Just in time to get tween trick-or-treaters amped for Halloween comes Scary stories to tell in the dark. Based on the book series written by Alvin Schwartz, it’s best described as a young adult horror film.
The screen story is written by The Shape of Water’s Guillermo Del Toro Gomez and adapted by brothers Dan and Kevin Hagerman, who’ve worked on mostly animated films including The Lego Movie, Hotel Transylvania and Trollhunters.
It revolves around three bullied teenagers: Stella, an aspiring young horror writer and her two friends Auggie and Chuck. On Halloween, they decide to exact some revenge on their tormentor, Tommy, but when it doesn’t go exactly as planned, they wind up hiding out in the car of a stranger at the drive-in, named Ramone.
Seeing that he too is a horror fan, the foursome set about visiting a famous haunted house in their small hometown that belonged to the town’s founding family, the Bellows. When Stella steals Sarah Bellows book of horror stories, new chapters begin to appear in the book, this time featuring her posse one by one.
As life begins to imitate art, Stella races to destroy the stories before she becomes just another scary story.
Zoe Margaret Colletti does a fantastic job as the vulnerable yet strong female protagonist Stella but she’s surrounded by mostly average performances. The characters, for the most part, are wafer-thin and because of this, there’s little to no emotional impact when they start meeting their premature deaths. The monsters, however, are well-crafted but don’t hang around long enough to sustain the spookiness from one scare to the next.
It’s a reasonably entertaining premise but Scary stories to tell in the dark falls into the trap of becoming repetitive quite early on. This eliminates the intrigue and the tension it needs to keep you enthralled as a viewer, and though it tries to make up for these through countless jump scares, more often than not they happen right when you expect them.
Scary Stories to tell in the dark follows a monotonous pattern towards a predictable end. Based on its terrifying trailer, this film had the potential to inspire nightmares, but the full-length feature barely managed to keep me from falling asleep.
Given it’s slightly younger demographic than that of most horror films, it can be forgiven for not scaring the pants off a wider (read: older) audience, but it misses an obvious opportunity to incorporate more humour that could’ve satisfied both.
Overdone jump scares meshed with underdone characters and a mostly serious, repetitive script might be enough to hold the attention of younger teenagers dipping their toes into horror movies for the first time. Everyone else should probably give it a miss.
SEE IT if…
You enjoyed the books
You’re a teenager
SKIP IT if…
You disliked the Goosebumps movie
You haven’t seen IT
It gets 2 stars out of 5.
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