Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) is a horror film which is based on a children’s book of the same title written by Alvin Schwartz. Directed by André Øvredal, this film is produced by Guillermo Del Toro, whose previous work won Best Picture for The Shape of Water. This film stars Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza to name a few of the new face talent here. When a group of teenagers discover a book in a haunted house and take it home, they soon realise that the book is writing stories by itself. However, these stories of death and horror are coming true right in front of their eyes.
What holds this film together are the different stories that are told in this film. Whilst I am not that aware of the original source, I love the creatures and different horror stories that are told. I particularly enjoyed how dark and gruesome the first two stories were, and the creature designs were wonderful here. They were not only well designed, but also well realised overall.
I also think that, for new faces and young actors, the performances here were mostly solid. This is particularly from Colletti and Garza, who end up having to carry this film towards the end of the runtime. There is nothing stellar or too dramatic in their roles, but they do a nice job carrying the film forward.
Aside from that though, I found that this film has so many issues and story problems. One problem that this film has is not knowing what demographic it is going for. For me, this could work well as a Goosebumps sort of film, which is basically getting young viewers into the horror genre gently. However, this will not work in the UK as it is rated 15. Given that rating, I have to sort of judge it as a good film for 15+ viewers to go to, and I don’t think this is the film that I would suggest. This is especially with the release of IT: Chapter Two and Crawl being released at the same time.
This film is grounded with cliches and bad character development. There are stereotypical bullies, cheesy set-ups and I did not buy this at all. I did not connect to any of the main characters, as they just felt like a copy-and-paste job from the most stereotypical roles that they have to follow. The good girl who is lonely and falls for the rebellious boy, the two nerdy friends that she has and the jocks that bully them. There is nothing refreshing at all about this formula, and I am sick of it now.
I have seen three films in a row that takes place in the 1968/1969 era, and this one handles it the worst. They try to make a big deal of the moment that they are in, from the Nixon debates to the Vietnam War. However, this never goes anywhere. The film has other plot points that they set up for certain characters, particularly for Stella (Colletti). These go absolutely nowhere and do not impact the main plot whatsoever, or even conclude or give a solid answer to.
I also did not like the cinematography or lighting in this film. I get that in horror you need dark scenes to set the tension, but this was so dark that I struggled to see what was going on. They have these incredible creature designs, yet they are hard to see from either the camera angles chosen or the very dark lighting. Not only that, but it is almost blinding when they go from dark setting to bright daylight, so much so that I had to squint to react to the bright light. I will also add that the dark lighting did not add any tension for me, and there were no moments that made me jump or get me scared at any point.
This ended up being a major disappointment for me. This is a sort of film that could work as an introduction to horror films for children and early teenagers, but the 15 rating in the UK prevents that from even happening. I did not like any of the characters, and could not care for the lore that they set up. The creatures are cool and I like the individual stories themselves, but there is nothing here that is really worth a ticket price.
Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark yet, and what did you make of it? Are you disappointed like me, or did you end up enjoying it overall? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a discussion.