Director: André Øvredal
Cast: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush
Release Date: November 5, 2019
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley, where for generations the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time. For a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home, the stories become all too real in this spine-tingling film.
Based upon the popular book series that terrified children everywhere, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ accompanies a group of teens in the fall of 1968 who on an average Halloween night pay a visit to the local haunted house. Expecting merely a fun and somewhat creepy setting to spend the holiday, things turn far more terrifying when they uncover a book of stories written by the long-ago resident which soon proves to have a life all its own. Soon, this group of kids find the book mysteriously starting to write new stories that each involve them, but when they realize the stories are anything but fiction they must race against time to uncover the truth of the book and its long deceased author before they all find themselves claimed by its horrifying tales.
Directed by André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) from a screenplay by Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman (The LEGO Movie),and an original screen story by Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) and duo Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (The Collector, Saw IV-VII) and of course based on the book series by Alvin Schwartz respectively, Øvredal does a wonderful job at the helm of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ guiding the film along with a perfect balance of heart , humor and terror. The film also owes plenty of credit to the capable cast which smartly features many lesser known individuals and includes Zoe Colletti (TV’s City on a Hill), Michael Garza (TV’s Wayward Pines), Gabriel Rush (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Austin Abrams (TV’s Euphoria), Dean Norris (TV’s Breaking Bad), Gil Bellows (TV’s Jett), Lorraine Toussaint (TV’s Into the Badlands) and more, with nearly all offering solid and fitting performances in each of their respective roles.
‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ cleverly constructs a creepy and occasionally somewhat scary (at least it’s likely to be for some of the younger viewers), yet always heartfelt and touching tale of youth coming together and battling dark, unexplained forces; largely reminiscent of so many memorable 80’s films, twisted up with a bit of Stephen King like styling for good measure. It’s a fun and beautifully crafted film that stays faithful to the short stories that inspired it, while simultaneously building its own, perfectly styled environment and relatable characters in which to contain it all, carefully guided along by director André Øvredal (with what seems to be a fair amount of involvement from Guillermo Del Toro who also co-wrote the initial story and produced) and the well selected cast of lesser knowns do a magnificent job of making it all come together smoothly. I would definitely urge anyone already interested in ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ to try and give the film a fair shot whenever possible, and those such as me who grew up with the books will also surely be intrigued by this film adaption of the delightfully creepy short story series. Balancing between various genres and always exuding a lot of heart amidst the creepy and occasionally violent mess these kids find themselves in, it comes together into a great horror flick for teens and adults alike. For anyone already interested in the film that wasn’t able to catch it in theaters, it should at least prove well worth the price of a rental and a couple hours of your time.
Overall, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is a beautifully created coming of age horror tale with plenty of creepy and intense fun, combined with a great deal of heart and a powerful friendship among a group of teens to balance it all. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is highly recommended, and not just for fellow horror fans either. It’s a perfect blend of creepy supernatural thriller, teenage coming of age drama and old school ‘kids versus the unexpected’ ala old Amblin films and other 80’s classics. It should have something for almost everyone, and genre fans as well as those who grew up reading the Scary Stories book collections that the film is based upon should only have even more fun with this smartly crafted and incredibly entertaining thriller that repeatedly pays homage to the source material while at the same time still proving to be very much its own unique creation.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks wonderful as a whole and offers a sharp, clean and nicely detailed presentation from start to finish that beautifully captures the gorgeously crafted details and surroundings, and never suffering from any notable issues along the way. It holds up impressively even during the numerous darkly lit moments and heavily populated scenes, always making certain that anything onscreen remains sharp and clean at all times. Overall, this is a great high definition video presentation that should have no trouble pleasing fans and first time viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack nicely compliments the creepy onscreen fun and provides a crisp, smooth and fairly aggressive audio presentation throughout. It repeatedly takes advantage of all five available channels in order to send creepy noises, nature effects and vehicles along with more throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, while never allowing any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible as a result. Overall, this is a solid 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that consistently sounds great and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ includes a number of worthwhile extras in the way of behind the scenes Featurettes and videos that explore bringing the film to life while including interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. They include: ‘Dark Tales’ (running approximately 5 minutes in length), ‘Retro Horror’ (running approximately 5 minutes), ‘The Bellows Construct’ (approximately 3 minutes), ‘Creatures From The Shadows’ (11 minutes), plus ‘Mood Reels’ broken down by week (approximately 24 minutes altogether) and ‘Behind-The-Scenes Trailers: Set Visits’ for two key sequences (5 minutes combined).