It would be a mistake to underestimate the power that stories have, especially on people. The effects that they have on the people can be quite monumental, as seen in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a film directed by André Øvredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro, based on the book series of the same name, which was written by Alvin Schwartz.
The film follows Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) as they plan to pull the ultimate prank on the local high school bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams). When the prank goes sideways, the four teens plead with Ramon (Michael Garza) to let them hide in his car. Since Ramon is just passing by, the group decides to show him a haunted house that belonged to the Bellows family.
The local superstition is that Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) learned black magic and used what she learned to kill several children in town with stories she told them. The group finds a book filled with her stories and decide to take it. However, things start to get serious once new stories are being written in the book. One thing’s for sure, no one is safe from being included in the stories.
This could be a given because of the title, but one of the major components of the film was its scare factory. One of the major tropes that horror films use today are jump scares. They are effective but can get repetitive and lose any sense of fear they want to inflict on its audience as the film goes on. Which is why it pleases me to say that there are many elements in this film that make it scary, not just the surprises.
For one, the designs of the creatures and monsters are not only accurate to how they look in the books but seeing them come to life on the big screen is terrifying. There were many times that the creatures made me feel uncomfortable, especially the scarecrow. The whole sequence with the scarecrow may be one of the best scenes in any horror film I’ve ever seen. It inflicts on fears of seeing an inanimate object come to life and makes it clear that the person it’s after is far from safe.
The stories included and the overall premise of the film are another major component. These are stories that hundred, if not thousands of children from different generations read when they were younger. They provide a sense of nostalgia but also a reminder of things that we were scared of when we were younger. One can say that tapping into childhood fears benefited the film by increasing its scare level.
Scary Stories‘ premise puts importance in stories and the effects they can have on people. It’s something that I, as an English Literature major, really appreciated. This emphasis placed on stories plays out throughout the entire film in such intricate ways that never feel forced or too slow.
The teens in the film really carried the movie forward. Within the first few minutes of the film. it’s evident that the friendship between Stella, Auggie, and Chuck is strong. It would take an extremely close friendship bond for them to be pulling off pranks. Once the stories start being written, they all care for one another and instantly rush to save one another.
Ramon often felt like the third wheel that was forced to develop some sort of love angle but that was dropped by the end of the film. However, Tommy’s character didn’t really add anything to the story’s plot. He’s the typical high school bully from any horror film that’s for the teen demographic. He’s given one significant scene but it’s not enough to make me care for his character.
Having read the book series when I was younger, I thought that I had an idea in regards to what I should expect from the movie. However, I was completely blown away from its creative use of the stories and the amount of fear it gave me. The use of a particular melody adds to that creep factor that left me unsettled any time it played.
Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark took a series that was already well known and made something completely unique. I’m looking forward to seeing any of his future projects and will definitely be checking out any of his work that’s already out. He and Del Toro make an excellent team and I’m hoping that they work on many projects together.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now playing in cinemas.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark took a series that was already well known and made something completely unique.