Sunday, August 11, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Review

A horror anthology comprised of campfire style scary stories is ripe with potential if done properly. It can live in this interesting place where the atmosphere and creepy designs of each new ghastly creature can carry the load of a film tied together only be a loose narrative string. However, where the source material harms Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is its inherent status as slightly too scary for the tweens, but far too tame for the horror aficionados all at the same time.

The shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large in the small town of Mill Valley for generations. It's in a mansion that young Sarah Bellows turns her tortured life and horrible secrets into a series of scary stories. These terrifying tales soon have a way of becoming all too real for a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon Sarah's spooky home.

Despite a clear premise that separates its horror into individual stories rather than a persisting threat, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark incorporates a narrative that feels generally pointless to the creepiness of the scenes that play out. Suffice to say that stories that play out like “Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker” or “Harold” maintain their horror regardless of the characters that are placed within them. And it’s evident that the filmmakers are saving some of the other tales for potential sequels, but one has to wonder if a different narrative structure could’ve worked wonders for an already solid film.

Where the film truly excels is in some of the best practical creature design in recent memory. The grotesque and unsettling designs do wonders to elevate the scenarios that are inherently unsettling already. Stories like “The Dream” play out precisely how a nightmare feels and functions, an inescapable situation that bears down on you with an unrelenting and unforgiving sense of dread. All this only eggs on the desire to see more, to experience more stories, and then the narrative scenes in between feel even longer.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is certainly not a kid-friendly scary movie. While it is definitely tamer than the shocking and gruesome offerings that come with an R-rating, this film still packs the creep factor and the foreboding terror that will keep those anxious viewers up at night. The narrative structure does more harm than good here, but if you can get through the exposition and set-up scenes, the actual scary stories are tremendously well made. Here’s to hoping when the potential sequel hits, we get a bit more of the scary stories than this one offers.

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