So I decided to get ahead on my weekend review and check out the new horror almost-anthology, Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. This review is spoiler-free! So even if you haven’t checked it out, read on…
Scary Stories is well told horror movie for nostalgic adults & teens as directed by Guillermo del Toro. It resurrects some of the most memorable and haunting stories from my generation that were collected and told by Alvin Schwartz in a series of books by the same name.
I remember some of them all too well after spending my allowance on the 1st two books of the series, Scary Stories and More Scary Stories at a scholastic book fair in grade school.
Most people like myself truly remember the stories due Stephen Gamell’s sick sketches. They were quite disturbing to most, but to my macabre ass, they were cool and out of this world. To this day, some of them are still the stuff nightmares are made of! (despite being redrawn for release).
I think that’s what I like about this film… is that dedication to those sketches and the use of practical effects that bring them to life.
The stories, most of which derive from folklore and urban legends were told in a way that could creep out the toughest of kids. So before seeing this movie, I was afraid that those investments I had as a kid would be ruined. But with Guillermo Del Toro on the helm, I was actually more reassured as opening night approached.
Despite my curiousity and concern, I wasn’t disappointed. The look and feel of this film was on point. The changes from the source material are done well and again the practical effects made me love this film especially in a world of CGI reliance. What little CGI is used is merged in nicely and not overkill.
The jump scares were timed well and not over the top… basically enough to let you know you were watching a horror movie yet it was PG-13. I enjoyed the buildup as the movie unfolded. I won’t lie, that same tension building moments will make this movie feel close to a R-rating especially for younger viewers.
The film runs a little over 90 minutes, which is typical of a horror flick. Although sometimes it made the character development as well movie plots feel a bit rushed in very few instances. This film is no different but you still feel invested and hooked on the young cast. I love this trend especially with screen gems such as Stranger Things and It. Because if one thing ruins a movie, it’s annoying kids.
While the books were written in the 80s, the film takes place in the 60s, notably around the time of the Vietnam war. This time frame gives the movie a loss of innocence vibe more than a coming of age film… Especially if you know anything about the era surrounding the Vietnam War. With the majority of this movie taking place around Halloween, I really see this as a film I would definitely show during one of my famous Halloween parties.
Much like the Goosebumps flick with Jack Black, the film ties the stories and characters together as a whole. However, Scary Stories doesn’t mimick Goosebumps scene for scene at all. Nor is it a carbon copy of other similar films.
The frightening tales are intertwined with the central plot, which is actually based on one of the stories from the books, The Haunted House. So for the most part, the stories aren’t unrelated or separated like they are in the books.
For you Del Toro fans, you will notice the reference and Easter eggs to Pan’s Labyrinth. I immediately thought of that because the film’s character, Sarah Bellow has a book of stories that writes on its own as each tale unfolds. This plays well as the race to save each keeps a steady pace.
You will immediately recall the other notable characters/monsters from the books like Harold (the creepy ass Scarecrow), The Big Toe & The Red Dot.
There is however a newer character, The Jangly Man, which is inspired from the stories, Me Tie Doughty Walker and What Do You Come For?
This works in this sense because while it is faithful to the source material, it still manages to somehow be its own thing. The changes although different from the folklore they come from are obvious but so are the similarities. Some of the film’s characters even share names with those in the Scary Stories books.
I will admit that when the film was first announced, I expected a flick similar to Creep Show where the stories are told completely apart from one another. But Guillermo Del Toro tied them together well much like the film Trick ‘r Treat and Goosebumps.
Other things that make the film cool were the set locations. It’s not the middle of nowhere nor a big city, just a typical small town. And unlike movies set in the modern era, there are no modern conveniences. I like the throwback calls to old drive-in movies as well as the infamous Pennhurst Aylum, which is a former insane asylum turned haunted house attraction.
What I enjoyed is that it doesn’t use the simply a soundtrack to force you to believe it’s the 60s, such as the use of songs like the Watchtower cover by Hendrix, Somebody to Love or For What it’s Worth. This film is a bit more creative than that.
You will have to keep in mind its open possibilty of sequel and the calm, happy ending. I wanted more than the ending we got much like the books… but I accepted how it went off. With a flick like this, you have to take it for what it is at its core… Nothing more, nothing less.
My vote is that it’s awesome & worth the movie ticket price.
Until Next Time Kiddies,
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