The Bellows family home has cast a dark shadow over the town of Mill Valley for centuries. Legend has it that young and tortured Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) wrote scary stories about the children who visited her home and one by one they all began to disappear…

Based on the short story series ‘Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark’ by Alvin Schwartz, the film of the same name steers away from a short film montage and takes the form of a period horror set in 1968 America, that cleverly patches in Schwartz’s most loved scary stories. The plot now pivots around teenage aspiring writer, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), and her group of nerdy friends – a familiar setting to It and Stranger Things which makes the viewer expect similar spooky goings-on. This is exactly what they get with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

On Halloween night, the group of teens venture into the woods to the now dilapidated Bellows’ mansion where horror fanatic Stella stumbles across Sarah Bellows’ book of scary stories, awakening her spirit. Night after night, new scary stories (adaptations of Schwartz’ short stories) begin writing themselves in the book, and each night the teen who appears as the protagonist in the story, goes missing. The friends must lay the curse to rest before they all disappear.

Directed by André Øvredal, the CGI and visual designs really bring the monsters to life, adapting Stephen Gammell’s original illustrations in a truly terrifying way. In doing so, Øvredal creates nostalgic fear for fans of the book series which also manages to frighten general viewers. Harold the Scarecrow, The Pale Lady, The Toe Monster and The Jangly Man were some of the classic monsters that make an appearance. The outstanding visual effects help create striking yet horrifying images – such as a bubbling toe-flavoured stew, a boy transforming into a scarecrow in a gruesome manner, and a swarm of spiders spew from a young girls’ cheek pimple. Alongside the unnerving visuals, classic horror silences, tense music, and monstrous jump scares made the scenes suspenseful and chilling to watch.

In contrast to It and Stranger Things, audiences don’t see much character development for the rest of the friendship group besides some brief backstories for the main two friends, Stella and Ramón (Micheal Garza). Also, the main plotline of defeating the curse of Sarah Bellows’ felt very rushed, particularly towards the end, leaving an unfinished feeling. Although the original scary stories were featured in a clever way, there was too much of a focus on incorporating them rather than perfecting an innovative, new horror story.

3 stars

Image Credit: Movie DB

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