Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark: Review by @Kush_Hayes
When I heard that Academy Award Winner Guillermo del Toro recruited Norweigen director André Øvredal to helm his adaptation of the anthology series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, I thought this was only “All Win”. This again goes to my fault for having any expectations of anything. And as again, that isnt a negative and this isnt a bad movie. It just means Im spoiled with mainstream movies. And while only enough money went into the story, the majority of this budget went into practical effects and set pieces. A majority to the point you feel you are looking at the actual characters from Stephen Gammells illustrations from the original editions of the 1980s.
Growing up, Alvin Schwartzs curated Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a book you could find in most households in the 1980s/1990s. I only know of three editions, three volumes, all the stories between one and three pages each. But it was the illustrations that sold you on having one or more of these books for your kids. I remember going through these books as a kid, but then just examining the illustrations for hours on end. And when you watch this movie, you know that its director and its award winning producer grew up the same way.
Unlike classic Anthology horror movies, this one has a full narrative going through and finds places to insert five of its best stories within it. Its half the kids from Stephen Kings It, Netflixs Stranger Things and other 80s Kids adventure formulas. This one is set against the back drop of 1968 with Richard Nixon being elected into the Presidency and the Draft for The Vietnam War might be the scariest thing happening within this movie.
Our story begins with a group of guys celebrating that if not all of them have been drafted, their best friend for sure has. And for a minute, hes into too… then the beers him and his buddies drink up shakes some sense into his conscious. While he never makes any mentions of it, you can tell the idea of going to war is not high on his todo list. So him and the boys get drunk, take some aggression out on the family scarecrow, whose name is Harold, and then in true dirtball fashion takes his best girl on a date with his two best friends.
Our Losers Club for this films purpose has been planning revenge on “Tommy” future Vietnam war hero, who year after year has been stealing their halloween candy. This year they got all sorts of nasty gimmicks including human shit which does get set on fire and tossed into the front seat, causing a small town traffic accident. This causes our band of heroes to flee the scene of the crime. While trying to escape Tommys and the gangs pursuits, they meet up with Ramon at the drive in who is watching the original “Night of the Living Dead” - #FilmNerdAlert which at this time in history would actually be called “Night of the Flesh Eaters” especially since they are in Pennsylvania. This is only things people like me would know, and now you know… so I feel good about that.
After a confrontation with Tommy and his boys, our heroes decide to go to the local town Haunted House, because it is Halloween after all. Of course Tommy follows them, or at least finds them with little difficulty. As Tommy is in pursuit, the gang unleashes the ghost within the house. They find a collection of her scary stories. And after a series of events, these stories not only start writing themselves, but they start coming true, including killing Tommy our antagonist and would-be-future war-hero.
The weakest part of this movie is its story. Dont get me wrong, its not “the stories”, which are as short as their written counterparts, filtered into this, but its the driving narrative, We, as the audience are enveloped in that is the least interesting part of this movie. This movies strongest asset is its practical effects. Yes, there are some CGI effect, but those are mainly just used to enhance the set pieces of the horror. As mentioned above, the monsters in this movie are as 1:1 as an adaptation can get. I think the strongest practical effect is “The Pale Woman” who is scene in photos below. I think the movies weakest set piece, the part of the movie that should have been “The Show Stopper” should have laid within “The Red Spot” story. I have a feeling this was downgraded by the MPAA… OR… my imagination made this story scarier than it really was. Not Impossible.
A lot of this felt like a more mature Goosebumps movie, which that first one with Jack Black was cute for families with children between 5 and 11. I think kids under 12 will get nightmares with the detail that fans like Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal gleefully add to this movie.
This movie is dark. And I dont mean anything more than, at times it is visually hard to see anything. And then they pay that off in the beginning of the final act by displaying one of the set pieces in such a vibrant color that I want to compare it to The Wizard of Oz.
I really wish this movie was better. There is a lot of awesome in this film, especially if youre a fan of those old collections with Gammells illustrations. The actors and their personalities are all cute. You want our heroes to win. Youre a little bummed when the group starts shrinking. Youre slightly confused when our two love interests dont share a kiss, as well as the possible sequel thats set up like an Avengers movie.
This movie is going up against five other major releases and two independent releases that also look strong. Thats on top of the other Summer Blockbusters that are still gobbling up money like Disneys remake of “The Lion King” and Universals “Hobbs and Shaw” so I wouldnt count on a sequel. However if they were ever to do so, and I wouldnt be mad at it, they would do it on the strength of its practical effects team and nothing else.
Three out of Six Blueberries.