A group of teens face their fears in order to save their lives.
We all loved a good scary story as kids. Sitting around a campfire at night or in your friends dark room with only a flashlight, whispering tales of ghosts, ghouls and the macabre.
But as people grow up they diverge into two paths: Those who can watch the most hardcore of horror films and sleep soundly at night and those that watch reruns of Goosebumps and need to sleep with the light on.
Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark falls somewhere in the middle. Hardened horror fans will rest like babies while amateurs might look more intently into dark corners but should eventually fall asleep.
Both sides will also have tons of fun and be highly entertained.
Taking full advantage of those memories we all have of listening to spooky tales as young ones, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark tells the story of a book that reads its victims and uses their own fears against them, unleashing hellish nightmares upon those unlucky enough to encounter it.
The concept of using the book in and of itself as a main character and villain is a fresh way of meshing and mixing various stories from author Alvin Schwartz’s original stories, keeping you engaged in wanting to know what’s the next story and monster the teens will face.
Norwegian André Øvredal’s direction is stylish and he certainly knows how to stage a scary and tense sequence peppered with some gross out comedy a la Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson although there is unfortunately an abundance of jump scares – as most modern horror films – and they lose their element of surprise towards the end.
Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, the filmmaker’s fingerprints are thankfully felt all over the final product, from the exquisite production design, his frequent composer Marco Beltrami (who does a fine job with the expected spooky soundtrack, creepy strings and haunting female vocals) to even including his love for misunderstood creatures as figures of tragic circumstance rather than beings of pure evil.
The young cast assembled handle the story well – in particular protagonists Zoe Colletti and Austin Zajur – which makes it a shame as it appears that the writers were too preoccupied with fitting each character into prerequisite stereotypes common to this genre and little effort is made to give them any distinction from what we’ve seen before.
The bookworm, the comedian, the skeptic one who doesn’t believe until it’s too late and the tough rebel with a secret are all present. But let’s be honest, audiences aren’t here for the humans who will be tormented but rather for the beings that will be doing the tormenting.
And here, the crew gets an A plus with the designs being incredibly faithful to Stephen Gammell’s iconic illustrations and perhaps the best reason to watch this on a big screen. Even Del Toro’s imprint is visible on their attention to gnarly details and clear passion for the practical effects (for the most part).
Not scary enough for genre veterans yet just enough for newcomers, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark should provide ample entertainment and thrills to both sides with outstanding monster design for a spooky good time at the movies