One of the most defining parts of my childhood are the stories meant only for the dark. These books were edgy and forbidden, like I was getting away with something dangerous. Before I sneaked around and watched horror movies without my parents’ permission, I had these books. And now, with the help of the maestro Guillermo del Toro these books are alive in screaming color and frightening surround sound. What intrigued me most about the idea of these books coming to life is how I didn’t know exactly what I was hoping to see. What kind of vibe did I expect? I don’t really know. I think that’s why this movie worked for me, it had what was expected but the moments they took liberties on kept me just as engaged. It’s a nostalgia bomb that doesn’t live and die by the memories of its audience.
They found a wonderful balance of giving us what we want without making it just another scary movie without any kind of heart and soul. Call it a trend to focus on the tweens of a small town (IT) it’s a trend because it works and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is no different. There’s something magical about finding that adventurous side of our youths that just doesn’t survive adulthood. Even if that adventure is doused in horrifying imagery, the idea of “going back” is often too much to ignore, to say no to that seems… wasteful. It seems ungrateful for such an opportunity to be passed over. To do so without having to go back to school is one adventure you can always count me in for.
Primarily starring unknowns, Scary Stories is a daring film meant for the daring families in the market for some real visceral thrills without being overly graphic or vulgar. I will admit the PG-13 rating had me worried but not being exactly sure of what I wanted to see I tried to keep an open mind. The young cast deliver believable performances carrying the film from each scary story to the next bridging horror to horror. The film takes a bit to get going but once the stories begin to unfold the film takes off rarely letting up until the tragically triumphant, but open ended climax brimming with scary moments and unfathomable implications.
While nothing amazing or all that original, Scary Stories attempts to be something more than a forgettable summer thrill and I think in this regard it succeeded. The cast is strong, the pieced together stories of missing toes and spider filled pimples carry out a bit haphazardly but undoubtedly bring the scary kind of fun you would hope for with this kind of movie. The visuals capture the imagery of the book beautifully leaving those that grew up with the books feeling a weird concoction of terror, a bit of disgust, and a whole lot of glee as this carries out to a predictable but satisfying finale.
I think the key with this one is to not expect too much and with that in mind what the film delivers will be something fun and scary, exactly as advertised. With its rating I was worried it might be watered down a bit but ultimately the violent encounters are rarely muted and when they are it’s used as a story element. For example a particular scene involves someone getting stabbed (on camera) through the chest with a pitchfork. Instead of blood, something else begins to flow from the wounds which in hindsight can be considered far more disturbing than the usual blood flow that we’ve seen many times before. Instead of inhibiting their choices, the filmmakers used the rating as a means for creativity finding ways to keep the MPAA happy while maintaining a certain level of acceptable horror.
The film may not terrify, but that doesn’t mean it failed. It’s scary for sure but never in a debilitating way after the credits have rolled. I think maybe that’s the point. They created something thrilling and frightening for most ages but hopefully without a lasting effect on the drive home and eventual bedtime. It’s horror with a safety bar, I think is how del Toro described it, and it’s a spot on description.
As someone who doesn’t have children I can’t outright say whether this is kid appropriate or not. My guess would be to absolutely see it with your kids if they are wanting to but maybe only take the bravest of them, console the rest with ice cream after the movie. Think of Scary Stories as a more adult oriented Goosebumps and you have the right idea. Anyone prone to nightmares need not apply. Otherwise, have a frightfully good time! In the end my childhood remains intact and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark lives on to scare the next generation. I think everybody wins here.
Rated PG-13 For: terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references
Runtime: 111 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Starring: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur
Directed By: André Øvredal
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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