Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (** ½)
Who doesn’t love a good horror anthology movie? I’m always the first to raise my hand when anyone brings up the subject. It should come as no surprise that I was more than a little excited at the prospect of an adaptation of the popular children’s book series from several decades back, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. In terms of quality this entry certainly pales in comparison to such benchmarks of the genre as Creepshow and the 1972 feature film Tales from the Crypt, but then I suppose that’s to be expected.
On its own terms, however, SSTTITD, has a few choice gotcha moments that make it more than worth the price of admission and for those less schooled in these types of films the experience is likely to be an agreeable one.
The late Alvin Schwartz, who was likely coasting on the wave of Stephen King inspired literary horror in the 80s, crafted the Scary Stories series, which quickly became a hit with kids of a certain age. The film version, which boasts Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro among its group of writers, has taken a unique approach in adapting the source material. Since the original series of books had no linking device, del Toro and company have opted to use a haunted house as the backbone of the film and link the individual stories through a book found in said haunted house by a group teenage kids. This device is also clearly inspired by the Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things in more ways than one with the exception that the setting in this film is Vietnam era 1968 as opposed to the 1980s.
The individual stories themselves are wrapped inside the overall plot and come from a book that has the power to write a person’s fate. Since the teen characters came into contact and disturbed a long dormant spirit, the ghost gets its revenge on each character by writing a different story each night that eventually comes true. Most of these involve vengeful spirits of course, and although the stories themselves offer nothing new, a few of them are effectively done. As it typically goes with most horror anthology films, some of the stories are better than others but that’s just par for the course. The ratio of good to bad stories, thankfully, leans heavily in the direction of the former.
I do want to mention the young actress Zoe Coletti who leads the cast as Stella, an introverted young girl who’s processing her parents’ split as best she can. She becomes the de facto leader of the group and attempts to get to the bottom of the origins of the mysterious book. She’s a real talent to watch, projecting both vulnerability and spunk, and I enjoyed every scene in which she appeared.
It’s only one more reason why you could certainly do much worse than spending some time with SSTTITD on a summer afternoon.
‘Scary Stories…’ is playing in Hickory & all around the area.
Questions or comments? Filmfan1970@hotmail.com.
Michael Garza and Zoe Margaret Colletti in ‘Scary Stories’