Set in 1968, after exploring a haunted house, a group of teens, uncovering a book of ghost stories, find themselves being written into the book…
Based on a book by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, is only based on some of the stories included in it, as I understand it. The film is written by Dan & Kevin Hageman and also by Guillermo Del Toro, based on a story by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton. You can see what appealed to Del Toro about this project, a monster/horror type of film. At one point he was going to direct. In the end, that fell to Andre Overdal, who made the rather good Troll Hunter and the damn terrifying, Autopsy Of Jane Doe.
In the UK, Scary Stories… is classed as ’15.’ That means that no-one under 15 can go see it at the cinema. This is important I feel, as for me the thing about Scary Stories, much like the recent Annabelle Comes Home or like Joe Dante’s film, The Hole it is a horror film aimed at teens. However, I think the BBFC classification might mean a number of those who may have wanted to see it, may miss out, which is a shame. If 2012’s The Woman In Black can be altered to get a 12A classification, a film that is much more scary than Scary Stories… then this film should have been giving a similar classification.
But anyway, back to the film. Overdal has made a very good film, with some truly creepy monsters (the pale woman being REALLY unsettling!), a film that falls between two camps because of that rating. I loved the film, I certainly think most of the audience at FrightFest enjoyed it too, but perhaps, it played too young for the audience there? That’s not the film’s fault, as I said, I see it as a teen horror film, more than a horror film for adults.
The young cast are very good. Zoe Margaret Colletti plays Stella, the main character and she is terrific. Michael Garza plays Ramon, Gabriel Rush plays Auggie, Austin Zajur is Chuck and Natalie Ganzhorn plays Ruth, who all get caught up in the horrors of the book. All are good too. Of the adults, Dean Norris has a small role as Stella’s father and Gil Bellows as the police chief are the only ones who really register.
Each of the stories in the film are well done indeed, building up a truly tense and gripping climax in the old haunted house. But here, like throughout the film the Del Toro influence is at work as there is a lot of emotion on display in that final act too.
I loved Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. It’s creepy, has some humour, is full of emotion too. The setting (also the year I was born!) is well designed, the music good too. There is a lot to like here.
It’s a shame about that UK classification. I feel a number of teens would enjoy this film, but might not get in to see it. It might play to young for hardcore horror fans, but as a film to begin introducing teens to horror, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, like The Hole or even Annabelle Comes Home is one to certainly consider.
As for me, I really liked it.
Rating: **** out of 5