Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Movie Review: "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" (2019)

Director: André Øvredal
Year: 2019
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

A group of friends enters a haunted house with a sordid history on Halloween night. Inside, they find a cursed book of "scary stories." It is said that should anyone read one of the tales, it will be their last. When new stories start to appear in the book, all of the people who came in contact with it find themselves in danger.

Movie still for the 2019 horror thriller Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark where The Pale Lady walks down a red hallway toward Austin Zajur
"There is no magic, child, only rage." (Image Source)
"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is directed by André Øvredal, who is known for directing such films as "Troll Hunters" and "The Autopsy of Jane Doe." This feature has numerous writers, including Dan and Kevin Hageman, Guillermo Del Toro, Marcus Dunstan, and Patrick Melton, and it is based on the novels by Alvin Schwartz. Three friends named Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Chuck (Austin Zajur), and Auggie (Gabriel Rush) head out on Halloween night to exact revenge on their longtime bully, an older jock named Tommy (Austin Abrams). After a successful (and smelly) prank, they run from Tommy and his friends and hide out in a random car at the drive-in that belongs to a boy named Ramon (Michael Garza), who is just passing through town. They eventually get away and decide to head to the old Bellows mansion, which is said to be haunted. Once inside, Stella finds a book that belonged to Sarah Bellows. It is said that if Sarah Bellows ever reads you a story, it will be the last you ever hear. When the kids finally head home, they discover that the book has started writing new stories featuring everyone who was in the house as main characters, and if your character dies, so do you. Now, Stella, Ramon, Auggie, and Chuck must go on a quest to see if they can stop the book's evil magic.
Natalie Ganzhorn looks at the growing red spot on her cheek before it pops full of spiders in a movie still for the film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
"This is why I don't read books." (Image Source)
The "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" book series is not only known for its writing, but for its iconic illustrations as well. We can remember reading these spooky tales as kids and being enamored with the artwork that came along with them. One of the more difficult tasks for director André Øvredal was bringing these fabulous, eerie drawings to the silver screen while maintaining their spine-chilling spirit. We believe the visual effects team and makeup artists responsible for bringing this movie to life manage to do just that. The creatures that inhabit the scary stories are our favorite thing about this film as they look pretty damn spectacular and repulsive. For a PG-13 movie, the antagonists and what they do to their victims are frequently gruesome, especially in the story "The Red Spot" and in the sections featuring Harold the Scarecrow and The Jangly Man. Øvredal does a splendid job creating an unsettling atmosphere that is regularly steeped in tension, genuine frights, and gross-out disgustingness. The story does use quite a few jump-scares, but most of the time, they are used effectively. Our biggest issue here is that the framework story in between all of the drawings-come-to-life is simple and somewhat cliche. It falls back on many go-to horror film tropes, including researching old newspapers in a library and finding an exposition lady to fill the audience in on some sort of unknown history (in this case, about Sarah Bellows, her family, and their house). This interweaving tale featuring Stella, Ramon, Auggie, and Chuck didn't bother us so much that it detracted from our overall enjoyment of the film, but it also makes it quite a bit longer than it needed to be. Also, despite having a solid conclusion, like many recent horror films, it leaves itself open for a sequel, which we hate. We wish *all* movies would stop doing this, not just horror ones. Nothing is guaranteed, so it's better to tighten everything up just in case. Don't leave us hanging, man!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 2019 movie still featuring The Jangly Man coming down the stairs of a haunted mansion
"You let a ghost story get into your heads. That's all it is." (Image Source)
In the end, we think that the film adaptation of the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" books is the perfect horror gateway for teenage fans, much like R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books and film adaptation were for younger kids. Soon enough, they will be tackling Stephen King stories like "It" and "The Mist," well on their way to enjoying some of the best that the horror genre has to offer.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
RT Rating: 79%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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