Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Review
By: Justin Hopkins
** SPOILER WARNING**
Growing up as a 90s child. Me and my friends look back fondly on shows like Goosebumps and Are you afraid of the dark fondly. For good reason of course. Each were terrific in their own ways, but when someone brings up the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, I can’t help but smile. It was my first real taste of the Horror Genre. More scary then the latter two, being about true terror and consequences to ones actions. Such as The Big Toe, Black Dog, and the one with the mean child who learned what happens when he misbehaved one too many times. Even the comedy stories, like the friends who loved Baseball and made a deal to find out if Baseball was played in heaven. They were all so good and the pictures were chilling. The excitement for this was off the charts. Needing to know how they were going to pull this off. Bringing a collection of short stories to life. Each passing trailer and TV Spot building it that much more. With Guillermo Del Toro And Andre Ovredal as some of the people behind this. Allowed myself to have more faith in this. Only question is, did it live up to expectations?
The movie opened with a little commentary and we start off. The year is 1968 and in small town Pennsylvania. Where everyone knows your business and Vietnam is underway. Introduced to our little gang of friends, Auggie, Chuck, and horror fanatic, Stella. They set up early that she is a little off and something is bothering her, due to her friends having to talk her into going into trick or treating. They do so, and after a revenge trick goes wrong. Find their way to Ramon, or 4th member of the gang, and set up Tommy as the ruthless school bully all very well. We learn a lot at this point. That Stella’s Mom abandoned her family and that the gossip mill really did a number on Stella. Blaming her for the runaway and it weighs on her shoulders still. To get over this, she takes them to the Bellow residence and the legend of Sarah Bellows is revealed, and Stella finds her book and utters the faithful line, ” Tell me a story, Sarah Bellows.” Which incurs the wraith of her spirit, and begins to write everyone who is present into her book, and they have to find a away to stop her, before their story is written.
Story wise, I really love the approach that they take here. By placing it in the sixties, they kind of give the book a whole new spin. Almost like they are “real” in a way and the stories we loved are Urban Legends in their own way. Adding the Spirit of Sarah Bellows to the lore was a genius way to string them all together. The ring leader behind it all and able to control their entire surroundings at her whim. The small farming town felt real and isolated. It allowed the characters to get to where they needed quickly, but had a sense that when a character was alone; that help was not going to get there fast enough. Their was even one scene where Stella kept telling him that a voice would say, who took my big toe, without realizing that she was the one saying it. So well written and had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for how this was going to end.
Most of the human characters were really enjoyable. Tommy was brutal school bully that we got so excited to see get his comeuppance at the hands of Harold (More on this later) Any time Roy and his daughter Stella interacted was an emotionally charged one. Felt the pain that this family has been through and he wants his Daughter to be happy and the telephone call they have is so moving and you really get behind Stella at this point so Roy doesn’t lose another Family member. Natalie Ganzhorn may not have much screen time as Ruth, but she sold her heart out bringing us the Red Spot Scene. Loved the trio of Auggie, Chuck and Stella. Gabriel Rush was truly memorable throughout. He brought enough lovable humor and the rising terror in him build my dread of what lay ahead for him, and while he had one of the best scenes where he is trapped by the elderly woman closing in on all sides, was a gut punch and great demise to a enjoyable character, but the true star of this was Zoe Margret Colletti, Stella. She owned every scene she was in. For a young actress she nailed every emotional range she had to hit, and she had to go from one to the next and did it with talent well above her age range. Had chemistry with almost everyone… Almost everyone.
While there was a couple little dumb things here and there, my main gripe with this movie is Ramon. He continuously came across as so creepy, especially with Stella. They were trying to push a love angle between the two and it never really worked. I wanted him to die so that they’d stop it. I felt for his character. Scared for his life over being drafted and after his brother came back in a box. Didn’t want the same fate. I may have missed something, and please tell me if I did, but she came across as like a junior in High school, maybe, and he was an adult on the run. Just seemed super wrong and if they would have been friends. Wouldn’t have this gripe, but this did hamper the film a lot for me. If I am wrong, I will gladly take it all back after a re-watch, until then, it sits as a negative.
Back to happy things, lets rundown the monsters, and they hit a home run with the monsters. Had a great blend of CG and Practical Effects. Harold was terrifying, chasing Tommy down with the stiff brittle motions. May be Pg-13 but the effects of Tommy turning into a scarecrow was glorious. Worked better without blood in my opinion. The Bellow Family was great addition and The Big Toe Monster was creepy. The winner was the Elderly Woman. They way they worked her, just descending on poor Chuck from all directions. Looked like they ripped her out of the book and slapped her on the screen. That creepy Grandma smile she had the entire time was haunting. Poor Chuck. Why couldn’t it have been Ramon.
To round off. Everyone involved did a great job bringing one of the best book series to life. They didn’t have much to work with, but pulled it all together nicely. Going to give it a B Plus. They ended it in a way that a sequel is entirely possible and hope they get it. Think they really have something special here. Want to see Stella through herself into trying to rescue Chuck and Auggie. How is Ruth holding up after the Red Spot? There is so many stories for them to tell and by the way they introduced Sarah Bellows and The Jangly Man. Have no problem seeing what else they can add the the collection. Go out and check it out for yourself.
Thank you for reading.