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What parents need to know about 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark'

By Dave Clyde, Contributor | Posted - Aug 12th, 2019 @ 2:00pm

THE DARK — It’s been almost 30 years in the making, but last week's film release of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” gives us the big-screen treatment of the classic children's book, which was first released in 1981.

The book's macabre illustrations and sometimes terrifying stories created the bones for this film from which the look and feel were fleshed out. Since the books in this series have been around for a long time, there are many people who have been affected by them in some way.

If you are interested in seeing this film for nostalgic reasons or would like to introduce your children to something you loved as a kid, here is a list of things you should consider before going.


Movies receive PG-13 ratings for a mix of the usual reasons like language, violence, sex, etc., but what really matters is how all of these things are combined in any one given movie.

In “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” we get most of the usual PG-13 content, but beyond that, we get a genuinely creepy movie with truly frightening creatures and a few well-placed jump scares.

With Guillermo Del Toro as a producer, you can't deny his hand in the highly refined appearance and menacing presence of the monsters in this film. A lot of the monsters fit perfectly with the look of the original illustrations by Stephen Gammel and Brett Helquist.

With this said, some of the darkest and most unsettling aspects of these illustrations strike a deep chord of fear and add to the discomfort of the stories, so much so I wouldn’t recommend taking kids younger than 12 unless you are sure of their familiarity with these types of scares. While some of the visuals are childish, there is an undercurrent of the sinister in them as well.


There is a fair amount of swearing in the movie of the type you would expect in this type of film with one possible F word.

Other language to be aware of are a couple of references to male genitalia, some racial slurs and mild name-calling. There is also dialogue in the film of a bullying nature by a few of the secondary characters toward the main characters.

The bullying is menacing and, in my opinion, way over-the-top in its delivery, but it is still something to be aware of if you or someone you are with is sensitive to it.


There is a fair amount of gore but very little blood in this movie.

The gore comes from seeing things like a character stabbed with a pitchfork. Rather than blood coming out of the puncture wounds, another material comes out instead. I don’t want to say what the alternative material is as it might be a spoiler, but it is unexpected and a little unsettling — but also kind of cool.

Another scene where we see bloodless gore is when a certain character possesses the ability to disassemble their body into individual body parts. In one scene we see a dismembered corpse spontaneously reassemble and reanimate. The body parts are realistic-looking and quite creepy as they begin to move.


There is very little sexual content in this film and nothing graphic.

We get some very mild flirting, a couple of references to male genitalia and a novelty pen that shows a woman's clothes come off as the pen is turned upside down. As far as the pen gag goes, you do not see any nudity and, to be fair, I saw the exact same thing on an episode of "The Simpsons" once.


I would categorize this movie as a fun-scary movie with an emphasis on the scary.

Teenagers ages 13 and up are the prime demographic for this film, which I think will become abundantly obvious when this film is released on video around Halloween.

I don't recommend the film for kids much younger than 13, however. If you or someone you may bring to this film is sensitive to scary and unsettling images combined with jump scares you may want to think twice.

I can foresee a few nightmares in the future for some viewers of this film but, beyond a possible sleepless night, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is a fun movie to watch.

"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.

Grant Olsen

About the Author: David Clyde

David comes from a family of "movie people" of which there are actors, screenwriters, a set designer, a director and yes, a couple of movie reviewers. When David isn't busy living in the real world, he is busy living in someone else's version of it on a movie screen. David is a regular on the KSL Popcorn Report podcast. Contact him at and on Twitter at @DC_Reviews.

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