Scary stories to tell in the dark by alvin schwartz

In André Øvredal’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” these loaded words are spoken by one of the film’s five central teens, tormented by a self-writing storybook they had carelessly taken away from a haunted house in their small town of Mill Valley, page authority around Halloween of 1968. Now let’s count all the formulaic components (as well as our consequent blessings) in this vista, shall we? Group of misfit kids on a mission? Check. Period nostalgia (that"s not the overdone "80s of “Stranger Things” & “IT”)? Check. Small-town Americana that delightfully rhymes with “Hill Valley”? Check. Halloween? Haunted house? Possessed object? kiểm tra check check. That’s certainly enough familiar ingredients lớn make a foolproof pot of genre stew. Và thanks lớn Øvredal’s visual flair và visceral dedication khổng lồ the monsters of Guillermo del Toro (among the team of writers & producers here), clearly a major influence on the “Trollhunter” director’s bittersweet approach to the field, this satisfying though far from innovative dish boasts comforting flavors throughout.

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If you, like me, did not grow up with tents in backyards, overnight trips to spooky lakeside grounds or marshmallows by campfires, you might be foreign to the world of the “Scary Stories” trilogy of books; with creepy tales collected by Alvin Schwartz, và illustrations lớn match done by Stephen Gammell. The good news is, Øvredal’s stylishly old-school flick doesn’t require any homework—your affection for genre-work lượt thích “The Changeling,” “Ringu” & “The Night of the Living Dead” as well as a mild nostalgic appreciation for “Goonies”-type fare will suffice. Though it’s still helpful khổng lồ know that these are anthology-style books. Co-scribes Dan và Kevin Hagemen (along with story crafters del Toro, Marcus Dunstan và Patrick Melton) have created a unifying (though choppy) narrative arc around a number of the popular yarns of the books—“Harold,” “The Big Toe” và “The Red Spot” among them—while keeping with the novels’ PG-13 spirit. Among the things “Scary Stories” might wake up could very well be a newfound appetite for horror in younger movie-watchers.

At the heart of the tale that celebrates the healing nguồn of storytelling is the sweetly introverted Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti of “Wildlife”), a motherless aspiring writer with dad issues & a love of all-things-scary—her room is decorated wall-to-wall with tales & creatures she worships. There is also the enigmatic Ramón (Michael Garza), a Mexican-American teen who attempts lớn pass through town, but lingers around after saving Stella’s crew from bullies one night at the drive-in. Then we have the nerdy Auggie (Gabriel Rush) in a Pierrot costume for Halloween—his outfit choice is a successful running gag—the goofy Chuck (Austin Zajur) as well as his beautiful, popular sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). When the quintet visits an out-of-bounds, boarded-up mansion with a tragic past one night and takes away a storybook belonging to the spirit of the once-murderous Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard)—she is said khổng lồ be locked away by her rich and cruel family—they disturb the vengeful ghost và end up disappearing one by one. Gruesome tales start to lớn slowly appear in the book, designed in accordance with the teens’ worst fears.

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Predictably, the phối pieces of Øvredal’s film are a lot more fun khổng lồ enjoy individually than to lớn consider them within the context of the overarching tale. In that, the seams around the anthology show—we don’t quite connect with the kids’ individual fears in a deep sense when their nightmares find them. Thankfully however, even Øvredal seems to lớn know the parts here are greater than the sum & doesn’t shy away from showing off the visual tricks he’s got up his sleeve khổng lồ make each spine-tingling sequence pop in their own way. From the astonishing opening montage featuring Donovan"s “Season of the Witch” (a new version by Lana Del Rey comes in the end) to crawling spiders and stalker-y ghouls, the bite-sized thrills of “Scary Stories” pack plenty of jolts, though more effective for adolescent eyeballs than adults.


The film also engages with the country’s political history và racism, but only khổng lồ varying degrees of success. With the backdrop of a detailed production kiến thiết by David Brisbin that brings the era’s character to lớn life, we get clear shots of Nixon on posters & TV and are reminded of the Vietnam War dread—a labored ambition that doesn’t quite land. Still, “Scary Stories” is a strangely uplifting throwback to old-fashioned clans of investigative teens. While it doesn’t break any new ground, there is plenty of vintage fun to lớn be had with kids who feel their way through life’s impending fears và live to tell the tale.


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Tomris Laffly

Tomris Laffly is a freelance film writer & critic based in New York. A member of the new york Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), she regularly contributes todailykhmerpost.com, Variety and Time Out New York, with bylines in Filmmaker Magazine, Film Journal International, Vulture, The Playlist và The Wrap, among other outlets.