Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is not the true life demonic tale of how Amanda Holden goes about getting work from TV executives but is inspired by the Alvin Schwartz novel, a series of spooky tales aimed at an early teen readership and here has been adapted for screen by several writers one of which is the Oscar winning director Guillermo Del Toro.
Set in small town 1968 against a back ground of Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign and the draft for Vietnam the film starts off on Halloween as a bunch of teenagers Stella (Zoe Margaret Colleti), Auggi (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) set off trick or treating only to encounter a racist sports jock Tommy (Austin Abrams) out on a date with Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). It all ends badly when Tommy chases them into the town’ s haunted house – a huge dilapidated mansion where a girl, Sarah Bellows was rumoured to have been locked away out of sight by her parents but would write scary stories that she would tell to the local kids who would come to a grim demise soon after hearing them.
It’s a decent set up with its in built legend and a series of tales that will affect all the teenagers having found the book that Bellows wrote all those years ago. It’s not long before the contents of the scary stories come to fruition for each of them with Tommy being the obvious first candidate for demise. In many ways its similar to looking at smugly self satisfied happy snapper Brooklyn Beckham‘s first book of photos, a book so bland that anyone encountering it is immediately plunged into a coma. The book plot device works like the Evil Dead’s Book of the Dead as it summons up all manner of demonic beings all of which are brilliantly realized and are likely to give younger viewers sleepless nights. Scary stories premise is one ideally suited to the portmanteau films by Hammer & Amicus in the early seventies and most recently with last year’s Ghost Stories. However the stories here aren’t really stories they are fleeting plot devices to see off various characters and for all but one of these tales they involve being pursued by some hideous being that for once isn’t Gemma Collins chasing someone out of Gregg’s who has just bought the last sausage roll.
With a disbelieving townfolk and police the overarching story is fighting and defeating the ghostly form of Sarah Bellows and the effects of her stories with the teens aware that mythical stories repeated often enough are soon taken as fact – you only have to look at the rumour going round that Amanda Holden is an actress to see how true that is. Scary Stories would have worked better as a series of more developed stories in a portmanteau format and the film is a little overlong which is a feature of director Andre Ovredal’s previous films with his otherwise excellent Troll Hunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe. That said Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, whilst not really scary, is a fun and enjoyable enough film to watch in the night.
Here’s the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trailer…….