A Well-Written Horror Anthology
The last time I watched a movie where stories from a book came true, was in The Neverending Story. Here, Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark swaps the fantasy for a much darker horror-infused tale. Written by Guillermo del Toro and Directed by Andre Ovredal, together they deliver a spooky and hair-raising horror, using the power of stories and our deepest fears to deliver a well written anthology film.
The story is set in America, 1968. Young horror writer Stella and her two friends, Auggie and Chuck, are getting ready for Halloween, set to prank bully Tommy. Along with drifter Ramon and Chuck’s sister Ruth, they stumble across the haunted house of the Bellows family. It’s there that they find an old book belonging to local legend, Sarah Bellows. After taking the book home, Stella soon realises that the stories in the book might just be more than stories.
Based on the series of books with the same name, Guillermo del Toro does a great job here, managing to link the different tales to each character. The result is a horror that’s both tense and creepy thanks to nightmarish imagery and a good script. There’s plenty of chilling and scary moments here to keep you at the edge of your seat.
One quote in particular really stood out for me here: “Stories hurt, and stories heal. If we repeat them often enough, they become real and make us who we are.” In essence, Scary Stories predominantly revolves around the idea of story telling and how it affects us. Stories are powerful, and the best ones can affect us in good and bad ways.
There’s some nice editing here too, in particular with the horror sequences. One scene showcases one of the kids trying to run away in different directions from a monster but no matter what he does, it keeps getting closer. This was skilfully shot and helped build a lot of tension throughout.
Visually, Scary Stories looks great and the use of colour is quite noticeable. There’s a lot of yellows used while the kids are investigating, making use of the past setting. However, when we are in the presence of monsters, the colours switch to darker tones, with black, dark green or dark blue which again helps make the movie feel creepy and unnerving.
It’s worth mentioning both the special effects and prosthetics here too which are both excellent. This again adds to the menacing atmosphere of the movie; there were moments where I was genuinely disturbed by some of the scenes. Without giving too much away, people scared of spiders should definitely come prepared here.
The characters are the typical teens that we see so often in these sort of movies, but they do fit well here with the premise, with all the actors doing a decent job portraying their roles. There’s some good world building here too, especially including the Vietnam War and the upcoming elections of Nixon in the story, which helps sell the 1960’s setting.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark was a pleasant surprise. With many horrors out there, it’s hard to find one that stands out and manages to deliver genuinely creepy moments but this is definitely one of them. The movie is the right length and it manages to interweave several anthology stories together without ever feeling out of place. It builds on our childhood fears and the power of storytelling, with strong themes and colour to back it up. Anyone looking for a tense horror should find enough here to be satisfied but perhaps those with arachnophobia should probably sleep with the light on after watching this.
Verdict - 8/10