SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK review by Patrick Hendrickson

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK review by Patrick Hendrickson

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK is a production based on the classic book series of the same name. The series was notable for its hideously grotesque artwork by Stephen Gammell as well as some very horrific stories written by Alvin Schwartz. The film itself adapts several of these short stories while also telling an original plot.

Zoe Colleti is the starring actress, playing the part of Stella, a young writer with a heavy interest in horror and macabre stories. On Halloween night, her friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) meet an out of towner by the name of Ramón (Michael Garza). The four of them decide to take a visit into an old haunted house.This leads to a chain of events that results in a haunting spectre targeting them as well as other members of their small town. The film is set in the 1960s and while this time-period is a fun one, it does not contribute a whole lot to the plot. The characters face some struggles associated with the times such as racism, the draft, and draconian medical practices, but these elements do not have much to do with the actual ghost story.

The plight of Stella and her friend is an original story with Scwartz’s stories being incorporated into this larger plot. The original book series had no overarching narrative. All in all this would have been a more effective adaptation if it had been a simple anthology of various stories within the three books. There would have been no distracting elements, there would have been less excess overall in the production, and more stories could have been shown. The larger plot is not a bad one, in fact, it is pretty nicely structured and told very effectively. However, some of these elements just do not factor into the actual hauntings at all. Simply put, the unrelated plot feels completely unrelated.

One special commendation should be made for the visuals of this production. The creatures are very faithfully recreated from the classic artwork of the three books. Aside from that, there are some pretty haunting images that could be credited to the cinematographer. One particular standout would be the appearance of a monster known as the Pale Lady, which appears in a room of pure red light. There are a fair amount of jump-scares in this film, but there is also a good amount of suspense that gets built up. The Pale Lady sequence is the most notable as the titular monster does not scream at the camera or jump out of dark corners. She is completely visible and silent throughout her entire sequence. It’s highly effective in building tension as her victim tries desperately to escape.

SCARY STORIES is a good film despite the bizarre, and at times, distracting, decision to set this story in the 1960s. The characters are endearing and showcase a good amount of emotional weight. The cheap scares are there but so are more genuine frights. Overall, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK gets a 4/5


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