It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley where for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time—stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home.
What We Thought:
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on a series of books. If you knew that already then this movie might be for you. I had never heard of the series so the film didn’t do too much for me. Although it’s darker than Goosebumps, it’s still just another PG-13, light horror flick with teens for a younger audience. That’s fine in my book, it just means I won’t end up loving the film.
In that way it reminded me of last year’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls and I’ll say the same exact thing I said about that here, I love the idea of bringing back kid based horror flicks like what I grew up with. Movies like The Monster Squad, The Gate, and Gremlins were a good way to introduce horror to a younger crowd. I liked them and grew to like horror because of it. Hopefully this movie inspires some youngsters to get into Stephen King and more adult flicks!
Since I haven’t read the source material I can’t compare the film to the stories. I can compare it to similar themed things like IT and Stranger Things though. This takes place in the 1960’s and Stranger Things is the 1980’s but both have that vibe of outcasts and not fitting in and the like. Same for IT, that film has The Losers’ Club and this has a couple of outcast friends that get picked on by the “cool” kids. This also adds in a Spanish character who isn’t from the area and has a secret.
I don’t mind all that, The Goonies were outcasts so I grew up on similar themes. My biggest issue with the film is that all the stories seemed forced together. I guess the stories in the series aren’t mushed together like this and you can feel they really wanted it all to connect. The outcasts get locked in the basement of a haunted house, the one girl steals a book and it starts writing its own stories. There is a scarecrow that goes after one character. One has a spider bite, another gets trapped in a hospital and the police station has a creature. It feels forced and I think it would have worked better as anthology film and not connected.
I also didn’t like how it really wanted to get political. It’s 1968, Richard Nixon is elected and the Vietnam War is on everyone’s mind and this film tacks those things on. Again, I haven’t read the series so I don’t know if Nixon & ‘Nam are relevant in them, but here they feel like a tacked on substory to coincide with current politics. One character’s backstory sort of uses this substory, but ultimately there’s no real need for any of it.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is just another light horror flick with too much CGI and an over use of jumpscares. It’s pretty forgettable for non-fans and you can tell they really wanted to make this a franchise. I don’t see it doing all that well at the box office so I expect this to be forgotten sooner rather than later.
DIRECTED BY: André Øvredal
SCREENPLAY BY: Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman
SCREEN STORY BY: Guillermo del Toro AND Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
BASED ON THE SERIES BY: Alvin Schwartz
PRODUCED BY: Guillermo del Toro, Sean Daniel, Jason F. Brown, J. Miles Dale and Elizabeth Grave,
CAST: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn
RUN TIME: 1:47:49
OPENING DATE: August 9
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The film’s official website: https://www.scarystoriestotellinthedark.com