We all have that one story that used to scare us as kids. Maybe it was a ghost story your parents used to tell you, maybe it was an urban legend that kept you up at night. Well, what if that story happened to you for real? This is the premise of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Based on Alvin Schwarz’s anthology series of the same name, directed by Andre Ovredal (Troll Hunter) and co-written/produced by Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) expect the unusual and the macabre in this tale of teenagers who get themselves embroiled in a deadly curse.
The small Pennsylvanian town of Mill Valley harbours a gruesome secret which stems from a haunted mansion where a bunch of teens end up on Halloween night. After stealing a book from the house, scary stories start to be written about each of the teens, in turn sealing their fate.
With a cast of relative unknowns, we’re given one-dimensional character stereotypes led by Stella, an outcast girl who’s one of the boys (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Ramon, a mysterious homeless teen (Michael Garza), Chuck, the joker (Austin Zajur) and his blonde sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). There’s no real stand-out performance in the bunch, but towards the end I felt Stella’s earnest pleas were a bit over the top which was grating.
If it’s cheap scares you’re after, the cinema is always the best place to see a horror movie for that immersive fright and there’s no shortage of them here. The scares are then peppered with humour so the film never seems to take itself too seriously.
What is impressive about this film are the effects of how the ghoulish stories come to life, but unfortunately many of the stories lacked context apart from a simple one-liner to explain why that particularly terrifying story was being written about them. Perhaps if you’d read some of Schwarz’s books, they may have made more sense.
In the end, it felt like a cross between IT and the Goosebumps movie. Kinda scary, kinda wacky and leaving itself open for a sequel.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is screening at cinemas around town from Thursday, September 26.