I saw Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark yesterday, and I liked it. Similar to many of my generation, I grew up with these books. They were required reading for playground discussion. We all loved them. We loved the grotesque artwork and the creepy stories. They weren’t terribly terrifying, but they hit that horror sweet spot for tweens that often lacks development. I suppose that area is improving; it’s been a while since I was a kid.
As much as I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books growing up, I forgot about them. Not because I felt that I outgrew them, but rather because life got in the way, which is often the case. So, when I heard they were making a movie out of the book, I was excited to revisit and rekindle those memories.
The film tells some of the stories from the books, and references many others. The only two I really remembered were ‘Harold’ and “The Big Toe,’ and I was pleased to see them on the screen.
The movie, unlike the books, uses a framing device. It starts on Halloween in 1968 and introduces us to the four main characters: Ramon, Stella, Augie, and Chuck. Ramon is a hispanic who is not from the town of Milner Valley, but the other three are friends and have been for a long time. Stella, Auggie, and Chuck have decided to take revenge on the local bully, Tommy, by egging his car and hitting him with a flaming bag of dog poop.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Frames Its Story With Human Horror
Beginning the film in this fashion is a good choice because it introduces the characters and provides the audience with a near instant connection to them. Also, such a framing device is not to be unexpected in an anthology. After all, audiences are suckers for over-arching narrative. For the film, that narrative is about Sarah Bellows. Sarah is a local legend, known for scaring, and possibly killing, children. Of course, there is more to her story than that, and the movie does a fine job of telling it.
I don’t want to get too deep into spoilers, so I will turn my focus to other things. The creature design in this flick are amazing. The filmmakers did a damn fine job following the illustrations and making these things come to life. They are visceral and well-realized, even when they look somewhat plain. I am sure the special effects team employed a fair amount of CGI, but there also seemed to be a fair bit of practical effects, too. The combination works quite well. In horror, audience immersion is key. It’s difficult to scare people if they don’t believe what’s on the screen.
The acting is top-notch as well. When dealing with child actors, there is always the chance that they won’t be able to put in a good performance. Fortunately, that is not the case in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. All of the kids put in strong, believable, performances.
PG 13 Horror At Its Finest
For the most part, the film succeeds. It provides some jump scares, and has an overall atmosphere of fear. Additionally, it uses one of my favorite horror tropes: the evil of humans is scarier than any monster. Stephen King often employs this trope, and he is one of my favorites. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
Why do I love this trope? Simple: creature monsters are imaginary. Sure, they might be bloody and misshapen and look scary, but they aren’t real. Humans, on the other hand, are all too real. As is the damage we inflict on one another. Exploring that aspect of the human condition through monster stories is one of horror’s best tricks. Used here, it enhances every aspect of the film quite nicely.
This is a good scary movie for the younger crowd. It’s not too gory, but it does have some disturbing images. It also has enough creepiness to appeal to older teens as well as adults.
Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? If so, what did you think. Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.