I didn’t even have to break out my inhaler for this movie! (But you may if you keep reading because there are spoilers below…)
Let me preface this review with the admission that I love Guillermo Del Toro and Alvin Schwartz for introducing me to how much fun fear is at such a young age. While this was a visually appealing movie (as is the case with most Del Toro movies), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark did not deliver nearly the dramatic punch or encapsulate me inside a movie universe.
I can see exactly what they were trying to make here.
They wanted to make “a family-style horror movie” — scary but horror the entire family can enjoy.
The problem with that is while these were kids books, the stories themselves were not children’s stories.
The stories were life lessons and incredibly scary because, as children, we used our imagination and made them even scarier for ourselves. How? Any of those stories could happen to us if we didn’t do the right thing. Now with the Internet, this movie wouldn’t scare a Mormon girl who just left Utah, much less a 13-year-old who grew up in major metropolitan city.
Jumps Off The Page. Kinda.
I firmly believe these books influenced my interest in horror during my teenage years. I first read these books when I was about eight or nine. I remember I would hide the books behind the larger books on our bookshelf in the reading corner because I went to a private Christian school and didn’t want them to get confiscated.
These books are special to me, so I want to like this movie. Only, I didn’t.
The movie itself was shot great. The visual effects were superb. They even used the original illustrations from Stephen Gammell as part of the costume design. Kudos to them for doing that. It really stuck with me and I absolutely loved that part of the movie!
They also included stories from all three of the Scary Stories books, which was awesome.
The Jangly Man (actor and contortionist Troy James who really can bend his body) and Harold the Scarecrow were definitely nightmare fuel for me, so I enjoyed those greatly.
The horror came more from the fact that something so scary you’ve only imagined is now alive right in front of you.
I’m not going to spoil it (completely) and tell you which ones and how many stories they told but, it was decent enough that I recognized all of them–as I sit here with my Scary Stories collection next to me.
It’s Best Considered Nostalgia
The best way to go into this movie is looking at it as an homage to what inspirational impact these stories carry. Scary Stories is also a movie I would definitely take a younger child or teenager who is interested in seeing horror, maybe for the first time. It definitely played more for the younger generations.
In terms of feelings, I always get emotional with Del Toro who has a way to give humanity to the antagonist. This one was no exception.
It was just essentially a diet Crimson Peak.
The story was almost exactly the same just with the added scary stories. Overall, the stories did not really fit well together and felt very forced. The direction lacked the fear of the original stories because it gave each tale more of a supernatural element that was unnecessary. The stories themselves were so terrifying because they taught you the consequences of not doing the right thing the first time.
The setting of the movie is in 1968. The political undertones with Nixon and swastikas being burned definitely parallels our current political situation but, has absolutely no relevance with the story whatsoever.
I never want to trash any movie. It takes time and effort to make a film. Guillermo Del Toro is most definitely a good enough filmmaker to give us the movie we deserve with Scary Stories, but I definitely see that was not his vision for this movie.