As we near the Halloween season, we’re going to see more films about monsters, creatures, and things that go bump in the night more often. We’ve got the Zombieland sequel due out soon, Lupita N’yongo continues to flesh her horror chops with her new film Little Monsters, and of course Pennywise the Clown returns in the most anticipated horror film of the year in IT: Chapter Two. But before we get into all of that, we got a bit of a teaser in the form of the Guillermo Del Toro produced, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”
In 1968, in the small town of Mills Lane, Pennsylvania, 4 kids stumble into a haunted house to regale us with the myth of their town. A wealthy family hid their daughter, Sarah Bellows, out of sight and she would tell stories to the little children who would visit her, and they would suddenly disappear. Once the premise of the film is established and we begin seeing the effects of the stories Sarah writes, tension is escalated as the kids are in a race against time to save the person mentioned in the story. We’re drawn into their fight and for some strange reason, we care what happens to these characters.
This is because Scary Stories isn’t done like your typical horror movie. We’re actually given a decent amount of time of backstory on our four main characters. We know Stella (played by Zoe Colletti) is dealing with her mother leaving and struggling to stay close to her father. Meanwhile, her two best friends Auggie and Chuck (played by Gabriel Rush and Austin Zajur respectively) are trying to get back at a bully (Tommy Milner played by Austin Abrams) who’s been torturing them for a while now. This leads them into the car of Ramon (played by Michael Garza), who’s drifting through town until it’s later revealed he’s dodging the draft to avoid fighting the war in Vietnam.
If you didn’t know, the film is based on a book series by the same name that is just as, if not more, terrifying than the film. And what the film does best is stay faithful to its original. The makeup and costuming are spot-on. The monsters and creatures look genuinely scary and the “kills” are creative and creepy. But the film does tend to teeter on ridiculousness a bit. Like when Zajur’s character randomly talks about a dream he had completely unprompted, only for it to come true in the next scene. And when Zajur repeatedly says he’d like to leave a hospital they’re at, but continues to follow along with Ramon and Stella. It’s there for story’s sake, even if it’s not entirely believable.
Scary Stories is a great starter for someone who hasn’t seen a lot of horror movies. It’ll get you comfortable with the genre, make you squirm, and maybe even scream aloud once or twice. It’s a mix of popular television shows like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? But the stakes are raised and are real, even at the end when we learn that those who were lost to the stories don’t magically come back once they’re over, setting up an interesting premise for the films to continue exploring.
RATING: 7.8 /10