Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Dan Hageman (screenplay by), Kevin Hageman (screenplay by)
Stars: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush
“You don’t read the book. The book reads you.”
A few years ago there was already the movie “Goosebumps“, based on the stories of R.L. Stine, with the not so funny Jack Black. The only thing I can remember about this film is that an immense amount of figures from that book series were used to make life miserable for the protagonists. Fortunately the film “Scary stories to tell in the dark” doesn’t make the same mistake. This film is based on an iconic series of stories of the same name written by Alvin Schwartz. A series of three bundles, full of scary horror short stories about dark revenge and supernatural events. Books that caused a stir among concerned parents who felt that these stories (and especially the lurid illustrations) weren’t suitable for young children. Well, that’s something that arouses my curiosity.
I myself was a big fan of television horror series such as “The Hitchhiker“, “Tales from the crypt” and “The Twilight Zone” in the 80s. Short stories with a sinister undertone and a scary story. In short, horror for beginners. The same kind of stories are being used in this film. The movie won’t scare a hardcore horror-fan though. It’s all too soft. It’s clear that they aimed at a slightly younger teenage audience. A perfect movie for adolescent boys to watch with their first girlfriend. Hoping that the lovely girl will be so scared to death that she’ll snuggle close to him seeking protection in his arms.
A big name in the film world, Guillermo Del Toro, is a fan of the original “Scary Stories” stories as well and has therefore contributed to this film by working on the script. That means that my expectations were high. The result is a well-cared-for ghost story with a hugely successful 60s setting. Subtle horror with fragments of intense moments. You could clearly feel the influence of the grandmaster himself. Of course, it’s once again situated during the Halloween festivities. The cause of all the misery may not be called earth-shatteringly original. And the way in which the problem is solved is perhaps dull. That means that “Scary stories to tell in the dark” nestles itself in the range of horror films that don’t exceed the average. But that doesn’t mean that you should avoid this film. There are too many positive things to discover for that.
First the acting of the youthful cast. They didn’t do so bad. The gang of teenagers to which Stella (Zoe Margaret Coletti) belongs is as usual a collection of personalities with their own distinctive traits. First of all, you have Stella’s best friends. The phlegmatic Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and scatterbrain Chuck (Austin Zajur). Then you have Tommy (Austin “Paper Towns” Abrams) the chief bully of the village. A good-for-nothing guy who joins the army to fight in Vietnam and who’s actually the cause of the teenagers ending up in the haunted house where Sarah Bellows lived. The only people who accompany them as well are Ramon Morales (Michael Garza), a Mexican boy who tries to avoid something, and Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). These persons are the ones who, after Stella has discovered a lurid book full of horror stories, become victims of their own fears. Personally, I thought the acting performance of Zoe Margaret Coletti and Tommy Miller were the most successful.
Like I said before, the horror moments aren’t terrifying. But “Harold” the scarecrow, “The Big Toe” and “Jangly Man” were the most amusing moments from the series of creeps that showed up. Really such figures that would fit perfectly in a Stephen King’s collection of short stories. And the way the stories manifest themselves in the book was also a nice touch. And finally, I thought the overall atmosphere this film bathed in, was wonderful to see. Oh well, maybe the fact that Stella is portrayed as a misfit and her personal torments about a mother who left the family, was a bit too corny. And in terms of shock effects, it also fell short. However, if you like an entertaining and well-told ghost story, then this “Scary Stories to tell in the dark” is perfect for you.