SCary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Zajur, Gabriel Rush, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows
Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) might be one of the most lovable filmmakers around whose compassion and creativity on and off set, will allow him to work inside and out of Hollywood for the rest of his days. However, his producing credits have me questioning his taste. Mama, Afraid of the Dark, Pacific Rim Uprising, Del Toro’s name is thrown around so often when there is little else to credit on a project, that it’s become more of a warning than a stamp of approval. Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is nothing more than Goosebumps for kids, in fact it’s based on a book many kids from the 90’s are familiar with. I’m unsure why it took five different writers to pen this many stereotypes and genre tropes into one of the year’s most forgettable scary movies. There are more eye-roll moments than jump scares, neither of which are ingredients for a memorable horror movie.
A group of teenagers stumble on a deadly curse in their little town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. Stella’s love for scary stories and monsters run deep, as she tells her friends Ramon (Garza), Augie (Rush) and Chuck (Zajur) about the local missing girl Sarah Bellows who it’s believed told stories from her creepy house and those stories manifested into the listeners deaths. It’s Halloween night and the kids are looking for thrills, but what they discover is a curse that can’t be unwritten. One by one, Sarah’s blood written stories come true as they untangle the mystery of her life and death. “You don’t read the book. The book reads you,” Stella (Colletti) explains about the power of the old book they removed from the Bellows house.
I’m unsure why it took five different writers to pen this many stereotypes and genre tropes into one of the year’s most forgettable scary movies.
The bully, the scarecrow come to life, the geek who explains everything, the comedian who jokes even though they are about to die. Scary Stories is nothing more than a piggy back off of popular television show Stranger Things, a weird group of retro teenagers trying to solve mysteries in their one stop-light town. The other obvious influence is the revival of It, which claimed the pre-Halloween release date, so Scary Stories is desperate knockoff hoping to ride the anticipatory wave. No offense to character actors Bellows and Norris, but when they are the biggest stars you can nab, it’s pretty obvious where the quality level of the film lands. The four young actors give satisfactory performances, but it’s hard to put much conviction into dialogue: “I’m afraid we woke something up” or “Some stories hurt”.
To set the time period of 1968 when America was about to reelect Nixon during wartime, there are some elements of racism thrown in that really have nothing to do with the plot. Abandonment issues that never really tie into the overall story, and then it tries to end like there will be a sequel, which is both obnoxiously presumptuous and downright insulting. The variety of monsters and creatures in the film can all be traced back to one of author R.L. Stine’s many children’s books. While most of them prove to be quite deadly, they are equally goofy and representative of what might frighten a child more than the adults watching.
Some stories shouldn’t be told at all.