Alvin Schwartz classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been given a big screen adaptation by Lionsgate and CBSFilms. Whether you remember these tales told around a campfire or alone under your bed covers the stories have returned. Do they live up to first haunting reading experiences? Here is Gadi Elkon’s review of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.
The Scary Stories have gone through a nice group of intelligent minds to get into the film that is out in theaters now. John August’s touch kicked things off, but Guillermo Del Toro’s obvious influence is the biggest mention and a nice polish by the Hageman brothers (Dan and Kevin) laid the foundation for Director Andre Overdal. The Norwegian, who’s Troll Hunter is so underrated, horror touch melds perfectly with the book’s haunting illustrations by Stephen Gammell. If anything this film brings life to Gammell’s scary as hell monsters, ghost, and creatures.
The cast is a nice sprinkling of youthful talents like Gabriel Rush (Auggie) , Ausin Zajur (Chuck), and Austin Abrams (Tommy). But the film is really the tale of two outcasts coming together. Zoe Margaret Colletti steals every scene as our reluctant heroine Stella and her love interest/fellow survivor Ramon played nicely by Michael Garza. As the typical Halloween tropes are placed on this young gang the film’s nice pacing keeps your nerves perfectly on edge. The story takes place during the fall of 1968. This Nixon/Vietnam draft environment adds a really unique element to the 1980s books. The generation of people who originally read these books should have a very different emotional impact compared to recent fans of the HarperCollins modern releases. The reason why this film stands out versus the regular old slasher flicks is the intriguing sense of racism, sexism, and cold war politics that may have some flashing to our current surroundings. But I digress from any political talk. Is this film scary?
The PG-13 rating is a justified level. You won’t be grossed out or feel that your young kiddos can’t survive viewing the film. Honestly the biggest “jump” scare I had was the quick movements of my theater/eatery’s waitress rounding the corner during a pivotal sequence. Not to say the creatures aren’t wonderfully animated or constructed depending on which one. By far the final monster from the “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker!” story is a great mixture of Del Toro’s past and Overdal’s giant trolls. His creepy bodily functions are downright spooky. So I’d say no this isn’t as scary as Michael Myers staring you down in an small closet but the suspense level is a perfect 9 borderline 10. As our kid heroes figure out the reality behind their killer storyteller the film showcases its full sense of intrigue. This isn’t a film that is about the scares or boos at night, but rather the horrible realities of our life around us. Whether it’s the bigger issues of war or the more isolated look at child abuse this film is much better than a summer horror flick.
The musical chops of Oscar Nominated Composer Marco Beltrami and Russian sensation Anna Drubich add a new fresh power to the movie. The silence of our youth has been replaced by the stabbing feel of a creepy piano or a sonic scare that completely transforms your experience. Don’t be fooled the folks behind this simple horror grouping are talented professionals.
If there is any particular issue with the film it’s which stories were chosen. I hope potential sequels can throw in “The Thing”, “The Drum”, or “High Beams”. But in the end I’d say you should take the leap into seeing your childhood fears put on big screen. Trust in Del Toro and go see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark!
Directed by Andre Overdal
Written by Dan & Kevin Hageman and Guillermo Del Toro
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 1hr 51min
Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Wide Release August 9th
Starring: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Gil Bellows and Austin Zajur.
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.