Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
In this movie, three teens and a drifter go to Bellows mansion. Once home to the family that founded the town. It’s a haunted house that houses a terrible secret of a lost family member. After discovering a book and a hidden room that belonged to a lost family member named Sarah Bellows, Stella, one of the teens finds and takes a book that belonged to her. Soon after, strange tales start to get written, and new horror tales come to life as they try to stop each story from happening and claiming them as their next victims.
I did like this movie, but the film was just OK. The acting felt stiff and standard for a horror genre film. I wasn’t frightened at all, except for 2 forced jump scares. The kind of jump scares that shot the volume up to an 11. Followed by a quick reaction horror image shown on screen. The imagery was creepy, and the monsters were done well. I wasn’t too impressed with the story or screenplay. This movie could have been better if we had many stories go into one story, but the film seemed to do the opposite. The horror tried to rely on jump scares and thought that this film might have been better if it was toned down and rated PG, while still being scary.
The following article contains spoilers from this point on.
I am not familiar with the stories at all. I didn’t have any idea that this was based on stories for children until I heard from friends and I saw the first trailer. The three books featured folklore and urban legends. The stories in the movie don’t just come from the first book, but the third book as well. The stories that they use are “Harold,” “The Big Toe,” “The Red Spot,” “The Pale Lady,” and “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker.” The movie reminded me of Goosebumps: The Movie. I hadn’t seen Goosebumps, but it felt like a similar kind of way this movie was made. Besides the rating difference, the only difference is the characters that got put into the stories in Scary Stories one at a time instead of the stories coming to life and face all the main characters at once.
It made me wonder if this film would have benefited more if it was a PG movie. This idea might be a hard sell since it feels that for any horror movie to do well, it needs to be rated at least PG-13 nowadays. But for this movie, being PG-13 stuck it in a weird point where it’s not dark enough to be rated R, but not enough content cut or toned down for the movie to be rated PG. It really limited the audience as these were book for children, really dark stories. Even most of the stories and books were met with complaints and criticism for its themes and tones. Not a lot of people seemed to be familiar with the story unless they had already read the stories. I think that it could have benefited being PG like Goosebumps was. It didn’t have to be not as child-friendly, but you could get away with some darker themes if you cut down the violence. It looked like it could have been a PG movie, but I believe the scene where Tommy gets stabbed by “Harold” in the chest and some of the forced jump scares and imagery, could have caused the PG-13 rating. Something along the lines, like an, Are you Afraid of the Dark, the Nickelodeon horror show from the 1990’s could have worked much better.
This seemed to focus on feeling a story instead of just being an anthology of tales. Another problem with the movie that could have made the film better. The main characters got stuck in one individual story throughout the movie. It didn’t give enough time for me to be invested in them. This also felt like a Final Destination scenario for everyone. If these tales had come together into one story, in the end, I might have liked the movie better. Tommy was the first to go, and I didn’t get to know why he was a bully. Only that he farted in Chuck’s milk and he frequently got drunk and attacked “Harold,” the scarecrow in his families yard often. We also didn’t get too know much about Auggie, one of Stella’s friends and Ruth, Chuck’s sister, and Tommy’s girlfriend. Ramon, Stella, and Chuck were the I seemed to get to know the most. I felt the stories had to do with each of the fears of the main characters. I got a sense of that with Chuck and Stella. Chuck seemed never to want to face fear and run. Stella, who’s mom had abandoned her and her dad as a child. But the only fear was only made apparent with Ramon.
At first, he seemed to be a runaway, but it was revealed that he was a draft dodger. The film took place in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam war. He fears made sense since he confessed at the end of the movie that his brother was sent home and “in pieces.” Having the Jangly Man haunt him, a monster that was made up for broken-up body parts made sense. Being haunted by the jangly man calling him a coward made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t get the feeling that he stopped his fear after Stella stopped Sarah Bellows.
Speaking of Sarah Bellows, she seemed to be the main antagonist of the movie. She was a tortured girl, locked away by her family and her brothers. She knew the Bellows secret of their paper mill, dumping Mercury into the water and killing the children. She was electroshocked to prevent her from telling the town. Her family nearly erased her from existence as well. She found the book and started to “write out” her family for locking her away. The did work for me, as she became a monster writing deaths for anyone involved with taking her book, but it did pose a bigger unanswered question about the book. Where did it come from? How come it can’t be destroyed and was does happen to the victim’s, are the dead or stuck in a type of limbo? I guess we will have some answers in the sequel.
I am not familiar with any of these actors, but I don’t the acting to be fair with the story. The acting did come off as kind of bland at times. Scary Stories also had a lot of similar styles that I’ve seen in past horror movies. I give credit for using teenagers in of either 20 something-year-olds or 30-year-old actors pretending to be teenagers. The film had a lot of things that I’ve already seen in horror movies as well. The bully that picked on the main protagonists for reasons unknown, then getting his fate for picking on the kids. The standard doubt of supernatural events happening by Ruth, Chuck’s sister. Until it had happened to her after being bitten by the Spider. When Auggie was being hunted by the corpse of “the Big Toe” for instance. He chooses to hide under the bed instead of escaping outside in the open and gets taken quickly.
There is a good thing with Guillermo Del Toro being involved in the movie. There was a creepiness to the monsters in the film. I don’t know if the monsters in the film were based on any illustrations, but I liked the look of them. It’s a shame that we didn’t get more screen time with them. They only appeared for what felt like a couple of minutes. The camera shots and imagery were great. The tone at times matched darkness like other horror-themed films that he had done like Pan’s Labyrinth. My favorite scene was The Red Room. It was a nightmare that Chuck was having involving “The Pale Lady.” I’ll admit that it didn’t see the hallway ever becoming red and become Chuck’s red room. When the pale lady appears and gets closer each time with chuck trying to run away to a different hall, was frightening. The was the best horror done in this movie as it didn’t do jump scares, but slowly built terror of a haunting and supernatural presence gradually getting closer to Chuck and finally swallowing and assimilate him into her. This movie is something that I couldn’t see many others do besides him.
The movie sets up for a sequel, and there were more tales to tell. The movie seems to end the film at such a strange point where Ramon stops draft dodging and goes off to Vietnam. Stella, her dad and the freed or released Ruth are driving to I’m not sure where. Stella is talking about how she wants to save her friends, Auggie and Chuck. It looks like there could be a sequel to this film. But my interest was a bit waning, and I can’t wholeheartedly say at the moment if I will go and watch it. But I may since I’ve already seen this one.
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