Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Movie Review – A bland film to watch in the dark.

Based on a popular novel, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark follows a group of teens who uncover a mysterious book, that begins to threaten their lives by conjuring up monsters that will consume them.

I’ve never read the novel this film adapted from. In fact I don’t think many people in the U.K. have. It’s certainly nowhere near as popular here as it is overseas in America. I’ve seen many Americans express how it was a childhood favourite for them. So straight away there’s a level of nostalgia some may feel when watching this, that I simply didn’t.

I could tell this was made with a lot of love and care. Andre Ovredal helms the film competently and it’s clear he is a confident director. That comes as no surprise to me because his last feature, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of the more effective horror films I’ve seen in recent years. Unfortunately he failed to engage me with this one and I know exactly why. It’s simply not for my age bracket. It wasn’t that long after it started, before it began to remind me of the Goosebumps TV show I grew up watching. I feel like this would be a great introductory horror experience for younger audiences. The problem is it’s rated 15 when it would play better to those around the age of twelve.

I was rather bored for the majority of the run time and there’s a few reasons why that was the case. There’s nothing outright bad about how the monster sequences were presented, the issue is they just lacked any real intensity. Once again I must stress, this is primed for younger audiences because there’s images that may frighten them, but I doubt any adult will be deeply unsettled or disturbed by anything they see. With that being said the creature designs are still impressive (The main highlight being the Pale Lady). The practical effects were nicely done and provided some of the creatures with a palpable sense of realism. Even the blend of CGI wasn’t all that noticeable, when it usually stands out a lot more in films of this nature.

The cast were alright. The young actors did a fine job of selling the peril and fear when that was needed from them. Zoe Colletti left the biggest impression as it was her character Stella, who received the most attention in the script. There’s a sub plot surrounding herself and her family that is introduced towards the beginning, and is somewhat wrapped up by the end. That serves as the main attempt at character development throughout the film. I say attempt because the script is muddled at times, and the narrative is pretty messy. The story that threads the mystery of the book they find, to all the present events is rather convoluted to say the least. It just wasn’t interesting to follow and the conclusion to it didn’t feel all that satisfying either.

Overall Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a competently made film, that is reminiscent of the Goosebumps novels and TV show. It features some great practical effects and will likely be effective for the younger teen demographic, but I can’t see many adults finding it all that interesting or scary, unless you have a nostalgic sweet spot for the source material.

★ ★

(2 Stars out of 5)

– T. Graham.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Starring Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza and Gabriel Rush.

Directed by Andre Ovredal.

Now showing in cinemas.

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