Summary: A very convoluted way to bring the classic children’s anthology of scary stories to live.
You know the book: the black cover, slender spine, and red lettering screaming SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Based off a handful of random folk tales from around the world, the series came in three parts written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The stories were bare, with lots of gaps to be filled by the reader’s imagination and the drawings were the stuff of nightmares. The book got its point across successfully- they were terrifying but kids couldn’t put them down. And I was one of those kids. Specifically, The Green Ribbon was my thing. “I TOLD YOU YOU WOULDN’T LIKE IT!”
The movie… well… I could put it down. For some bits. Don’t get me wrong: I liked many, many parts of this- not because it was good per say, but because it was fun. Those two don’t always go hand in hand. Specifically, the framing device and its plotline don’t directly utilize the Scary Stories slows the movie down.
It goes a bit like this: Sometime in the late 70s, aspiring young writer Stella (an extremely talented Zoe Colletti, doing her best to carry a pretty bad script) lives in a small town, where there is an urban legend surrounding a haunted mansion. She and her pals break in and she steals a book from the mansion’s depth. Eventually, Stella realizes that the scary short stories in the book are the same urban legends that used to terrorize the town (where real children also died) and the books begins to write itself, aka kill her classmates in real time. The book’s original author had a terrible conscious and is unleashing rage all over the town. Also, Stella’s mother left when she was a kid and she has a crush on a kid from out of town who escaped the draft, to go along with all this random Nixon footage.
Long right? And that’s just the framing. I didn’t even mention any of the scary stories!
Now, the parts with scary stories… there’s a lot to love here. There’s a part where Stella flips through the book and just seeing some of the titles or hearing references to some of the less beloved tales was exciting for me. As the book was writing its titles, there was a big part of me that wanted to cheer once I realized which story they were going to use. There’s some good tension building and good jump scares, and a good number of practical effects. If I was a kid- yeah, this would be a great intro into those stories.
So, yeah. My enthusiasm for this is simply out of love for the source material. I think this is how some people feel about the not-so-great Marvel movies, except I’m not going to die on this hill. You don’t need to see this if you don’t know or like the series, but I think it’s a good time if you do.