December 15, 2019

Review Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Having picked the trilogy up in the 2nd grade I fell in love not only with the otherworldly and incredibly creepy illustrations by Stephen Gammell but with the way Alvin Schwartz wasn't afraid to confront children with not just any death but the their very own mortality.  Not only through stories but poems and songs he made death a little more easily digestible for children while still being scary yet always honest.

Worried that the film would resemble Goosebumps from a few years earlier, I was relieved to see them put there own spin on what felt like a similar plot. Instead of stories from the book coming to life, this "entity" makes your deepest fears come true and then they get added to the book as "scary stories." This is where the films strongest parts are, bringing the horrifying images from the books to life.  Specifically Harold and The Pale Lady stand out and create some truly terrifying scenes.  But the "entity" that's causing all this horror is where this film misses the mark.  It's standard ghost story tropes for a large portion of it's runtime.

I can probably off the top of my head name a dozen films about a ghost with a tragic past where someone has to investigate what really happened so they can set it right. Its been done to death and while this one might fall in the middle of that list quality-wise it's just a tired plot at this point. And that's the problem because there are just better PG-13 horror films out there you could watch in its place.  The Ring and The Changeling both have the same "wronged-ghost" subplot and I think both are considerably better films.
While it might be too scary for very young children others will be able to relate more to the young cast. Also making it a period piece definitely adds a nice little flourish to a familiar story. Ultimately the scenes based on the illustrations are just too few and far between.  On top of that the ending is ubrupt and unsatisfying.  It's not terrible but I can't help but feel like they did a disservice to these stories.  Instead of these incredibly frightening and diverse stories we got a criminally over used and uninspired ghost story.


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