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Review: 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' delivers on its name

By John Clyde, Contributor | Posted - Aug 11th, 2019 @ 5:56pm

THE HAUNTED HOUSE — August doesn’t seem like a big month for scary movies to be released, but the filmmakers behind “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” think it’s a perfect time.

The film is based on the anthology book series of the same name and weaves the dark tales from those short stories into a full-length film. The movie has issues, but for the most part, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a fun horror flick that delivers just enough a jumps and scares.

Here are some things that made “Scary Stories” a frightfully good time at the theater:

The kids are alright

The film is focused on four teenage friends who come across a malicious book that recounts the spooky tales and brings horror directly into their lives.

The four leads have strong chemistry and make for characters you care about; you actually feel concern for their wellbeing. Some of the dialogue between them feels uninspired and a few of the jokes fall pretty hard, but for the most part, it works. That has a lot to do with these actors and how they work together.

Zoe Margaret Colletti does a particularly great job as Stella, the horror-obsessed teen with a complicated home life and a lack of self-confidence. Austin Zajur is another bright spot as the wise-cracking Chuck. His character was actually a little obnoxious at first, but he quickly grew on me and became one of my favorite parts of the film.

The scares are legit

Director André Øverdal has a background in horror, and that plays well in “Scary Stories.”

It is a horror film after all, and it needs to have some jump scares and an overall creepy tone. Øverdal delivers on both.

Several moments will have you fidgeting in your chair as you anticipate the inevitable. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are certain moments and visuals that are going to stay with me for some time and likely pop into my mind right before I doze off to sleep for the next few weeks.

There is a moment in a wardrobe, another under a bed, and a third in a cornfield that built tension brilliantly and felt like moments in an old-school horror film.

The scares and jumps aren’t grotesque or violent and some are even cheesy. But this movie was made to get a PG-13 rating and acts almost like a gateway for younger audiences to cut their teeth on some classic horror. That’s not to say these are all kiddy scares, but this should be a hit with teens come Halloween.

The vibe is spot-on

“Scary Stories” isn’t treading any new territory when it comes to horror and that’s OK. We’ve seen a lot of this before, but it still works because the tone and vibe is right where it needs to be.

It’s almost simplistic in its setup: You start to realize as long as the sun is up we’re all safe, but once it gets dark out, all bets are off. It works because it’s a hint to the audience that they can breathe easy for a few moments until things get dark again.

The film is also set in 1968 and something about the time period feels appropriate for the film. With the backdrop of the Nixon election and the ongoing war in Vietnam, things get elevated and offer a real-world harshness to an already supernatural dread.


“Scary Stories” is not the horror film of horror films, but it is a fun time at the theater and will be a hit on home video when it likely comes out near Halloween.

There are issues with the movie. It’s another example in a long list of movies that can’t get right how to portray a bully. Characters also make incredibly dumb decisions when they’re faced with something scary.

But all of this can be forgiven because you head to the theater to watch “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” to get a spook, a few laughs, and eat some popcorn and thankfully, you can do all three with this film.

Check this weekend for a content guide for parents for "Scary Stories."

“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is rated PG-13 for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.

John Clyde

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. Contact him on Twitter at @johnnypclyde.

John Clyde

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