Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Simple Review: Del Torro’s Goosebumps

There comes a time in a young persons’ life when they start to go through changes and they become curious, looking to experiment with something new and dangerous. We’ve all been through that awkward time in our lives when wholesome animated cowboys and spacemen don’t hold your interest but that movie poster that has the guy with a chainsaw for a hand grabs your complete attention. Way back when I was at that age there weren’t too many options to ease one into the horror world. You basically went from Disney wholesomeness to a nasty little alien bursting out of a man’s chest without much in between to prepare your young mind for such terrors. Fortunately for the youth of today, the world has coddled their sensitive feelings and a new sub-genre of horror films has emerged targeting the PG-13 crowd that isn’t quite ready for the gore. New to that group of films is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a soft-core horror film produced by Guillermo Del Torro that is ready to introduce youngsters to the wonderful world of horror. 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a challenging film to review and not just because the title is long and I hate typing! I could review it as a true horror film or grade it on a curve as it is aiming to introduce the genre to younger viewers. Since I am clearly the most talented writer on the interwebs I have the ability to do both in order to entertain you, my reliable reader. Aren’t you lucky to have me in your life? Let me answer that, yes you are. Now that we have established my greatness, let’s delve into this silly review and see how ” scary” these stories are.

Directed by Abdré Ovredal, this adaptation of the books of the same long title that I refuse to type anymore is a well made scary movie that holds back on the gore instead opting to use atmosphere and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. Even a battle-hardened horror fan such as myself found more than a few moments of heart-racing terror. That could have been from walking up the stairs of the stadium seating in my local theater but I am going to say it was from the movie so I can stay in denial about my health. I found the story involving Harold the scarecrow to be the best of the movie with incredible tension as the local bully is being tracked down in the cornfield by the terrifying straw man. It is a first “scare” scene and it sets the tone for the rest of the film and is just creepy and gross enough to keep my inner horror fanatic happy. Speaking of skin-crawlingly gross scenes, the story with Ruth and her disturbing facial blemish will make you cringe and then go out and buy some oxy pads after the movie is over. Overall this is an atmospheric movie that works hard to be more than a cheap cash in on a series of famous books and, mercifully, doesn’t rely on too many lame jump scares.

When you go into a movie with a young cast there is a tinge of nervousness about the acting of said youngsters. Fortunately, the young cast of Scary Stories does a nice job of leading us through these tales of terror. Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza are the two main actors the film follows and both handle the scary material well. The comradery between their characters and their friends, played by Gabriel Rush and Austin Zajur, is believable and adds to the scares as you legitimately care about this group of friends and when the thrills begin you will be pulling for them to save the day. The adult cast is adequate as they are only there as occasional participants in the kids’ story. It is always nice to see Gil Bellows in a movie, and he does a nice job as the skeptical town sheriff, but I do wish he was given more to do in the story. The same can be said of Dean Norris, who plays a worried dad but is barely in the film, which is a shame as I enjoy his work. As I said, though, the story revolves around the young actors and they are well cast and well directed so you don’t have to worry about being distracted by bad acting!

Despite the film being well crafted and acted it is not without its faults. Even though I am grading this one on a curve, it does have many of the plot conveniences that you see in other films of this type. Characters are able to get into secure areas or find information that would be rather difficult to get even in a movie set in the 1960s. The overall story is very familiar, with the tormented ghost exacting its revenge for past events and the heroes being the only ones able to put the clues together. While the movie does have a nice mix of practical effects and CGI, when the CGI is wonky it gets a bit distracting as it looks like the kids are running from a cartoon.

We are nearing the end of this stupid review of a movie with an incredibly long name to type and I need to get to work on my own scary story so let’s wrap this up! If you are a hardcore horror fan you might not fall in love with Scary Stories but it does have enough atmosphere, tension and creepy creatures to keep your interest. If, however, you have a kid that is curious about horror films but is still too young for the good stuff, this is a damn good introduction to the world of fright films and will definitely scare them. The kids in the theater I was in were screaming with fear, then the manager came in and made me put my pants back on. What a jerk!

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and come back for more on the next installment of The Movie Psycho or how I lost my sanity reviewing movies on the internet.

As always, thanks for your time!

The Movie Psycho



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