Movie Review: ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a classic series of books penned by Alvin Schwartz in the 1980’s that seems everybody my age has read except me. Go figure. Everyone that I know who’s read them is excited for director André Øvredal’s adaptation of it to the big screen. But everyone that I know who’s seen it (including myself) left feeling overwhelmingly unsatisfied.
It’s a bold move to adapt a title called Scary Stories to film without an ounce of scariness to it. Granted, the books and their creepy illustrations were intended to scare a younger crowd, this movie could have benefited greatly from an R rating – even if that meant catering to only the adults who once grew up with them. Never once was anything remotely scary, nor was the tension ever built up in an effective way for a satisfying release.
The film struggled for me in regards to what it wants to be. We have our diet Loser’s Club from IT in our main trio of Stella (Zoe Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) before they’re joined by another outcast with a car, Ramon (Michael Garza). After a brief stint with the local jock bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams), Stella asks the crew “do you wanna see a haunted house?” (Think Jerry O’Connell asking about a dead body in Stand By Me) and off we go.
Because the film wants to tell all of these short stories and arc them into one overall picture, it strains in providing any meaningful character development and backstory. Book fans should be pleased with the monster designs, however, as they do look pretty much identical to the illustrations I’ve seen. After all, who better than monster lover Guillermo del Toro overseeing their creation? The only problem with them again though, is that they’re simply just there to look scary, when I’d much rather have some emotional ties to the characters they’re haunting and understand why they’re doing as they do.
The kids do bring a bit of charm to the film, but nowhere near the level that you’d see in 2017’s IT: Chapter One but the fault is not on them. The screenplay just doesn’t allow them to breathe a whole lot of life into their characters as it tries to cram five or six short stories into one film. On top of that, the film has the audacity to drive full steam ahead into a potential sequel as it concludes.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark gets a D.