SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)
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Flick is based on the kids books by Alvin Schwartz and opens on Halloween night, 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. Three friends Stella (Zoe Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), Chuck (Austin Zajur) and new guy in town Ramón (Michael Garza) sneak into the supposedly haunted Bellows house, where Sarah Bellows is said to have poisoned a bunch of children after telling them scary stories. Stella finds and takes Sarah’s story book, which starts to write stories of it’s own, stories which come to life and deal out terrible fates to members of the group. Now the remaining friends must somehow find a way to save themselves, before they become just another scary story to be told in the dark.
The film is directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe) from a script by Dan and Kevin Hageman. That script is based on a story by producer Guillermo del Toro, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan from Schwartz’s book. As such it’s a well made movie, but one that is not really all that scary, at least not consistently. There are a few spooky moments, but in between there is a lot of tedious and somewhat stale melodrama, as we get a very familiar ‘kids in supernatural peril trying to solve a mystery’ scenario, that we’ve seen so many times before. It’s nothing new and not presented in a fresh or innovative way. It was kinda dull. Maybe those endeared to the stories would find the film’s presentation of the material far more entertaining, but for the uninitiated, it’s very been there, done that. The PG-13 rating keeps things fairly tame, it is based on children’s stories after all, not that a film needs gore to be scary, as the recent Annabelle Comes Home proves. The make-up effects are very well done and the flick looks good, as Øvredal has a good eye, especially when represented by Roman Osin’s cinematography. The cast of young performers all play their roles well, as do the supporting adults. There is some atmosphere, especially in the opening Halloween segments, though it should have stayed set on Halloween night, as it looses some of it’s spookiness, once the story goes past All Hallow’s Eve.
Overall, it’s a well made movie, just not an overly scary one. To those not familiar with the books, the material is nothing we haven’t seen before and there are long stretches of tedium between the spooky parts. It looks good and is well acted by it’s cast, but really didn’t provide the chills the books, or Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for that matter, are famous for. A good horror flick for kids, or adults who scare easily, but hardcore horror fans might find themselves yawning through a lot of it.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) books it’s based on.