As you’re nervously walking around the scholastic fair; you stumble upon a book that captures your eyes. The cover is a clown with a gruesome grin. Even doe you’re scared, it doesn’t stop you from opening it and flipping thru the pages. You see a child with a sad expression digging in his garden. Suddenly he finds a toe. The child brings it to the house, thinking it’s a plum and eats it with his stew. It’s late at night and his parents are sleeping but he’s wide awake. “Then he hears footsteps and the creature comes into his room and yells at him saying “Where is my to-o-o-o-o-e?!“. Frighten, you quickly throw the book away and leave the fair. The memory is ingrained in your memory until now.
Director André Øvredal and Producer Guillermo Del Toro brings your nightmares back to life with the film adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The story takes back in 1968 America. Stella, a girl obsessed with monsters, and her friends for Halloween night they go to the abandon mansion of the Bellow family. They say that the house is haunted by Sarah Bellow. A girl who turned her misery into scary stories. But, who would have thought they could come to life?
Evil Dead, Oculus, Drag me to Hell; It’s a common trope within horror to use curse objects as the main theme. It certainly not an original story and we have seen it before but the director explores this element in certain ways. Being that the main source of inspiration is a children’s horror book, you’ll think that the film would have been made as an anthology ( such as the Twilight zone movie or VHS). But, they created a story wherein a clever way incorporated these shorts stories. The way that the story was told was not through adults but children as the main victims. Putting them in horrific situations.
The script was created by Del Toro and Dan & Kevin Hageman. Being that the film is based on a children’s book, they don’t dumb down the story to the viewers. It’s creepy and disturbing when it needs to. With the help of the director, Øvredal captures the dark and eerie feeling that Del Toro wanted on the big screen. However, being that the characters are children, the dialogue felt cheesy at times. On top of that, the pacing of the story was a little off. Mostly because we get an amount of character buildup and side story before the actual “scary parts” happen.
The highlights of the film were when scary stories come to life. The build-up and the payoff of the scenes were well executed by creating tension when was needed. On the other hand, you’ll recognize some of the childhood stories such as The Big toe, Harold the scarecrow, and others. Seeing the creatures on the big screen you can feel the essence of Guillermo del Toro all over it. Capturing the details of the once black and white illustrations and turning them into real-life gruesomeness.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a fun creepy movie. Even doe it’s a formula that we have seen before, its a solid story with unsettling creatures. It’s a perfect movie for young (and adults ) cinephiles who aren’t too keen on scary films but want to slowly introduce themselves to the horror genre.