I was excited to see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, as I love a good scary story. I was hoping it would remind me of some of the better standalone episodes of Supernatural, just in a movie format. However, I found it was very mixed in story and quality.
The main premise of this horror movie is that a group of outcasts along with a mysterious young drifter on Halloween night, seek refuge from a gang of bullies, in an alleged haunted house. Whilst exploring the Bellows Mansion, they found a book of scary stories written by the notorious Sarah Bellows. But they soon find out, that these stories are more real than they could ever have imagined.
This film reminded me of IT but without me caring about the characters as much. It was scary, in fact, a lot of the monsters were terrifying – enough to give you nightmares. I have to give real credit to the special effects team on this, as well as the director as the monsters were done very well. But unfortunately, I did not care that much about the characters or why the scary stories were coming to life.
Possibly may have been better if more of the town was involved in the scary stories. The difference between this and IT was that we had a bad guy to be afraid of. In this, the monster who created the stories is whom apparently we should feel sorry for. Though she had a tragic background, which we later find out, I felt it did not make sense why she would create this dangerous book for unsuspecting readers. Personally, I needed more about Sarah Bellows, than a run-of-the-mill sad story.
And what was this overarching theme: Don’t be greedy? Don’t torture people? Don’t take go to haunted houses? Don’t steal books from haunted houses? The main bad guy was a background character that you cared little about. In fact, the teenage bully was probably more interesting than Sarah Bellows. And I feel they missed a step by not basing a lot of the drama inside the haunted house.
I was also put off with the story with Stella’s mother leaving, it just seems wedged in there to make you feel for the main girl. If this had been done more subtly, it could have enhanced the character development but it felt sloppy to me. This tactic has been used a thousand times and seems really unnecessary to bring up whatsoever. It was filler in a film that had enough filler already.
But the CGI on the monsters in Scary Stories was amazing. They looked realistic as fuck. And in fact, it might have helped the film, if the monster scenes had been longer. As soon as the terror was building to a climax, it was all resolved a bit too soon to really capture the terror fully. The first and last monsters were terrifying but the ones in-between kinda just limped along like they hadn’t really thought beyond those two.
The ending to Scary Stories wasn’t as corny as IT, but it wasn’t far off, to be honest. It was a bit too easily wrapped up, and something that could have happened earlier in the film, avoiding all the tragedy so just felt lazy. They did leave it open for a sequel so perhaps the next edition will be a bit tighter in the storyline.
That’s not to say Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark wasn’t enjoyable. But if you want a gang of kids that get up to mischief and danger, you can find better films elsewhere. However, in terms of body horror and creature features, it is worth a watch just for the interesting monsters.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is available to stream on Netflix or to rent on Prime Video.