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Film Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

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SYNOPSIS:

A group of teenage friends on the run from a local bully end up at a supposedly haunted house with a disturbing history where they come across a mysterious book of stories. One of the teens steals the book and it isn’t long before the people in the group discover that they are appearing in some of the stories that are in the book, with deadly results. Will they figure out how to stop it or are they all destined to die?

REVIEW:

I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books when I was younger and was stoked when I heard that there was going to be a film adaptation. To be honest, the illustrations in the books always sort of creeped me out so it’s only natural that a film version based on some of them would eventually show up. I went into the movie with pretty high hopes and let me just say that I wasn’t let down. I thought that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was quite awesome for the most part and was just a decent little flick in general.

I know that when rumors started to circulate that a film version was being made there was a lot of speculation as to which stories would appear in the movie. I didn’t really envy the person that had to make that decision as there are a ton of stories to choose from, but I think they made the right decisions. Classics such as “The Red Spot,” “The Big Toe,” “Harold,” are all present and even the creepy chick from “The Dream” and the Jangly Man both show up at one point (and they are quite terrifying to say the least). I thought these were all good stories to feature in the film and while there were some I really wanted to see (such as “The Drum,” “The Wendigo,” and “Something was Wrong”) that didn’t make it I still enjoyed the ones that did (though some of those not featured are at least mentioned every now and then). If you are into any of the stories from the books that I mentioned that do show up in the movie then you are going to enjoy what the filmmakers did with them as they do them justice.

I liked the fact that the film itself wasn’t an anthology made up of segments that focused on each of the stories individually and instead the people behind the film decided to incorporate them into the main plot of the film itself. I’ll admit that it was a ballsy move and some people may not be too keen on it, but I thought that it worked. I liked the idea of the main characters being written into the stories so to speak as I thought that it was a nice touch. It works better in some instances (such as with the “Harold” and “The Red Spot” bits) than others (“The Big Toe” was sort of hit or miss for me) but I thought it was a cool idea and something a little different in general.

I dug the fact that the movie is set in the late 60s as well. I love the 80s as much as the next guy (that’s when I grew up and all and it was an awesome time) but I was glad that the filmmakers decided to have the movie take place in the 60s instead of the 80s for a number of reasons. For one, had they set it in the 80s it would have gotten a ton of Stranger Things comparisons that I think would have hurt the film overall. Also, since there is the whole 80s craze going on now and every other movie is set in that time period, I thought it was refreshing that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark took place during a different time period for a change. I know a lot of people assumed it was going to be set in the 80s since that was when the book series came out, but I think in a lot of ways it worked a lot better having everything go down in the 60s instead as there was a lot going on there (such as Vietnam, which plays an important factor in the movie at one point). Like I said I loved the 80s and all and feel fortunate that I was able to grow up then, but I am starting to get a little tired of every other film these days being set during that time period and was glad that this movie went another route.

I also really loved the ending as well. I don’t want to give anything away but let’s just say that it sort of ends on a downer and I couldn’t have been happier. It doesn’t really have a bleak ending or anything and does end on a sort of positive note, but at the same time none of the characters that are killed (or disappeared to be more accurate) are magically returned back to life at the end of the film. They are just gone and aren’t coming back and I thought that this was the right way to do things. I don’t think a super happy ending where everyone that died came back and lived happily ever after would have been the right direction to take and apparently the filmmakers thought so as well. Some viewers may not like the sort of dark ending but I for one thought that it was a great way to end things (plus it leaves things open for a sequel as well).

The only downside of the movie is that it isn’t gory at all. I know that it is a PG-13 film and that it could be argued that it is targeted at a younger audience, but there was a serious lack of blood going on (hey, I’m a gore hound and love my blood and guts, OK?). There are some pretty disturbing images, don’t get me wrong (the Jangly Man is creepy as hell, as is the dark woman from “The Dream”) but I was hoping for a little more blood and guts. The lack of blood didn’t ruin the movie for me or anything like that, but I was just a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of it, especially when it came to the stuff with Harold the scarecrow (who has a pitch fork and could really mess someone up with it if he wanted to).

All in all, I enjoyed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I thought it was a fun movie and did a great job bringing some of the stories I enjoyed as a kid to life. There is a lot to like about it and I would say that if you were a fan of the book series then you will be into the movie version as well. Do yourself a favor and check it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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