“Euhuheh” – A quote from me in four separate scenes in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. After either the first or second trailer, I can’t remember which, I was really worried about this movie. It appeared to be the standard scares that you’ll find in any PG-13 horror film like Escape Room or Happy Death Day 2U, as well as the pretty bad CG Ghost of Sarah Bellows, and that scared me going into it.
Then the reviews were positive and I became optimistic, so when I saw this film on opening weekend, I had a sense of cautious optimism. As the credits rolled, I found myself relieved, as this is the second best horror film of 2019. So, let’s get into Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
First, the best thing in this movie are the scares. Now, is there the stereotypical jump scares found in ninety eight point seven percent of the horror film genre, but Scary Stories compensates for the crappy scares with atmospheric, unsettling, tension building scares. One downside is that there’s only six scary stories in the film, but all of them, except maybe the last one, are terrifying. To rank them is difficult, but let me attempt to do so. The worst is probably the one going to the lead, which while unsettling, doesn’t have the memorable monster or item to compete with the others on the list.
Number five is The Big Toe. The creature is horrifying, but it does feel a bit too reminiscent of other horror films. The jump scares are entirely predictable in this scene which keeps it from a higher rank, but the scene is still terrifying. Four goes to The Red Spot. It’s a terrifying idea, and has a few disturbing shots, but the fact that it’s probably the worst lit and hardest to see of any of the stories, which is saying a lot, earns it the 4 seed. Third place is the Jenga Man. It would have been higher if not for the slightly disappointing ending, but the actual monster of the Jenga Man is very… unnerving.
Second goes to the Red Room. Watching this story, I thought two things. One, it’s nice to see that my ex is still getting work in Hollywood. Two, this is a prime example of horror done right. It has a nightmare inducing creature, a good setup for a scare, and, say it with me, Atmosphere. It isn’t just some cop out jump scare. It is a very creepy scene with an inescapable situation that preys on fear.
All of that can be said for the first place story, which is Harold, because that kind of stuff seen at the end of Harold just gets to me. No clue why, but it’s like the mother’s sister stuff in the 2019 Pet Sematary. Only stuff I found scary in that movie, but it really worked, and they step it up with Harold. The scary stories from this film are exactly that, scary stories. It does it’s job there.
That’s really all I can say for the good, as the rest of the movie is very average. The acting is average except Zoe Colletti, the lead, who is pretty good. The characters are average, it’s all really average, except for a few things which are below average. Also, the only below average thing I can say about it is that there is some bad CGI in this, and it’s on ghost Sarah Bellows. She isn’t in it a whole lot, but wow is it bad.
That being said, I do admire that they made most of the monsters actually there, instead of CG which just would have made it look too cartoony. The company that did the monsters, Spectral Motion, the same company that did Hellboy (2004) does incredible work here. So while the CG on Sarah Bellows is very, very terrible, the actual monsters are a work of art.
That’s really all I have to say about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and really that’s all I can say. Aside from some really great and spooky scenes, the film is very bland. It was written by five different people and you can really feel that in certain parts with the disjointed storytelling with one of the victims in particular with how they switch her story around several times about what actually happens to her. However, the lead performance and the scares are enough to make this one of my favorites of 2019 so far. I’ve heard whispers of a sequel, and if the same people are doing it, I’m all for it.
The only thing I think that could make it better is maybe instead of trying to tie it all together, just do a straight up anthology film. You can extend the stories a little, make them ten or fifteen minutes with some set-up, and then just roll on right to the next one. That way you could fit a lot more in a much shorter amount of time. I may be completely wrong, and that might not work, especially since only a month ago I was talking about a certain animated anthology film which I was not a fan of. However, I’m sure I’ll see the next one no matter the story. One of the better films of 2019, and a fun time all around.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2