This article contains opinion.
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a screen adaption by Andre Overdal based on famous macabre stories as told by Alvin Schwartz.
On the night of Halloween 1968 in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, a group of friends led by Stella (Zoe Colletti), explore an abandoned house fabled for the mysterious, sheltered life of Sarah Bellows. Upon entering Sarah’s old bedroom, the group finds and carelessly takes a book in which stories continue to write themselves.
Stella and her gang find themselves in the middle of their own horror stories. As Stella races to rewrite Sarah’s masqueraded past, each night a new story is written, resulting in a horrible fate for those who entered Sarah’s home.
While Stella and her group of offbeat friends don’t stray far from today’s stereotypical teen horror clique, it’s Schwartz’s spin on classic childhood campfire stories that make this movie a good psychological thriller.
Progressively, the audience is faced with the real heart of this story: childhood trauma. This becomes clearer through each monster presented as we learn its role in the victim’s upbringing.
The Pale Lady doesn’t have much on-screen time but is the monster most capable of imprinting a long-lasting image in your mind. Her appearance is foreboding, but her shy smirk is faintly welcoming.
Producer Guillermo del Toro was inspired by the book’s original illustrations by Stephen Gammell. The Pale Lady’s muscular, misshapened body, benign expression and coy walk as she closes in on her prey was Overdal’s closest depiction of a nightmare.
The film has a solid group of teen actors. Stella is a strong female lead who manages to care for five loved ones while suffering the worst fate of them all.
With a PG-13 rating, teens are likely to feel a connection with these actors. Chuck (Austin Zajur), one of Stella’s best friends, acts as the comedic relief, while Auggie (Gabriel Rush), the other best friend, acts as the responsible caretaker.
Adults can connect with this film because they already lived it. As stated above, this film is set in the late ‘60s. These chilling ghost stories have circulated for decades, older generations having read them for bedtime stories.
The film also engages in political history. Set during Nixon’s presidential campaign, the audience catches glimpses of posters and speeches. We are reminded of the Vietnam War dread as impending doom rest on the hearts of those not fated by Sarah Bellows.
The ending of the film certainly suggested a sequel, and just like the title, this film has more than one story to tell. The scares left something to be desired as they fell short of compelling.
There is something to be said for the suspense leading up to a monstrous introduction. The character dynamic of this film is overdone, but Overdal is to be praised for leaving the viewer reflecting on the stories we tell and the people they shape us to be.
This film is worth seeing for anyone who enjoys fear, nostalgia and old school horror.