Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
If you grew up with this book series, you might remember that the stories themselves were actually not that memorable at all, but Stephen Gammell’s beautiful illustrations bored into your very soul and remain tucked deep in the recesses of your memory banks.
Scary Stories takes place during a time of turmoil in small-town America: Nixon is on the verge of winning the presidential race while barely-adults are getting shipped off to ‘Nam to die. This particular town is known for a haunted house, home to a restless spirit who was known for telling scary stories to the townschildren who were later killed.
When our plucky horror-fiend Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) steals the ghost’s infamous storybook, the stories come to life and prey on her and her friends’ worst fears.
Adapting this campfire tale anthology has proven to be a tricky task, even with horror master Guillermo del Toro behind the helm(ish). Though trying its best to weave a narrative, the story itself is what happened if Goosebumps, Paranorman and It had some sort of a three-way lovechild with a bad case of the jump scares.
Considering the artwork’s iconicism, one would think they’d go all out, right? Though an excellent attempt was made, the monsters were unfortunately buried under a CG sheen rather than opting for practical effects. The camera also refuses to linger much, reaction-cutting like crazy, resulting in that overproduced style of young adult horror.
Despite this lack of definition, I think there are some merits to be found if you squint hard enough. For instance, I appreciated that the setting was in the late 1960’s, rather than cashing in on the 1980’s/1990’s nostalgia grab. However attempts to reel in on that childhood trauma and small-town-wartime-angst/paranoia comes off as heavy-handed and rather clunky.
In short, this is a decent 13+ scary movie, but sadly lacks the needed grit and tonal atmosphere to make something beautifully original. Personally, I think an anthology film would have been more fun and effective – like a gritty Trick or Treat. But I guess we’ll find out in the inevitable sequel.