Verdict: A nightmarish retelling of the infamous scary stories.
Taking a super successful children’s horror anthology and bringing it all to life on the screen into one cohesive storyline may seem like an ambitious affair. That’s what producer and co-writer Guillermo del Toro aims to do with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which comes from the collection of short stories by Alvin Schwartz. Directed by André Øvredal, the film translates Shwartz’s terrifying stories along with Stephen Gammell’s notoriously grotesque illustrations to the big screen.
What’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark About:
It is the late 1960s and, in the small American town of Mill Valley, the arrival of Halloween is about to unleash an eerie chain of events. Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur), along with their new friend Ramon (Michael Garza) decide to visit a now-deserted infamous mansion known for its notorious inhabitants. The mansion belonged to the Bellows family who were said to have locked young Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) away from the outside world because of her horrible secrets. Sarah turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories which lived on as time passed by. When Stella and her friends discover this book, they find out that Sarah’s stories have a way of becoming all too real and the group of teens is forced to face their darkest fears.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a well-assembled adaptation that should please fans of Alvin Schwartz’s anthology while also being a great gateway film for young horror fans. Props to producer and co-writer Guillermo del Toro for efficiently bringing the terror of the book to the big screen. Director André Øvredal makes us cringe with fright as he brings Stephen Gammell’s unnerving illustrations to life.
The young cast of Zoe Margaret Colletti, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, and Michael Garza are all convincing in their roles. Even the supporting cast of Natalie Ganzhorn and Austin Abrams make their mark with great performances.
What makes this film stand out in the horror genre is its creeping terror as it slowly pushes you towards every character’s face-off against their greatest fears. Each short story from the anthology gets its due while being held together by a convincing plot. The visuals in this film are what stand out the most by building up a spooky atmosphere packed with sinister creatures, haunting spirits, and nightmares-turned-reality.
What Could’ve Been Better:
When the focus is on giving each short story its time in the limelight, there are certain parts of the plot that tend to be underexplored. Screenplay writers Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, and Guillermo del Toro leave some strings hanging but they do tease that they may be tied together in a sequel.
Why You Should Watch:
Aiming to deliver a horror film for young audiences that doesn’t shy away from gore and terror, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark does exactly what it sets out to do. Watch it for the soft-core scares or if you’re looking to dip your feet into the world of horror.