It’s not quite Halloween yet but that doesn’t mean we can’t start to feel this seasons chills. The run up to the most wonderful of Holidays, (yeah bite me Christmas) is filled with horrors and thrillers aimed to make audience’s fly from their seats. The latest instalment of scares comes in the form of Alvin Schwartz adaptation, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The collection of scary shorts aimed at younger readers has been reimagined for the big screen by Norwegian director André Øvredal and co-produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Despite its talented filmmakers, well regarded source material and entertainment value, the film’s lack of originality and reliance on jump scares leaves it feeling flat.
Set in 1960’s small town America, oddball Stella and her friends take new kid in town Ramón to the town’s haunted house on Halloween night. With it’s legend of a locked away girl who told stories to local children who quickly disappeared, the night turns sour when Stella finds an old book. Once opened, it begins to self-write (in blood) gruesome stories of the group who entered the house. And yes you guessed it, the stories come to life. Can they unravel the tale of Sarah Bellows and her book before a horrid fate befalls them all?
Directed by Øvredal who is best know for his cult classic Trollhunter. Producer Del Toro’s name adds the weight of his own great work The Devil’s Backbone and as horror producer The Orphanage.
Although the film glides along at a steady pace and entertains, it has no real story. Flimsy and very predictable the finding of the book and the stories coming to life feels inevitable from the get go. You watch guessing how and when each member will be consumed by the book.
At times the 1960’s setting feels a little redundant. The main cast feel modern and a side emphasis on Richard Nixon has no purpose. This relies so much on the jump scare. The behind shock, the lights out moment or the drag away. All the usual horror troupes are covered here.
Yet it’s the scary set pieces that bring the film to life. The lady with the missing toe, a creepy assembled man and a stalking large form are the film’s peaks. These moments feel classic despite the narrative letting the film down.
The film’s young cast, despite needing a better narrative to work with, do well here. Lead Zoe Colletti as Stella adds weight and emotion to the abandoned outsider trying to stop the curse. She’s backed up by a mixed cast of young actors who add horror and humour to this flick.
A good introduction horror for younger viewers. Entertaining but a flimsy story and lack of originality let this adaptation down. See it for the creatures and the young cast but this is mainly for a younger audience.