Cinemaster Score: 6.9/10
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a straightforward horror flick that’s only trying to give you a good time. For the most part, it succeeds. The acting – while lacking in experience – is well-done across the board – even with minor characters. Said characters are entertaining to watch on-screen but we feel barely any emotional connection between them. Perhaps this is because of the odd and frequent use of generic dialogue and misplaced humor that adds little to the film or the characters as a whole. Or perhaps it’s due to the relative inexperience of director Andrè Øvredal, who – with a lack of major films under his belt – struggles to maintain a sense of purpose throughout the movie. Despite this, he shows he’s able to faithfully adapt the iconic stories of old to screen with mostly satisfying results. While the stories he chose and the methods in which he told them were strange, his execution overall should be lauded. So, altogether, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is an above average adaption of the famous tales and serves as an entertaining time for any moviegoer.
Acting; Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has a cast that’s filled with youth. None of their performances are bad – but you can tell they lack years of experience. The primary side characters (Auggie and Chuck) are portrayed very well – gaining audience intrigue easily. Michael Garza takes on the male lead – displaying a transition from cold to warmhearted, though that transition does feel rigidly acted at times. However, it is actress Zoe Margaret Colletti who brings the film together as needed. Her liveliness keeps the film from being bland. While, in contrast, this young cast pales in comparison to that of IT (2017), for example. Not every cast of young actors can be expected to meet such a high-set bar, though, and the talent shown suffices.
Script; The script for this horror flick is pretty average, all things considered. Being based off of – or at least inspired by – a book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark had plenty of opportunity to use memorable lines. Unfortunately, the writing we’re given squanders the possibility of a quotable script. Other than the odd scene or so that uses an unforgettable line from the book, most characters have extremely generic dialogue. It’s far too easy to recognize that a lot of the things said are so familiar – practically interchangeable with other flicks in the genre. But the most noticeable downfall in the script is its attempt at comedy. Most horror films (including this one) contain at least a little comedic fun to break tensions. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark tends to have low-brow humor and gags rather than actually effective jokes – even if they aren’t necessarily out of place in execution. Although, the weird style of humor outlines the problem with this movie’s script – it’s rather common and uninteresting.
Characters; For our main cast of characters we have Stella Nicholls, Chuck Steinberg, Auggie Hilderbrandt, and Ramóne Morales. The most fleshed out between the four of them is undoubtedly Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti). Nicholls’ background is more thoroughly explained and her story more in depth despite the shared screen time between the four. However, the cast is altogether pretty shallow and we don’t care enough about them to feel scared or worried. Throughout the film, each character is subjected to a different “scary story”, and yet for each one there’s no connection between us and the characters. Sadly, while they were never axiomatically bad characters, absolutely nothing about them was great or memorable.
Direction; Andrè Øvredal is a relatively obscure director – known only for a couple of small time films and the well received The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is his most highly marketed film, as its budget is much larger and put to better use than his prior works. While Øvredal does well with adapting some of the more iconic stories to screen, he struggles with creating likeable or interesting characters. He mainly relies on the nostalgia of the time period and the popularity of the “stories” being adapted as the selling point of this film. So much time is spent setting up these elaborate encounters in which our characters are found that there is barely any time for meaningful plot developments. Øvredal displays an ability to craft an atmospheric story full of some disturbing imagery, yet he doesn’t seem able to balance it all in a satisfying and well-paced manner.
Story; Seeing as how Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was based on a book of the same name, a story was seemingly already laid out for them. Be that as it may, the novel happens to be an anthology of horror stories. So – rather than recreating the anthology as a film – the story for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark made a new, overarching story to connect the individual ones. It plays out with elements reminiscent of a supernatural slasher, but keeps true to its source material. Nonetheless, the pieces of the story taken straight from aforementioned novel are easily the most compelling scenes. The combination of source material loyalty with something new in between works surprisingly well in creating an effective tale that does the book justice.
Enjoyment; Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a pretty entertaining summer horror flick. While not the kind of summer event that will attract every audience (such as IT (2017)), it is a fun – albeit slow – watch for any moviegoer. From the casual film fan to even the most excited of horror geeks, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a movie for everyone. The plot (once it gets going) moves along at a relatively brisk pace and for the majority of the runtime there is fun horror action to keep us entertained. However, the opening act is very, very dull and slow in its setup. It takes its sweet time setting the mood for the audience and by the time the scares actually unfold, there’s little left to be excited for. So of course this is the kind of movie you and your friends will want to see for a late night film fest – but don’t expect raise your expectations too much.
David: “Knowing that the book was an anthology of horror, I was at first concerned of how these stories world be connected. I was impressed, though, to see that things were brought together this well. I am glad to say that to my surprise the film held up to my childhood nostalgia in the fullest.”
JP: “Compared to other horror films of recent memory, I had a fun time watching Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I think it’s a great summer watch, and just an all around entertaining film. If you can get past the movie’s very boring first half, you may find yourself having a good time.”