‘Scary Stories’ Is A Visually-Stunning, Nostalgic Romp That’s Light On Coherence

Aug 8, 2019, 1:14 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2019, 7:50 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – If you’re old enough to get excited by the words “Scholastic Book Fair,” then you’re probably the target audience for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”

The movie is very loosely based on the book trilogy from the 80s and 90s that is more known for its iconic art than the actual scary stories. While the movie stays horrifyingly loyal to the imagery from the books, the narrative that tries to string the stories together leaves a bit to be desired.

The Film

Set in 1968, friends Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) are about to celebrate their last Halloween trick-or-treating. To commemorate the event, they’ve planned an epic act of revenge on town bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) who’s spent years stealing the kids’ candy.  After the deed is done, the three friends hide out in a drive-in movie theater where they meet mysterious Ramone (Michael Garza), who’s new to town.

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With their new friend in tow, the group makes one last Halloween trip to the town’s haunted house, which is supposedly haunted by a vengeful woman who liked to tell scary stories to children. The legend is if children ask Sarah Bellows to tell them a scary story, it will be the last story they ever hear.

It’s there the group discovers a book full of Sarah’s scary stories, and there’s more to it than just yellowing pages of tales written in red ink. And it’s that book that changes the lives of everyone in the group, including the town bully.

The Review

Let’s be honest. We’re all seeing “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” because we loved the nightmare-inducing artwork that impacted us so much as children. In that respect, this movie succeeds beyond expectations.

The images from stories like, “Harold,” “The Big Toe,” “The Red Spot,” “The Dream,” “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker” and “The Haunted House,” looked as though they jumped directly from the pages of the books and onto the big screen. The creatures were frightening, disturbing even, and they were the best part of “Scary Stories.”

How do you bring all these distinctive drawings to life through a cohesive narrative, though? Well, it’s difficult.

The plot was sadly convoluted, and it actually made very little sense. I’m willing to forgive it, though, because nightmares don’t make sense, either. And visually, this movie delivered an unforgettable nightmare.

The most memorable portions of “Scary Stories” come in the form of the Pale Lady from “The Dream” and the Jangly Man, a composite character from several stories, both of which have been seared into my brain and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The Takeaway

If you’re willing to sit through some befuddling plot points and a resolution that doesn’t make a lick of sense, then you should definitely see “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” in the theaters. It’s fun seeing this visually stunning piece of art on the big screen, yes, but it’s even more fun witnessing everyone else’s reactions to some of the more disturbing elements.

If it makes enough money, we’ll probably see a sequel — perhaps even two. If nothing else, we will get to see even more of those horrifically awesome creatures from our childhoods come to life.

After all, that’s why we want to watch these movies, right?

“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is rated PG-13 for terror and violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.

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‘Scary Stories’ Is A Visually-Stunning, Nostalgic Romp That’s Light On Coherence