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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) Movie Review

Updated on August 23, 2019
Noel Penaflor7 profile image

I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 13 years.

Cheeky.
Cheeky.
 
 
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Running Time
111 minutes
Director
André Øvredal
Writer
Dan & Kevin Hageman

Finally, what all parents from the beginning of time have asked for: A horror movie you can watch with your kids.

I actually know of no parents who want to do that with their children, but if you’re a parent and were reluctant to let your kids watch Crawl or that stupid Annabelle Comes Home, now you don’t have to be because you can watch Scary Stories to tell in the Dark with them.

Yay?

That doesn’t sound too enthusiastic. Maybe those particular parents just hate their kids, possibly for good reason, but you can at least pretend you’d like to do something they enjoy. Let’s try this again and maybe you can at least feign enthusiasm.

Take 2…

But if you’re a parent, and you were too much of a euphemism for a feline to let your kids watch the Child’s Play remake or that idiotic Annabelle Comes Home, then you can take time out of your supposedly busy schedule to watch Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark with them.

Parent that cares- I am happy I get to watch Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark with my kids, Lucy and Walter. I am so busy in my job as a sales representative that I hardly get to see them. Lucy is a contract killer on the weekends and Walter is a paid F-boi for the local Catholic Church. If me seeing Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will keep them a couple of steps further from prison or the grave, I am happy to do so. I was reluctant to let them see that excellent monster movie Crawl or that insipid Annabelle Comes Home, but I am happy to see this with them

Parent that only mildly cares- Fine. I’ll watch Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark with them. Then I’m going back to my busy schedule.

All it takes is that first step.

I will now refer to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as Scary Stories because the entire title is way too long and I have to hire Lucy to do a “job” for me. For such a young girl, she’s very good at what she does.

Synopsis

As you know, Scary Stories is based on the series of books from Alvin Schwartz that came out from 1981 to 1991. I’ve only read a couple of them, but before he got eaten by a pterodactyl my nephew Mortimer was a huge fan of the books.

Or he was kidnapped at the mall. By a Pterodactyl.

This review is dedicated to Mortimer. I would have liked to have seen this with you rather than that moronic Annabelle Comes Home.

If you remember, Scary Stories the books just had the stories one after the other, you know, just like a regular book. Since this is a movie, the production team took it upon themselves to awkwardly shoehorn a small handful of the stories you read into the film.

It’s 1968. Something about Vietnam. Something about hippies. Something about acid. Someone says “groovy” or “peace” or some 60s catchphrase that’s now stenciled on some hipster’s vintage clothing.

Our story centers around 5 high school students, most of whom will be dead by the end of the movie.

I’m kidding, parents. Or am I?

Let’s meet them, because there isn’t much of a plot to Scary Stories-

  • Stella (Zoe Colletti)- Stella wants to be a writer and she lives with her father because her mom died or left them. I’m not sure which. She also wears glasses and none of these kid characters are particularly well drawn, but that’s not why we paid our ticket.
  • Ramon (Michael Garza)- He’s the new kid in town and he’s hiding a deep dark secret. He’s of Hispanic descent and everyone in town looks at him sideways, like he’s going to open fire at a garlic festival or a Walmart. Things will be so much better for him in the future.
  • Auggie (Gabriel Rush)- His parents leave him at home alone a lot and he likes to dress up as a clown. If this were an R-rated movie, we’d all expect him to die first.
  • Chuck (Austin Zajur)- If this movie were released in the mid-aughties, Chuck would have been played by Jonah Hill. He’s the designated comic relief.
  • Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn)- She’s Chuck’s older sister. She has bad taste in men and even worse taste in facial creams.

While trapped in the haunted Bellows house (don’t ask), Stella accidentally finds a book with scary stories.

Scary Backstory to Tell in the Light- Legend has it that scary Sarah Bellows kidnapped children and wrote scary stories in a very special book. Legend has it, those stories were written in the blood of the kidnapped children. Man, that was drawn out. I should have led with “Sarah Bellow’s book of scary stories was written in children’s blood”.

Stella believes she has Sarah Bellow’s book. Or does she?

Probably. Because it just so happens that the book has just started writing stories on its own, and whosever name appears at the beginning of the story is the person who will be dead (or worse) by the end of it.

Now Stella and what’s left of the 60s Stranger Things gang must stop the scary Sarah’s stories from being finished…or everyone will die.

Sounds like something every parent will want to watch with their kids. So much better than that dreadful Annabelle Comes Home.

What Works With Scary Stories

  • When Scary Stories the movie sticks to the actual Scary Stories, the film soars. You’re more frightened than you expect to be during a kid-centric horror movie. You get the filmmakers have love for the source material, you only wish that more of the source material was actually shown.
  • Best Screen Story to Tell in the Dark- Not sure if it’s good for the movie that Harold is the best adapted story that translates onto the screen as it’s the first story told and the rest kind of, um, pale after that. Not to say they aren’t effective, but they’re just not as scary.
  • Harold, The Dream, Pale Lady, Jangly Man and The Red Spot’s occupants are brought to terrifying life (PG-13 terrifying anyway) for fans of the books. I might have been more afraid had I been 78 years younger or had never seen a horror movie before.

What Doesn't Work With Scary Stories

  • Unfortunately half the movie centers around Stella and the 60s Scooby Gang and try as they might, they are just not as interesting or compelling as when the movie shows one of the real Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The audience deflates every time we leave a scary story to go back to the main cast.

Harold!
Harold!

Overall

The movie is more accurately titled Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and 45 Minutes of Filler. Children will be frightened. Anyone over the age of 16 will be slightly amused. Anybody over the age of 20 but an IQ below 40 will be wishing for another viewing of Hobbs and Shaw. See it. If not for you, then do it for your kids.

3 stars for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

What’s your Favorite Scary Story To Tell in the Dark?

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