MOVIE: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
STARRING: ZOE MARGARET COLLETTI; MICHAEL GARZA; AUSTIN ZAJUR; DEAN NORRIS
DIRECTED BY: ANDRE OVREDAL
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
You might be considered a bad parent, but I say take your teenage kid to see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. As far as horror movies go, this is the kind that will get you hooked on the genre, and might even inspire you to seek out the Alvin Schwartz short stories to keep the scary energy going. This production is following up on the trends that started from Stranger Things and most recently- It. It's a mixture of nostalgia and the things that go bump in the night. We follow a group of high school kids, living in a small town, that stumble onto a book that writes creepy stories in blood, each one leads to terrifying events, some that will haunt these kids for life. Director Andre Ovredal packages, a well balanced, fright fest for teens, reminding the grown ups of their lost innocence, and possibly forcing you sleep with the light on for the night.
The lead actor is Zoe Margaret Colletti, playing the role of Stella, a girl who's mother left when she was only six, so now her father (Dean Norris) works overtime to keep food on the table. The rest of the group includes, the sensitive and love sick Auggie (Gabriel Rush), jokester and funny guy Chuck (Austin Jazur), and Ramon (Michael Garza)- a new friend they pick up along the way. This is 1969, where they are the outcasts at school, nerds that enjoy Night of the Living Dead, get bullied by jocks like Tommy (Austin Abrams), and appreciate one another, because that's who they have. On halloween night, they stumble into the haunted house of Sarah Bellows, where legend has it that Sarah was kept locked away and killed herself. Stella decides to take a book from the house, which is a big mistake, as they find out quickly that the book writes demented stories, each one involving the kids, and leading to horrifying results. These are not just scary stories you read by the campfire, these are stories you want to go away.
My recollection of the Scary Story book is quite small. I may have read it back in junior high or high school, but I couldn't remember, so I went in feeling fresh to this one. I was expecting it to be more an anthology style narrative, in the vein of a Creepshow or Halloween Tales, but director Andre Ovredal does an excellent job, weaving Dan & Kevin Hageman's script together as an organic adventure. With production and story help from Guillermo del Toro, it's easy to see why for a PG-13 movie, Scary Stories gives us the most out of the possible scares. With strong special effects, audiences will be disturbed by a scarecrow that comes to life, a horrific spider bite that is much worse than you think, a dead woman looking for her missing toe, and the ominous pale woman lurking down the hall.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has some clunky moments, especially an ending that becomes much too preachy, but overall this is a cool teenagers horror movie. The rating may seem like a cash grab to some, but honestly, I thought it forced Ovredal and company to use more of their imagination this time. It also helps that the cast of youthful actors bring the right amount of fun and emotions to the table. Zoe Margaret Colletti follows-up her impressive work in Guy Nattiv's Skin, by becoming the vulnerable leader, feeling a sense of dread for getting her friends into the situation, and looking for a way to make the horror stop. That's because Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is about children growing up, losing their innocence, and finding a way to write their own tale. This is the kind of movie that inspires an entirely new generation of horror fans. That's a very good thing.
Written by: Leo Brady