Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Based on the children’s story series of the same name, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is directed by André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) with Guillermo Del Toro acting as producer. Set on and around Halloween in 1968 Pennsylvania, the film sees Stella (Zoe Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Azjur) sneak into an infamous haunted house, where they find the sinister storybook of Sarah Bellows, a own urban legend. Assisted by newcomer Ramón Morales (Michael Garza), the trio attempt to put a stop to Bellows’ curse, once and for all.

+ I enjoyed Colletti in the main role, but I can’t say she was blow-away great as some other young actresses have been lately. That said, she was the standout of a lackluster bunch. Austin Abrams, as minor antagonist and school bully Tommy Milner was good, in the sense that I hated everything about him, which I assume was the intent
+ I thought this was a ‘proper’ children’s horror movie, somewhere between Goosebumps and Monster House, so you can only imagine my surprise when I was legitimately scared by some of these creepy-ass monsters. The Pale Lady, based on Stephen Gammell’s original illustrations, from the short story The Dream, was particularly terrifying
+ despite the aforementioned scares, the movie is very non-gory, and indeed almost entirely non-bloody, making it a relatively solid entry point for younger viewers who want some horror movie nights
+ my main horror man, Javier Botet, gets another turn as another horrible monster, this time a zombie looking for its missing toe

– aside from Colletti, none of the core cast enthralled me in any way. Garza, Rush and Zajur were all just bit players, and even Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) was not featured prominently for me to praise him too highly.
– any time Bellows’ Book was not involved with the plot — such as any and all relationship drama, school bullying or parental schlock — I lost all interest. The best part about horror movie should be the build up; instead, here, I wish there was less padding

> I spent the whole movie thinking that Colletti and Garza were many years apart in difference, and cringing at their love-y interactions. Turns out they are the same age, so what do I know

Should you see this film: As much fun as it was to see some of Stephen Gammell’s more horrifying creations come to life on screen, there was not a huge amount to recommend here. If you want kid friendly, there are most likely better options; if you want anthologies, there are definitely better options. Don’t bother with this.

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