Movie Review: ‘Scary Stories to Tell (Uh, I Mean, Watch, I Guess?) in the Dark’

We all remember the scenario. You have friends at your house, for a sleepover, or maybe you’re even camping out. You want to tell some scary stories, right? Well, can you think of a good one, right now, off the top of your head? No? Yeah, me neither. So, what do we do about it?

Back when I was a kid, there were things that you would go to the store or library to get, you’d open them up and take a journey to somewhere that lived only in your imagination. It was called a “book.”

And one of the best books to have have a sleepover, Halloween party or camping trip was Scary Stories to tell in the Dark. It was a collection of, well, you guessed it, scary stories. It was awesome, and terrible and fascinating and frightening. It was childhood being pushed to the limits.

So what better material to get a hold of for a movie, right? RIGHT!

Guillermo del Toro produced, and wrote the script for this movie, so again, horror fans and movie fans should be ready to jump on board for this, right? RIGHT AGAIN!

Here’s the premise: A young girl, Stella, and her friends get into trouble on Halloween night, and eventually, Stella finds a book that belonged to a woman who was trapped in her basement. The woman was known for having killed children after she tells them scary stories.

When Stella begins to read stories at home, the people she knows and loves become the targets of an ancient and dark curse. She must work with her friends and try to find a way to stop the curse of the scary stories that keep killing people in her hometown.

So was this movie a let down?

I guess it depends on what you go into the movie expecting. This movie is based on a book (or two) that captivated the terror in the hearts of young people. Some of the stories were really scary, and some of them were dumb. But they weren’t written to be classic masterpieces that live on like Pride and Prejudice or A Christmas Carol. They were written so that teens would have a scary bump in the night.

If you go into this movie realizing that a young teen would enjoy this, and step into that mindset, then you might actually come out really liking it. It’s not about lowering your expectations for a good movie, but rather, a good scare.

It has some really creepy parts, but it’s not overall super scary. It’s got some trippy parts, but it’s not a whacked-out Kubrick masterpiece.

One thing that this movie does really well is atmosphere, and underlying themes. It brings Halloween and autumn to the mind like the smell of apple cider. It plays with the mood and feeling of the darkening season and the warmth and safety of home.

It also skillfully highlights themes of war, coming of age and PTSD. The ramifications of other people’s decisions, anger, fear and obsession. This movie is incredibly deep if you take the time to look into what these monsters represent. Or they can just be creepy things that crawl out of the basement and come get you.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

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