Director André Øvredal teams with producer Guillermo del Toro to bring Alvin Schwartz’s terrifying book series to the big screen in CBS Film’s, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Opening in Pennsylvania in 1968, a trio of friends, Stella (Zoe Nicholls), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) are enjoying some Halloween hijinks. The friends make the mistake of pranking high school bully Tommy, who then gives chase. The friends end up crossing paths with new kid Ramón Morales (Michael Garza) and decide to ask Ramon to tag along while they go check out a haunted house.
Much to the group’s dismay, Tommy locates them and locks them in a secret room inside the haunted house. Inside the room, Stella finds a book of horror stories written by Sarah, the long-deceased daughter of a wealthy family. Before long, Stella realizes that the stories in the book are coming to life, and only she can stop the terror that is brewing.
Initially, I made plans to go back and reread some of the source material so I could compare it to the final product. At the last minute, I decided just to watch the film so I could judge the film on its own merits. From the trailers for the film, I was expecting an anthology film of different stories in the book with a central framing story to tie everything together. Instead, primary screenwriters Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman give each of the characters their own story and link to the plot quite nicely.
While the film is rated PG-13, fright fans will be happy to know that director André Øvredal pushes the rating as far as he can with the ore. The film doesn’t let up in the scare department either with dead corpses, spiders, scarecrows, and a very tall individual all provide genuine chills. It’s apparent that producer Guillermo del Toro understands the genre of horror and that gore or an R rating isn’t as necessary to scare your audience.
The young cast of unknowns is excellent in the acting department. From the core four characters, there wasn’t one character that I was rooting for to die. I generally felt compassion for the group of friends and wanted to see them all make it to the end. Usually, in horror films, there’s always one-character trope that I find annoying; however, that wasn’t the case with this film.
Following his 2016 feature The Autopsy of Jane Doe, André Øvredal is one of the best horror directors working today. Øvredals strength is his ability to make a simple scenario frightening, and he achieves this with ease in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I look forward to what the director brings to the table next.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the perfect horror film for younger audiences who may not be ready for R rated horror movies quite yet. Avoiding the silliness of the similar in tone Goosebumps films, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a film that isn’t too scary for young audiences and has just enough fun moments for their parents,
Final Grade B