Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
André Øvredal's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the perfect balance of atmosphere and terror, blending together author Alvin Schwartz's frightening tales with the behind-the-lens talents of horror master Guillermo del Toro. This is one of the most effective PG-13 horror movies ever made, never sacrificing a good scare for the lesser rating. This movie will scare both young and old.
André Øvredal‘s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark brings author Alvin Schwartz‘s classic novels to the big-screen with tension and scares that will surely make you sink in your seat. Øvredal’s direction holds back nothing as it chills you to the bone with its well-crafted creatures and scenarios. Fans of the books should rejoice at the care and passion given to this film, as Øvredal and del Toro have managed to make an effective PG-13 horror film that can hang with the best of them.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark follows a group of kids in the late 1960’s as they discover a hidden book from Sarah Bellows, a local legend known for her unusual sheltered life and the murdering of innocent children. Legend has it that she still haunts the town, with her scary stories that once told, will consume the lives of the children reading them.
Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) and her friends awaken the curse of Sarah Bellows on their small town, thus unleashing her stories and the terrifying creatures that populate them.
Horror director André Øvredal directs from a script that’s got just about everyone’s hands in it, including Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro, as well as Saw/The Collector writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, as well as Dan & Kevin Hageman. Of course, their work is all based on Alvin Schwartz‘s legendary “children’s novels” — I put those quotes around them because I mostly remember reading them as a kid and now as an adult, I feel that most might find these stories tame, because of the desensitizing real-world that we live in now.
Still, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has always reminded me of a more unsettling version of Goosebumps, which was also adapted for the big-screen, but with a stronger aim at children. The Goosebumps films are actually quite good, but very much something to watch as an introduction to light, family-friendly horror.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was clearly made by horror-lovers that were so desperately trying to bridge that gap between family-friendly horror and adult-themed R-rated horror.
This film is a hard PG-13, trading out traditional blood and gore for actual frights and scares. There are many moments of pure dread and terror throughout this film, because Øvredal so expertly balances horror and story in a way that makes for a fascinating tale that relies more on its visuals and atmosphere than it does jump scares and jolting musical cues.
It’s hard not to assume producer/writer Guillermo del Toro didn’t have a hand in the creature design, because these monsters are works of pure beauty, bringing the pages to life in ways that I never thought were imaginable. The film progresses rather quickly as it bounces in-between the classic Schwartz stories, always hinting at what is to come.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark doesn’t feel as impactful or as ground-breaking as It: Chapter One, but it definitely feels like a much-needed slice of throwback horror that understands its audience and sinks right into its setting and era. This isn’t an over-stylized piece of Hollywood bloat, and instead a passion project that comes to life because of the care that went into all aspects of the film.
I found myself wanting more and more as the film concluded, because of the time spent with the characters and the stories. I sure hope this film does well, because I’d love to see sequels that explore even more.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is that rare well-made PG-13 horror film that never sacrifices a scare for its “lesser” rating and eventually makes you forget all about it, because of its ability to scare the pants right off of you, all without a drop of blood, but instead with its creative creatures and familiar stories that are surely going to evoke memories of fear and terror from your childhood.