Published on August 8th, 2019 | by Michael Newman0
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
I was introduced to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (the amazing book series written by Alvin Schwartz back in 1981) in my Junior High history class. An odd place for sure to listen to this amazing collection of stories, and yet it displayed how these stories are impactful even if you aren’t reading them around a campfire in the middle of the woods. Schwartz had written two additional sequels to his stories in 1984 and 1991 and the incredibly creepy illustrations (by Stephen Gammell) helped to complete a collection of books that are at home in anyone’s collection both young and old.
The 80’s was a decade obsessed with the occult and works of fiction that parents thought were written to corrupt the minds of the youth of the age. Before video games were blamed for all the evil in the world there was Heavy Metal music, the fantastical role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and books such as these that parents rallied around and attempted to ban from schools and after school functions. Looking back now at the hysteria that this caused is almost laughable, but for those of us growing up in that time it was a very real threat to the imaginations of youth around the globe. Outside of this brief history lesson however, I wondered how the books would translate into a movie.
Our story begins on Halloween night, the year is 1968 and the Vietnam War and the upcoming presidential elections are on everyone’s mind. Stella (Zoe Colletti) and her nerd friends Chuck (Austin Zajur) and Auggie (Gabriel Rush) decide that this will be the year that they get revenge on the local bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) for all his years of stealing candy from them on Halloween. After things go predictably wrong, the young group of kids are pursued to a drive-in theater where they seek refuge in a car that is owned by another out-of-town youngster named Ramon (Michael Garza). As thanks for “saving” them from a certain beating, Stella and the group decide to take Ramon to a real-life haunted house. A place where a young Sarah Bellows would tell stories to frighten children only for them to end up dead days later. While exploring the house the young group discover the hidden room of young Sarah Bellows and come across her book of “Scary Stories”. Unable to contain her own curiosity, Stella takes the book home with her and watches as the words on the pages turn into living nightmares of their own darkest fears.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, Scary Stories takes a handful of fan favorites and weaves them into a “scary” story of their very own. Instead of simply being a collection of haunting tales, each one serves a purpose, whether it’s the “Red Dot” or “Harold”, each one is used to drive the story even further along. While at first, I was hoping that it would be a collection of short stories featuring these timeless classics, the way in which each individual story progresses the plot leads to a far more interesting experience overall.
Those looking for a movie filled with frightening tales that will have you reaching for the closest shoulder (whether you know who it belongs to or not) will be in for a bit of disappointment. That’s not to take away from the incredible amount of vision needed to bring these classic stories to life, but it takes on a far more contemporary feel, then the dark stories and supernatural visions of the books that came before it. The film comes away feeling more like Goosebumps and less like Freakshow which makes sense given its PG-13 rating and its obvious pre-teen to teen demographic. The movie is still fun however, particularly for those who fondly remember the stories from their youth and is one that will proudly sit beside the likes of Hocus Pocus when it comes to network television down the road as part of its likely Halloween line-up.
4 out of 5 stars