Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark could have been another teen-trap scary-ish movie, making a quick buck in an easy-to-sell genre. But a little imagination and solid performances raises this movie up. It is definitely safe to say that this is a solid addition to movies you watch under a blanket in late October on a chilly night.
The film is adapted from the trio of YA books from the eighties and nineties, a series of truly terrifying short stories. But the screenplay writers and director went beyond just taking a few shorts and bringing them to the big screen anthology style. There are several stories within the main story, but they are tied together and bring us along in a way many horror movies don’t.
Do It By The Book
The movie, as so many movies in the horror genre do, centers around a group of teens trying to prove their courage by visiting a dark, forbidding, ostensibly abandoned house. The legend goes that a young girl, Sarah, was held captive there by her family, and if you whisper for her to tell you a story, it will be the last you ever hear.
The kids go through the house, discover hidden rooms and a book of stories. Eventually the kids run from the house, with the book. And it’s the book that Sarah uses to channel her revenge. Another key element of this genre is spirits holding a grudge. Hey, it’s a good way to kill some time in eternity. Sarah starts writing more stories in front of the kids and they watch their demise happen in real time.
Of course, Sarah’s making them pay for their sins as a proxy for her family, which did her wrong back in the day.
Sins of the Past
It should also be noted that this is set in 1968 America, so the divided politics and racial issues serves as an almost overbearing backdrop. It helps facilitate the reason Ramon Morales has to lay low after one of the people he has a fight with goes missing, but otherwise it’s not necessary for the plot.
It looks at how the things we do can come back to (literally) haunt us, while having fun with the characters. I bonded with them, and the fact that most of them are unknown to mainstream audiences helps us see them solely as their characters as opposed to comparing them to past roles. It’s fun and I’d totally be open to seeing a sequel.
Scary Stories is undoubtably a solid edition to the genre, and would be great to rent for tweens having a sleepover in the fall. But it’s totally not necessary to see it in theaters, especially in August.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Brandy with a red wine kicker. The dark alcohols give you a scary hangover, the kind that will haunt you all day, just like Sarah will. Hopefully she doesn’t write you out of existence!