Set in the late 1960’s, we follow a small group of teenagers on Halloween night. After discovering an old book of scary stories, the teens soon learn there is a terror behind the decrepit tome. Nightmarish tales are being written in the blank pages and it’s up to these group of friends to stop the horror. They soon learn that behind the stories is an evil force that seeks vengeance on all!
Many people are aware of the old Scary Stories book series growing up. For me, they were major items stored in my nostalgia memory bank. Each school had a set and they were the “go to” books to read when my class would have library day. I remember my one teacher making them off limits for our reading quota because it was the only thing we would read. It joined the prohibited list, right up there with the Where’s Waldo series! But the Scary Stories series were quite encouraging when it came to reading. Like most kids, I was bummed out by the boring books we had to read in school and I think (like Goosebumps) the Scary Stories were a major factor for my reading growth. Something I think all new and upcoming generations of kids need.
To say I wasn’t excited for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark would be a lie. Ever since word came out that the movie was in fact going into production, my attitude for the film (although somewhat skeptic) was in fact met with eagerness. You can read about that here. Yea, maybe you couldn’t tell I was too excited. It didn’t make sense that an anthology book series would be turned into a movie. How would the movie work? Would it be an anthology or something quite different? Of all the Scary Stories individual tales; which ones would be in the film?
I vividly recall claiming the movie would focus on the book itself. After seeing the trailer, my assumptions about the film were correct. The kids find this book and it writes them into these stories within the pages. Then the stories unfold in real life. If you recall it’s much like the 2015 Goosebumps movie. Where the horror of the film comes from the pages of book(s).
Overall Entry Level
Off the back Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a fun romp that delivers some vivid imagery in a nice way but isn’t anything to memorable. The tone of the film is clear and concise but kind of boring. It’s dark, eerie and does well creating creepy situations with the environment surrounding the characters. The colors are very gray and saturated, something that would have worked better if there were more prominent accents of color. You see, there’s no blood and gore in this film which sucks. I think a little bright Tim Burton blood or maybe some greenish vomit or yellowish puss would have done wonders for this film. But we get a large gray Mordor cloud the entire time. To me it makes the creatures less appealing and the horror element having no reward for keeping your eyes open.
But what should we expect. Scary Stories is a PG-13 film and the demographic is probably meant for non-horror fans and middle schoolers. To be honest, us horror fanatics pale in number to the masses so our ticket sales aren’t as valuable. I can see it being one of those every October “13 Nights of Halloween” kind of films that falls in-line with others like Hocus Pocus, The Addams Family, Dark Shadows and Sleepy Hollow. Just played over and over again because the movie, although having some scary moments, doesn’t really push the movie into extremes. It’s safe. It’s not horror with a capital “H” if you get my drift. Which isn’t all too bad. Please don’t get me wrong, I can respect the PG-13 style horror films… or what I call “Entry Level Horror.” It’s a scary film you can watch with the kids. It may scare them but at the end of it all, nothing to shocking or worth placing your hand over their eyes.
In general I thought the nightmares that come forth from the stories are great. I loved the big toe corpse and the fat lady was interesting. I know they were going for a close depiction of the actual book illustrations but why does she look like the killer merman from Cabin in The Woods? Or does the merman look like the illustration? After all, those books came out way before cabin in the woods. Either way it’s fine and everything else follows the same scary style. The Jangly man is cool how he’s made of all these body parts and moves.
It’s kind of like an anthology film but without the common anthology style. Instead of a mixture of stories that have their own plot and tend to not have a connection. This movie takes five vignettes that all reside around this main story. Without the main plot, these nightmarish scenarios don’t unfold. There’s a lack of balance. The main story is cliche and uninteresting. But because of the way the movie works, it really should have been the main focus. Even the small stories have problems and don’t edify the main pissed off spirit scenario. It would have been nice if each story that happens to the characters has more of a concrete reason for them. The red room story happens because it was, by chance; the very thing Chuck mentions. But why other than having a dream should it happen? How about a flashback to the dream. Give me something other than five seconds of explaining a simple fear! Why would the story about a big toe happen to the one kid and why would this corpse kill someone because of it? Why would this one kid be chased and killed by an evil scarecrow? There’s no explanation of fear or an insight for us to connect with the situation. Just simple “here it is moments.” It’s like the imagery of the film was decided with no real setup. How can a movie that revolves around a spirit that tells awesome scary stories leave out so many fine details to those tales? I DON’T GET IT!
Prove My Point Merman
Let’s go back to the killer merman from Cabin in the Woods. Why not!? It’s a perfect example of the shit I’m spewing. During the betting scene of the movie, Steve brings up how much he wants to see a killer merman. He actually feels sorrowful for never getting that choice of doom chosen by a sacrificial group. But in the end, when the entire world has gone to shit and Steve is laying injured on the ground. He looks to his side and there from the smoke comes a merman and it kills Steve. It’s such an awesome death scene not because of the terrifying look of the monster or the gallons of blood that were used, but because of the connection it had with Steve! It was brilliant and… damnit I’ve got to do a Scenes To Be Seen with this! But do you see what I’m saying? Those connections deliver a better scene. Something I never got from any of these Scary Stories moments. Even the books illustrations worked better than the film.
I have mixed feelings in regards to Scary Stories. While most non-horror and younger teens may find the movie wildly entertaining; nothing about it seems memorable. I didn’t get scared. I wasn’t thrilled, I wasn’t yelling at people to make the right choice. I didn’t even chuckle at the deaths. I was just lukewarm. The movie heavily relies on the jump scares and although that can be fun, it doesn’t carry weight for it to be an amazing horror film. What I thought was going to happen with this is remain in the realms of the books. Tell us some real good stories that make us scared to turn off the lights or eat big toes we find in the garden and in some way all come together for another big story that makes everything make sense. But I don’t feel like we got that. To be honest, I’m finding myself forgetting the entire film.