WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
The shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large in the small town of Mill Valley for generations. It's in a mansion that young Sarah Bellows turns her tortured life and horrible secrets into a series of scary stories. These terrifying tales soon have a way of becoming all too real for a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Sarah's spooky home.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
We all love a scary story we can tell around a campfire, surrounded by twisting shadows inviting the imagination to conjure up glimpses of unspeakable horror. While the horror genre these days have a lot more kids fighting evil in small-town America in some pre-Internet decade, it’s a cliche trend that I quite enjoy.
In Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it’s a classic Halloween-style story where the evil is fuelled by injustice, mixed in with monsters that will make you scream while also being awestruck by their meticulous design. Written and produced by horror king Guillermo del Toro and directed by André Øvredal from the horrifying The Autopsy of Jane Doe, this a scary story that won’t traumatise your soul.
Running from a bully, a group of kids spend their Halloween in an abandoned house and stumbles upon a book full off hand-written stories. Disturbing it from its resting place unleashes a world of horror, as new stories start writing themselves with terrible consequences.
Whatever your criticism of Del Toro might be, you can’t deny the man’s genius when it comes to monsters. His hand helped shape the grotesque wonders of this film, ensuring that they aren’t comical characters from the terror of children’s imagination, but instead ones that seem to have arisen from the depths of hell. The woman (thing??) with the black hair will haunt me forever and is a testament to the way practical effects can still sometimes kick CGI’s ass.
As for the plot, it was pretty straightforward, although there was one thing I didn’t quite grasp, and it wasn’t explained well in the film - the horror that the kids are experiencing is quite obviously juxtaposed with the election of Nixon and the Vietnam War’s conscription taking place in the background - but I don’t why. Was it a commentary on American politics? The horrors of the war that was later revealed? Is it somehow linked to the current state of American society? It’s never really made clear what they were trying to say unless it was just a way to make sure you know that it’s set in the late 1960s, but I doubt they spent so much time on this imagery just to set the scene. Maybe I’m not American enough.
The cast, however - made up of relatively unknown faces - was a decent crew made up of the classic misfits. You got the class clown, the serious nerd, the one with family baggage and the mysterious one with something to hide. Zoe Colletti, who plays the leading lady, was quite a powerhouse performance and the strongest out of all them, but she had the biggest role to fill and played it with confidence. I just wish Hollywood would realise there might be other friend dynamics that don’t always have to be only one girl with a whole bunch of boys.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is exactly as its name suggests - a fun classic horror that would have been better to have been released during Halloween time when everyone is looking for a little fright in their lives. While it won’t blow your mind, a lot of evident passion went into its making and the creation of the campfire terror inspired by Del Toro’s abominations.