SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANDRÉ ØVREDAL / SCREENPLAY: DAN HAGEMAN, KEVIN HAGEMAN, GUILLERMO DEL TORO / STARRING: ZOE MARGARET COLLETTI, MICHAEL GARZA, GABRIEL RUSH, AUSTIN ZAJUR / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 23RD
Before Goosebumps and Point Horror assisted many a teenager in soiling their pants, there was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. And before that there was The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and numerous horror comic books, the influence of which is omnipresent in André Øvredal’s adaptation of the book of the same name.
Teenagers battling horror is all the rage at the moment (see Stranger Things, the IT remake) and Øvredal’s latest offering gives us a new band of likeable misfits. Stella (Colletti) and friends Auggie (Rush), Chuck (Zajur) and Ramón (Garza) battle to save themselves from a dead witch after stealing her book of stories from a haunted house. Their fears are exploited in short stories magically appearing in the book, freshly written in blood, of course (and nothing to do with Clive Barker). And wouldn’t you know it, they start to come true!
The film has a great premise, blending classic horror tropes, and that’s all set against the backdrop of a 1969 Vietnam-war era America about to be ruled by Richard Nixon. Despite this, a lot of the film seems very similar to Øvredal’s last film, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, albeit a toned-down PG-13 version. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you’ve seen it you will notice the repetition. Scary Stories also has strong similarities to Tales from the Crypt but does have the added bonus of imaginative monsters more often found in the movies of producer Guillermo del Toro.
Scary Stories is very imaginative but hardly original, meshing together clichés in a fashion last seen in The Cabin in the Woods. The film is genuinely creepy as an adult so God knows what it will do to today’s generation of tweens. However, there’s an over-reliance on jump scares and the CGI monsters and effects aren’t as scary or convincing as the more old-fashioned practical techniques (hello Javier Bodem and Mark Steger).
The only other let-down is the underwhelming ending, but there may well be more stories to come.