.
I'm torn because the movie is great is parts, but has a lot of filler your not interested in while your waiting for the stories to start. It's a lot like an anthology movie, like Creepshow, but with a plot that tries to connect them, similar to Heavy Metal. Is it as disjointed as Heavy Metal? No. In fact, even it's larger story seems fascinating. I realty want to know how much was cut out as I have a feeling that much was trimmed in order to make it more family friendly.
I'll give this three and a half books of Scary Stories out of five. I can see this being a fun Halloween staple (why they put this out in August? Who knows) regardless and I can even admit to likely watching it again because of that. It'll certainly be satisfying for adults and older kids. As for younger kids, I'd say those over ten, but even they need to at least be mature. Give it a watch and see the beauty of the shorts against a larger weaker story.